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Sheldon, C.Q., & Durdella, N.R. (2010, January-February). Success rates for students taking compressed and regular length developmental courses in the community college. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 34(1/2), 39-54.


In recent years, developmental education in the community colleges has received much attention. However, there has been little research examining the relationship between course length and course success in developmental education. Using historical enrollment data from a large, suburban community college in southern California, this study examines the relationship between course length and course success in developmental education when social and academic background characteristics are controlled. The study hypothesized that there would be no significant or practical difference in success rates for students taking compressed (i.e., courses less than eight weeks in length) or regular length developmental English, reading, or math courses when social or academic characteristics are controlled. Results demonstrate that developmental course length was associated with statistically and practically significant differences in course success observed across all categories of age, gender, and ethnicity. Students enrolled in compressed-format courses were more likely to succeed than students enrolled in regular-length courses. Higher successful course completion rates for compressed courses were observed across all departments, with the highest successful course completion rates in eight week format in English. Further, students—irrespective of age, race, or gender—were more likely to successfully complete compressed format courses than their counterparts in regular length courses. Findings point to an educational benefit for students who enroll in compressed courses. Future research in this area includes an examination of students’ progress through a sequence of developmental education courses and a look into the effect of college experience and environment factors related to success in compressed courses.

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