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Beginning in the spring 2016 semester, OTC took the bold move to develop a guided self-placement system to direct students to the appropriate entry-level English, math, and reading courses. We did not take this step blindly, and we gave extensive thought to the process.

Mounting doubts about the predictive value of the Compass test lead to its suspension and caused all the other Missouri community colleges to switch to ACCUPLACER.  The College Board, however, reported the correlation coefficient between an individual ACCUPLACER placement test score and course success was only an r = 0.37.  This is a weak correlation, and basing course decisions on this tool is tenuous at best.  With such a low predictive value, OTC did not believe that moving from one bad exam to another bad exam was the correct way to lead our students to success.  Our guided self-placement system incorporates degree goals, academic skills assessment, and motivation level as a way to better direct our students.  It also puts more of the onus on students to make the correct decision for themselves without forcing them into a path that they did not chose.

To assess the effectiveness of OTC’s guided self-placement system, a task force consisting of Matt Simpson, Drew Aberle, and Jennifer Dunkel developed and led a systematic evaluation of this first semester’s results. Their research collected both quantitative and qualitative data that was gathered through multiple resources. Input was received from a broad segment of our faculty and students who participated in multiple surveys and open forums offered throughout the semester.  I have attached the full report for the spring 2016 term for your review.

Let me briefly highlight a few of the findings. One of the encouraging findings in this report was that guided self-placement did increase the number of first-time students who enrolled in and passed their gateway math and English courses.  There was a 27% increase in the number of students who passed their college level course in their first term (Finding 4).  Another finding showed that students who visited a support center for their courses were much more likely to pass the class successfully compared to those who did not visit a support center (Finding 6).  We ask faculty to continue to promote the use of our academic support centers such as the Tutoring and Learning Center, the Writing Center, and the Speech Center.  Additional predictive success factors such as recent high school GPA and time of registration were found to be relevant for our OTC student population so we plan to incorporate these factors into our guidance model (Finding 7).  We are also planning additional ways to support faculty through collaboration and resources in recognition of the increased demands that guided self-placement can put on faculty (Finding 14).

I encourage you to read the entire report since it includes additional findings and recommendations.  The team will continue to evaluate OTC’s guided self-placement system and, with your help, we can improve this process in future semesters to make sure that we serve our students in the best way possible.


Steven Bishop, PhD

Provost and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs

We encourage you to view our findings for the Spring 2016 Semester found below. While results from the spring term did provide valuable information, there will be a significantly larger number of first-time students in the fall, and it will take several terms to fully transition away from the institutional memory of students who went through the old placement process.

OTC is committed to continued data collection, both quantitative and qualitative, to assess the impact of our Guided Self-Placement process.   This continued monitoring will also allow for the assessment of any reforms implemented prior to the fall term, and allow for the possible identification of additional reforms or policy changes. It will also allow for the assessment of more comprehensive measures of student success including: year-to-year persistence, graduation rates, transfer rates and employment outcomes. This research will also include regular, meaningful analysis of student learning outcomes in affected courses and expand qualitative data collection to include advisors and relevant support staff, as well as continued inclusion of faculty input.


Please contact the research team by emailing with any questions or comments.

Our work on assessing Guided Self-Placement is not done.  With our first Fall semester of guided self-placement underway, we’d like to continue to receive feedback on your experiences to help us learn and improve the process.

We are asking all faculty and staff to share their feedback with us throughout the semester through the Guided Self-Placement Fall 2016 Open Portal.

This portal will remain open throughout the whole semester, so you may submit any questions or constructive feedback at any point. You are able to submit as many times as you wish.  Your feedback is important to our analysis of guided self-placement, and comments from the Spring 2016 term have already helped encourage several improvements.

The survey does ask that you provide your name so we may follow-up on your feedback and have an unduplicated count of respondents.  If you have any questions, or issues with the portal, please contact

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