These 5 retention ideas across campus departments can help students keep motivated

retention-students-campus

One of the biggest reasons I stuck with my private liberal arts college (Kenyon) was because of small classes and a really pretty landscape. Digging a little deeper, it was also because I found the class structure—conversation rather than lecture—interesting.

However, that was eight years ago, when Facebook was still in its infancy. In other words, a lot has changed, but a lot hasn’t. Yes, there are certain technology strategies that can be employed to engage students, but retention, one of the largest issues for higher-ed institutions today, takes more than a few digital signs and WiFi access.

From face-to-face courses to online learning, and from packaging credentials to offering opportunities for employment, there are 5 key strategies that are crucial for student retention.

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[Listed in alphabetical order]

1. Alternative credentialing

The traditional four-year degree, while still important, is becoming harder for students to accept as the best way to showcase skill and talent, as employers are increasingly looking to competencies outside of simply ‘marketing major,’ et cetera.

“Many degrees are only loosely linked to employability after graduation,” explains a new report by Pearson, “Open Badges for Higher Education.” Increasingly, the degree itself is not as critical as the skill set behind it.

To help keep students motivated throughout their learning, offering digital badges, or alternative credentialing options, allows them to work towards competencies that showcase particular skills they’d like employers to notice, giving them a potential leg-up in the employability race.

“For higher-ed institutions interested in keeping pace [e.g. Purdue University, Seton Hall University, SUNY Empire State College, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Southern California, and Wheeling Jesuit University, et cetera], establishing a digital ecosystem around badges to recognize college learning, skill development, and achievement is less of a threat and more an opportunity, notes the report.

“Used properly, badge-based systems help motivate, connect, articulate and make transparent the learning that happened inside and outside classrooms during a student’s college years,” the report emphasizes.

[Read: “9 reasons why badges are better than degrees,” and “Understanding the symbolism of digital badges.”]

2. Better internships/partnering with businesses

It’s rare to find an employer these days who doesn’t ask for some level of experience pre-hire. For college graduates who will most likely struggle to secure a job in today’s economy, not only having internship experience, but the right internship experience, can make a different and motivate them to stick with their college or university.

“Many students find themselves stuck when it comes to finding and securing an internship,” explains Kelly Purcell, founder, owner, and president of PK Electrical. “This is likely their first experience with applying for jobs in this type of environment, and it involves more than filling out an application and talking to a manager in charge.”

One way campuses can offer not only better internship opportunities, but better career placement for students, is through online resources; for example, Collegefeed for Career Centers.

“Following the recession, universities are embarking on a mission to radically overhaul their career centers,” said Sanjeev Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of Collegefeed in a statement. “We know technology will increasingly play a transformational role, however schools are struggling to select and implement the best tools to support job-seekers and meet the needs of employers. So we’ve worked closely with many schools to build Collegefeed for Career Centers, a first of its kind platform to help universities ensure their young grads can secure a promising future with the right company.”

Schools like Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Cal Poly, Claremont McKenna, USC and SDSU have trialed the platform and are currently rolling it out campus-wide.

[Read more about online career centers here.]

3. Collaborative learning

Today’s students have come of age in a world where they are constantly connected with friends on Facebook, and they use this and other social media tools to make sense of their shared experience together. Now, colleges are using similar technologies to engage students in course content in ways that resonate with a generation accustomed to a new way of learning.

Already, many innovative campuses, known for high student retention rates, have implemented collaborative learning to replace all-lecture-all-the-time.

The stale, passive lecture model is being replaced by a more dynamic way of teaching and learning—one in which students and instructors collaborate in a give-and-take fashion to “make meaning together,” says Tony O’Driscoll, a professor of business administration at Duke University.

At Duke, business school students use a state-of-the-art “virtual lecture hall” to have conversations with CEOs and fellow students from around the world.

At Harvard, physics students learn from each other—as well as their professor—by discussing key “concept questions” in small groups periodically during class.

And at dozens of institutions nationwide, students continue their discussion of lessons long after the class period is over, through “social collaboration” platforms that move the conversation online.

[Read more about collaborative learning here and here.]

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4. Online strategies

Even though blended and online learning options are a great boon for students eager to expand their learning options—a retention strategy in itself—the dip in retention post-signup has many institutions scrambling for a solution.

And while some professors offering MOOCs explain that a dip in retention is perfectly normal, there are strategies to help students stay motivated in their online learning; such as:

  • Online communities [Read more here.]
  • Visual technologies [Read more here.]
  • Re-organizing course design for an online space [Read more here.]
  • Using data analytics to spot struggling students and suggest support options [Read more here.]

5. Making the most out of mobile tech/Flipped Learning

Implementing technology—personal devices, blended environments, et cetera—within a course definitely comes with a learning curve. But outside of knowing which apps are great for the course material, there are steps faculty can take to make sure the use of technology isn’t just a passing fad or failed experiment, and keeps students motivated throughout the course.

In one of the most comprehensive compendiums of efficacy studies on technology solutions for higher education, researchers discovered five best practices across 47 different case studies from courses across the U.S., Canada, the UK and Asia, on how faculty can best improve learning with their education technology implementation:

  • Communicate clear expectations of the technology
  • Require the technology be used for a minimum of 10 percent of the final course grade
  • Assign a mix of tutorials and other items and employ personalized learning
  • Facilitate active class discussion and student preparedness by assigning lecture as homework—otherwise known as Flipped Learning [Read more here.]
  • Measure and track results

[Read more about these tips here.]


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