Innovation corner: Technology solutions for boosting retention

Student retention vexes campus decision makers who need solutions

technological-retentionStudent retention, once a back burner issue for many colleges and universities, has emerged as a pressing issue for campus decision makers, who have increasingly looked to technology for solutions.

Concerns about retention are particularly acute in online courses.

Forty-one percent of chief academic officers in a recent survey said they agreed that retaining students was a greater problem for online courses than for face-to-face classes.

Only 28 percent of respondents felt this way about retention in 2009, and only 27 percent concurred in 2004. Researchers from the Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson, and the Sloan Consortium who studied growing retention problems said there are many reasons web-based classes have become a central focus on retention efforts.

“Online courses can attract students who might otherwise have not been able to attend traditional on-campus instruction because of work, family, or other obligations,” the researchers wrote in a survey examining retention rates at more than 3,000 colleges.

The question becomes: What technologies and policies are universities turning to in efforts to curb falling retention rates? Here are a few tech solutions that educators and eCampus News readers have pointed to…

(Next page: Retention solutions)

Ellucian Student Engagement and Retention: Ellucian has a dozen technology-based approaches to boosting student retention, including a retention alert system that monitors student records for early signs of trouble and the Colleague Intelligent Learning Platform, which streamlines the time educators spend on tasks like developing courses, managing content, fostering collaboration in courses, entering grades, and validating data.

Ellucian’s Colleague Retention Alert doesn’t just send a message to a student who may be falling behind, but an advisor as well, meaning schools can help struggling students before it’s too late. The system is student intervention in (almost) real time.

Starfish Retention Solutions: Starfish’s retention-based technology doesn’t just spot students who are struggling academically, but those who have failed to get required immunizations, provide essential student loan information to a campus’s student aid office, along with a host of administrative factors that could make a student a dropout risk. Institutions of all kinds have reported retention gains after implementing Starfish solutions, including Paul Smith College, which in February announced that full-time student retention had jumped by 17 percent for the fall 2013 semester.

“It was during our planning process that we realized that we could not succeed without technology to break down information silos, ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding the student’s situation and to increase our efficiency, because we would be dramatically increasing the number of students we were attempting to serve,” said Loralyn Taylor, director of institutional research and registrar at the Paul Smith College.

Jenzabar Retention: This solution, powered by predictive modeling techniques, tells campus officials when a students’ attrition risk factors have reached concerning levels. Eliminating manual processes that can bog down retention efforts in colleges of any size, the Jenzabar retention program offers an at-a-glance view of student risk factors to allow for timely intervention that can be crucial in any retention program.

Want to learn more about Jenzabar Retention? Look no further than Grove City College.

Instructure’s Canvas Analytics: This tech solution presents dashboards for students and professors so they can make better data-driven decisions and achieve optimal learning outcomes. Students can compare their individual progress with their peers’ performances, while professors can monitor the class as a whole and quickly detect at-risk students.

Canvas Analytics also allows campus administrators to compare multiple courses and assess different departments and programs. Instructure’s retention solution doesn’t require a deep dig into mountains of data to understand which students are at risk. Relevant information is presented in an accessible and easy-to-read format.

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