A Social-Emotional Focus Transforms the Online Dual Enrollment Experience

The new ICAN model incorporates SEL to boost outcomes in Minnesota pilot participants

Published mar. 08, 2023

To better prepare high school students for college success and transform the online learning space, Jobs for the Future (JFF) has launched a groundbreaking new dual enrollment model: the Increasing College Access Network (ICAN) course.

The ICAN model integrates social-emotional learning (SEL) into dual enrollment courses, which are college courses provided free of charge—and for college credit—to high school students. The goal is to smooth transitions to postsecondary education by increasing authentic learning in online college courses while also reimagining what online learning spaces can be.

The courses, which are the first of their kind, will launch next fall and will be piloted in two Minnesota colleges—Alexandria Technical & Community College and Minnesota West Community & Technical College. The courses will serve more than 800 students between the fall of 2023 and the spring of 2025.

The ICAN courses will expand access to dual enrollment for students experiencing poverty so they can earn college credit in English and math. Providing dual enrollment courses online can eliminate systemic barriers, such as lack of transportation, geographic constraints, and scheduling conflicts. Online delivery also helps schools facing staffing shortages while enabling them to offer flexible scheduling and reach more students.

The ICAN model also addresses the inequities that emerge when students are required to enter developmental education programs as a precursor to credit-bearing courses. Developmental courses increase the time and cost associated with earning a postsecondary credential by requiring students to enroll in non-credit bearing courses in math and English to attain foundational skills before beginning postsecondary degree programs, which decreases the likelihood of credential completion. When students complete an ICAN course, they get the right SEL supports to successfully complete college English and math, saving time and money by completing college coursework while in high school and enabling a more seamless transition into college.

Incorporating social-emotional learning into dual enrollment courses is a promising solution for addressing the gaps in current models of online learning. There has been a significant increase in online learning opportunities for students over the past three years. While online learning is an accessible and viable option for many students, the shift from traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms to online spaces has left many educators without the tools and resources to effectively design and deliver courses. As a result, many students are left without active engagement, rigorous content, and lack the development of connections among peers.

The benefits of infusing dual enrollment courses with SEL are clear: Research shows that embedding SEL into a curriculum increases student performance by 11% over that of nonparticipants. School principals find that developing students’ SEL skills is a crucial piece of the in-school experience, while educators see an impact on student outcomes after implementing a fully integrated SEL approach. Students also see the benefit of engaging with SEL, reporting that the approach nurtures a positive sense of self and allows them to see themselves as valued members of their respective communities.

The ICAN model will foster these inclusive environments by not only integrating SEL into the curriculum but also supporting instructors in implementing effective SEL strategies that encourage engagement and build connections among peers. Instructors will participate in training and coaching to redesign math and English dual enrollment courses in order to embed SEL strategies. Instructors will also receive individualized technical assistance and participate in a community of practice with peers.

JFF is partnering with the Greater Twin Cities United Way and The Learning Accelerator to provide ICAN instructors with ongoing supports to increase their capacity to teach these courses. American Institutes for Research will lead an evaluation of the ICAN model and its impact on students’ college and career readiness and SEL skills.

These partnerships provide the cohort of educators with access to state and national leaders in all three strategies: dual enrollment, online learning, and SEL. By providing technical assistance and coaching throughout the delivery of the courses, ICAN will build capacity within schools to ensure the program is sustainable and provides continued access for students. Throughout the pilot, JFF will identify best practices, resources, and lessons learned that will be disseminated to be replicated across the country.

The ICAN courses are expected to redefine what online learning can look like for students when both their academic and social needs are addressed—while increasing their ability to succeed in college and complete a credential.

The contents of this blog were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.