4.  Student success programming: Courses designed to teach skills and strategies to help students succeed such as time management and study skills play a critical role in determining completion rates. At Excelsior, Ebersole says, student advising has been exceptional. Every student receives an individualized learning plan on what credits are required for the degree and this makes it a lot more predictable, thus reducing anxiety and building confidence. There is a one-year information literacy course to make students aware of all of the resources available and how to access them. There are also a variety of other supportive resources and tools available to help students succeed.

5.  Supportive learning community: Students often perform better in a learning community that involves two or more linked courses that a group of students take together. This type of collaboration enhances inter-personal communication skills, builds confidence, and promotes team work—necessary skills to be marketable in the workforce.

While Ebersole notes the positive role a supportive learning community can play, he says educators need to improve interaction with employers to ensure the competencies with graduate students meet their demands.

These proposals to improve completion rates come with certain challenges and opportunities for students and educators.

“Higher education globally is incredibly resistant to change, similar to large institutions like the military and the church,” he says. “The challenge is our need to get more of our workforce educated. We definitely need to be doing things differently if we are to be competitive in the global economy.”

Michael Sharnoff is associate online editor at eCampus News. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_eSM.

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