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Okefenokee Technical College QEP Festival Described As Fun & Informative

Okefenokee Technical College (OTC) faculty and staff hosted a fall festival on the Waycross Campus Thursday, September 12, 2013, to inform students and the general public about the OTC Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) developed by faculty to increase student learning in mathematics. Those attending the festival learned the purpose of the QEP and the strategies that OTC faculty and staff will use as part of the five-year plan.

Students and others attending the festival enjoyed eating hotdogs, candied apples, snow cones, popcorn, cookies, brownies, and other baked goods while playing games at booths staffed by OTC employees. Most of the booths required math in order to play. When players provided the correct answer to math questions, they received one or more queps (faux money) as their prize. No actual money was used at the festival, only queps. All of the food items and drinks and many of the games required queps.

The name “quep” for the faux money originated with students. For several months, while Okefenokee Technical College faculty and staff finalized the fundamental strategies of the plan, OTC students hypothesized about the meaning of the acronym QEP. Signs and posters around campus stating, “The QEP Is Coming,” initiated a lot of interest and speculation. Students began referring to the QEP as “Quep.”

The queps used at the festival featured “Ivan the Tutor” in lieu of a presidential portrait. Ivan the Tutor, the mascot of the QEP, was created to represent one of the four strategies used in the plan to increase student learning in math - incorporating math tutors in the Learning Support mathematics classroom and student success center. A related concept of the plan that OTC hopes to accomplish is that every member of the campus community will become a math tutor to someone else. Teachers know that the best way to learn a subject well is to teach someone else about it.

Other strategies of the QEP include a redesign of the Learning Support mathematics classes, math anxiety reduction classes, and professional development for faculty. The redesign has resulted in a learner-centered environment that allows students to progress more efficiently through the levels of math needed. The math anxiety reduction classes and professional development will make the redesign more effective.

The four strategies, along with the benefits of the QEP to students, the definition and purpose of the QEP, and the QEP logo, were conveyed to festival participants using posters and signage at the booths. Students learned that the QEP will benefit Learning Support math students by allowing them to control the pace at which they move through the material. Math concepts that have been mastered as determined by a comprehensive pre-test are optional and not assigned, saving students time and money, since multiple classes can be completed in one semester for the cost of just one.

Festival booths and activities included a hay ride, haunted house (Calculations of Doom), pie toss (Pi Toss), face painting (Degrees of Elevation), welding simulator, auto painting booth simulator, truck driving simulator, corn hole toss, conk the crow, casino table (Blackjack), basketball throw, dunking booth, floating rubber ducks (Arithmaquack), plinko (Power of Plinko), punt pass, Wheels of Fortune, horseshoe toss, and estimation station. Many participants won QEP t-shirts and other OTC and QEP prizes.

A QEP festival for the Alma Campus was held Wednesday, October 2, 2013, from 5 until 6:30 p.m. OTC faculty members Jason Strickland and Thomas Hippchen are co-chairs of the QEP Implementation Committee. Cindy Tanner and Erica Chancey coordinated the QEP Fall Festival on the Waycross Campus. Kate Bussey and Erica Chancey coordinated the Alma Campus festival.

“I truly believe that we educated several hundred students, along with their families, on the QEP as a result of the festivals,” said Deibert. “The faculty and staff did a great job with the booths, and everyone had a good time.”

The QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) is a student-centered learning initiative and part of OTC’s reaffirmation of accreditation process established by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), a regional accrediting organization serving the southeastern United States. Designation as an accredited college assures students access to federal financial aid and demonstrates that the college meets or exceeds required quality standards for teaching and learning, according to Teresa Allen, director of institutional effectiveness and OTC’s SACSCOC liaison. Okefenokee Technical College was first accredited by SACSCOC in 2009.

A QEP is a course of action to improve student learning. A well-planned QEP offers an opportunity for a college to enhance its effectiveness by increasing student achievement in a critical area. “The goal of OTC’s plan is to increase student learning in mathematics. The entire college community participated in the QEP selection process. The plan is faculty driven and focused. It supports OTC’s mission, is linked to the new strategic plan, and incorporates best practices and proven strategies. For these reasons, OTC math students will be more successful in mathematics,” continued Deibert.

According to Jason Strickland, co-chair of the QEP Steering Committee, the QEP logo, Improvement = Extreme Math Makeover (I=EM2), came about after the committee reviewed the goals and strategies of the multi-year plan. I=EM2 features an improved learning support math course designed to enhance student learning in mathematics and speed entry into credit bearing math courses. The new course integrates learning-centered instruction with in-class tutoring and promotes strategies to reduce math and test anxiety.

Planning for the QEP began in late 2011 when Dr. Jim Helms, chair of the QEP planning team, began preparations to collect the data that served as the starting point for QEP topics. Students, faculty, staff, and community members were then invited in early 2012 to review assessment data, participate in focus groups, and respond to surveys to provide feedback on improving students learning at OTC. From information collected, the QEP Planning Committee identified ten areas that significantly impact the learning of OTC students. Faculty and staff were asked to rank the areas. Mathematics emerged as the area that would most benefit students.

“The redesign initiative was launched fall 2012 and continues through 2013,” stated OTC President Dr. Glenn Deibert.  “Our goal is not only to increase the number of students who successfully complete learning support courses and move into their programs, but also to decrease the amount of time it takes for students to graduate from OTC programs. OTC faculty and staff are working hard to ensure that students graduate from educational programs and move into a new career in a timely manner.”


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