But there are some ways to improve retention rates:
- Academic monitoring: Ongoing academic monitoring for a student’s first couple years is important, and academic advisers should monitor student performance in gateway courses to ensure students perform at levels necessary for success.
- Learning communities: Learning communities, or groups of students with the same academic goals and attitudes, can help institutions improve student success and improve retention.
- Proactive student support strategies: Additional strategies include preparatory summer programs that ease the transition to college; offering highly-structured pathways to degree completion with course sequences clearly mapped and limited options and alternatives; implementing a strong learning community infrastructure as a required component; and more.
Retaining Nontraditional, First-Generation College Students
Nontraditional students are growing quickly and have become a major portion of most institutions’ student body. The National Center for Educational Statistics defines a nontraditional student as someone who is older than 24, has family and work responsibilities, and is looking for a degree program that is flexible in terms of how courses are delivered and how quickly they can be completed.
In fact, 74 percent of all 2011-2012 undergraduates had at least one nontraditional characteristic.
First-generation college students are those learners whose parents did not enroll in postsecondary education institutions–they are more likely to be older and have dependents than their non-first-generation peers.
Support strategies for these growing student populations include:
- Involving them in program planning and implementation
- Reflecting students’ life experiences in lessons and activities
- Respecting learners’ culture, knowledge and experiences
- Creating small groups and incorporating them into learning activities
Making Data-Based Decisions
Student data includes everything from grades, classroom behaviors such as participation, and attendance records. This data can shed light on important student behaviors and indicators.
Learning environments that capture student data can help higher-ed leaders support student success by:
- Using data to understand student engagement: Student data will depend on course structure. A lecture-based structure with no online component will yield data from physical class performances on quizzes and exams, attendance, and interactions and participation. A blended, flipped or online classroom environment can offer a sense of student engagement via the materials downloaded, when they are downloaded, participation in online classroom discussions, etc.
- Using engagement data to drive student success: Student engagement data helps educators determine if their learning activities are leading to good scores on assessments, how well students do on tests, where students succeed or fail most, and in what ways they are connecting with other students. To use engagement data to support student success, faculty can start with a goal, create teachable moments, and focus on feedback.
For more details about each of these steps, as well as information about creating a student success plan and supporting students with success initiatives, download the full handbook.
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