The SLA Program grew out of a need to reach large numbers of students who would not normally seek academic assistance voluntarily. We discovered courses that students would traditionally struggle with in their programs. As an effort to help students be successful, we sought to provide a method of direct transference of study skills and learning methods to those content areas. Research literature indicated that students should be taught study skills that will apply directly to the content area. The SLA program devised a way to do that.
Developed here at Ferris State University, the SLA system was designed and piloted in 1993. It was established to help increase the number of students passing some historically high-risk-for failure courses. Many factors were incorporated in this program such as anticipated student benefit, academic need, faculty commitment, and staff expertise.
In March 2000, the SLA program received the Theodore M. Hesburgh Award, Certificate of Excellence from TIAA-CREF. This honored our commitment to the enhancement of undergraduate teaching and leadership in learning innovation.
In 2001, the U.S Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) awarded Ferris a grant for "Modeling a Successful Student Retention and Faculty Development Program" to help four partner universities nationwide to develop their own SLA programs. These partners include Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky; San Jacinto College North, Texas; Benedictine University, Illinois; and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Indiana.
In Fall 2004, an apprentice program was incorporated into SLA. Apprentices are SLA tutors who assume an increasing amount of responsibility in workshop delivery. They are guided by their mentor facilitator during the apprentice semester, then receive new facilitator training. Additionally, new facilitators are assigned to veteran facilitators for continued mentoring.
In Spring 2006, SLA was awarded an FSU Exceptional Merit Grant to purchase a Classroom Performance System (CPS). This enabled SLA facilitators to utilize innovative technology in workshop delivery thus increasing student engagement and participation.
In Summer 2006, Arlene Morton published "Improving NCLEX Scores with Structured Learning Assistance" in Nurse Educator crediting SLA with the dramatic improvement in students' NCLEX scores. In Fall 2007 two sections of SLA were adapted to investigate SLA's impact on education students' performance on the Michigan Test of Basic Skills.
In response to the recent increase in the number of other institutions interested in implementing SLA, the first-ever SLA Symposium was held in March 2008. Participants from around the country traveled to FSU to gain the knowledge and tools necessary to implement and enhance SLA at their home campuses.