5 innovative strategies to support non-traditional students

Non-traditional students are one of higher education’s fastest-growing groups, and with data indicating that most of these students feel unsupported, institutions are stepping up strategies to help at-risk non-traditional students meet their academic goals.

A new Barnes & Noble College report reveals that non-traditional students who do not participate in extra-curricular activities, who spend minimal time on campus, who pay for school independently, and who have a negative experience with a school support system or service are more likely to be at risk of not graduating.

A previous Barnes and Noble College study of nearly 800 non-traditional students as a whole revealed that nearly twice as many non-traditional students are at risk of dropping out when compared to traditional peers.

The report notes that the number of non-traditional students is projected to increase more than twice as fast as traditional students from 2012 to 2022, according to the CLASP Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. And because non-traditional students are among the fastest-growing student groups, this means schools face retention challenges.

Only 37 percent of at-risk students said they feel confident they will accomplish their educational goals, and 33 percent of those at risk participate in extra-curricular activities, compared to 62 percent of non-traditional students who are not at risk of not graduating.

The at-risk group spends less time on campus–10 hours per week compared to the 16 hours per week that non-traditional on-track students spend on campus.

(Next page: 5 strategies to support at-risk, non-traditional students)


edX announces new MicroMasters programs for career advancement

edXthe online education platform from Harvard and MITannounced the launch of 16 new MicroMasters programs from top universities across the globe.

EdX created MicroMasters programs to bridge the knowledge gap between higher education and the workplace. Through 12 prestigious university partners, edX is expanding these programs across in-demand fields like:

  • Business analytics
  • Digital product management
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data science

The newly launched programs build on the success of the MicroMasters launch in September 2016, when edX and 14 international partners debuted 19 programs in topics like artificial intelligence and supply chain management.

These credit-eligible, career-relevant programs are free to try, and can help advance careers and offer a pathway to an accelerated Master’s program. Top employers, including industry-leading companies like IBM, PWC, Hootsuite, Bloomberg, Fidelity and more, recognize MicroMasters programs for real-time, real-world relevancy.

A full list of the latest MicroMasters offerings is available:

Data Science and Analytics

  • Business Analytics, Columbia University
  • Data Science, The University of California, San Diego
  • Big Data, University of Adelaide
  • Analytics: Essential Tools and Methods, The Georgia Institute of Technology

Computer Science

  • Cybersecurity, Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Cloud Computing, University of Maryland University College
  • Software Development, The University of British Columbia
  • Software Testing and Verification, University of Maryland University College

Hybrid Jobs

  • Digital Product Management, Boston University
  • Digital Leadership, Boston University
  • Managing Technology & Innovation: How to deal with disruptive change, The RWTH Aachen University
  • Marketing in the Digital World, Curtin University
  • Bioinformatics, University of Maryland University College
  • Instructional Design and Technology, University of Maryland University College


  • Robotics, University of Pennsylvania
  • Solar Energy Engineering, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft)

Material from a press release was used in this report.


Dashboards can have make-or-break importance for underperforming students

Underperforming students who have access to their course progress via educational dashboards are more likely to be motivated by those dashboards than students who are already doing well, according to a new study.

Despite varying levels of motivation, students of all performance levels who were surveyed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Blackboard said they found dashboard feedback useful and would value continuous access to it.

Though many educational dashboards available today are intended for advisers and instructors, students increasingly find the data helpful.

This study is the first to specifically investigate how feedback and students’ academic standing affects their experience with dashboards and points to the importance of considering how to design these systems to provide more personalized information that motivates students,” said Stephanie Teasley, a research professor in the U-M School of Information (UMSI).

Teasley worked to compile the research with a team of USMI researchers and researchers and staff from Blackboard, which has recently developed student-facing dashboards for its flagship Blackboard Learning learning management system.

(Next page: How researchers’ focus questions pointed to dashboard importance)


3 considerations for going BYOA on campus

While many higher-ed IT departments are still struggling to handle the flood of mobile devices onto campus networks, some industry experts now advise institutions to adopt a broader strategy that goes beyond BYOD to encompass the applications they run, too.

“We are transitioning from BYOD to bring-your-own-application (BYOA)—it’s really about the application,” said Chris LaPoint, vice president of product management at SolarWinds, a Texas-based company that develops IT management software. “The applications that run on those devices are potentially more important than the fact that these devices are showing up on the network. That’s the landscape of the problem.”

According to LaPoint, BYOD and BYOA must be tackled as part of an integrated strategy that rests on three key considerations:

1. What are the bandwidth needs of all the devices and applications running on the network?

2. What are the security implications of the applications running on these devices, and the data being shared?

3. How can the school detect and handle improper—or even illegal—use of devices and applications?

Ramping up the bandwidth capabilities of campus networks certainly ranks among the top IT investments at many colleges. “Where we’ve really had to adapt and adjust is on our wireless network,” said Charles Spann, assistant vice president for service delivery and communications for the Division of Information Technology at George Washington University. “We’ve been in the process of upgrading our wireless network over the last two years, and it seems that whenever we finish our last wireless upgrade project it’s time to start the next.”

Read about more BYOD and BYOA solutions here.

While student consumption of bandwidth has gone through the roof in recent years, the wireless network now plays an increasingly central role in teaching and administration, too. “Faculty are leveraging [student mobile devices] to be more creative in how they conduct their classes,” explained Spann. “It’s becoming more common for faculty to conduct an online quiz at the beginning of the class, for example, or have students take a test over the wireless network on the laptops they bring to class. This has caused quite a surprise at times when a faculty member’s use of a technology has got ahead of our wireless upgrade.”

Read more about increasing Wi-Fi capabilities here.

But is increasing the size of the pipe alone enough to ensure that vital instructional applications are available when students and faculty need them? “Doubling down in terms of infrastructure and network access control makes a lot of sense,” said LaPoint, “but if you’re not thinking about it end-to-end, then you’re missing the point.”

(Next page: Narrowing apps for your BYOA mission)