J. Sonnenberg-Klein, R. T. Abler, and E. J. Coyle, “Correlation between Academic Credit-use Policies and Student Persistence in Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) Courses,” presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, 2018.


Correlation between Academic Credit-use Policies and Student Persistence in Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) Courses
In the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Program, undergraduates earn academic credit for their participation in long-term, large-scale, multidisciplinary project teams that are created at the request of faculty to assist them with their research and other innovative activities. The students contribute their disciplinary skills to the project, collaborate with students from other disciplines, and learn and practice many professional skills. A key to launching and maintaining productive VIP teams is having students participate for multiple semesters, sometimes up to six semesters. This allows students to develop deeper expertise and take on increasing levels of responsibility. Academic departments have established a range of credit-use policies for VIP courses, with some departments incentivizing multiple semesters of participation, with different incentives and varying thresholds for each policy. Beyond curricular policies, the number of semesters students participate in VIP may be affected by matches/mismatches between students and their instructors’ departments, as well as student academic rank in their first semester of VIP. This study describes policies for the four academic units with highest enrollments in VIP at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and examines the number of semesters students (N = 869) participate in VIP by policy, by academic rank, and by matches-mismatches between student and instructor departments. In a secondary analysis, persistence rates are compared for a degree program before and after an incentivizing credit-use policy was established (N = 45). Results show correlation between higher persistence and two policies: 1) allowing all VIP credits to count as in-major electives after a minimum number are earned; and 2) allowing students to fulfill a design sequence requirement through VIP, with no additional planning/requirements beyond the normal design sequence. The study employed chi-square analysis for all but one analysis, because assumptions for analysis of variance were not met. These findings will be of use to existing and prospective VIP Programs, as well as institutions and departments seeking to increase student persistence in undergraduate research.