University of Maryland Global Campus launches major student coaching initiative to scale high-touch support for adult learners.

Helping first-time students find success at adult-serving institutions


University of Maryland Global Campus launches major student coaching initiative to scale high-touch support for learners 

Key points:

As college enrollment declines and the definition of the “traditional” student evolves, many first-time college attendees are turning to institutions that typically serve adult learners and can provide flexible course offerings to accommodate students’ personal and professional demands.

The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), a public nonprofit online university, is expanding an institution-wide coaching initiative designed to bolster its proven current student success model. In collaboration with national student coaching nonprofit InsideTrack, the university will work to refine and scale up its in-house success coaching program to increase support for online students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, including working adult learners, part-time students and first-time college-goers.

“Meeting the needs of today’s fast-changing workforce and society demands that college leaders continuously ask ourselves what we’re doing to become student-ready, not the other way around,” said Susan Hawkins-Wilding, vice president of student success at UMGC. “The simple fact is that there are many entry points to and through higher education, whether you are a first-time college-goer, a returning learner or a military service member or working adult making a transition in the peak of your career. No matter the circumstance, our commitment to every learner is to meet them where they are—and work to remove obstacles every step of the way.”

To help expand its wraparound support for its highly diverse population of first-time students, the university has engaged InsideTrack, which has served more than 3.2 million learners since its founding in 2001 and has developed a coaching model proven to measurably increase student persistence and graduation. Over the course of five months, professional coaches from InsideTrack will work one-on-one with up to 600 first-time students, helping to provide newly-enrolled students with personalized support needed to persist during the critical first year of study and provide short-term expansion of coaching support to UMGC’s growing number of new students. 

A member of the University System of Maryland, UMGC’s diverse student body is reflective of the emerging demographics of today’s students: The average age of UMGC students stands at 31. Approximately 79 percent of its undergraduates work full-time and 35 percent are juggling work responsibilities while also caring for dependent children. More than half (54 percent) are underrepresented minorities, and nearly a third (28 percent) self-identify as African American. More than 53,000 UMGC students are military-affiliated, including those who are on active duty, in the reserves, as spouses and dependents, or veterans.

In addition to the initial focus on first-time students, UMGC has also engaged InsideTrack to  provide training, development and certification to its student-facing staff and leaders, which will enable the university to deepen its proven approach to serving learners. Through a set of intensive coach training and development offerings for UMGC staff and administrators, the university will build on its in-house coaching program rooted in InsideTrack’s evidence-based methodology.

“Given the rich diversity of the students we serve, taking a holistic approach to understanding their needs, aspirations and barriers has always been a core tenet of UMGC’s work throughout our history as an adult-serving public university,” said Martina Hansen, senior vice president and chief student affairs officer. “The unique combination of InsideTrack’s evidence-based methodology and the ‘teach-to-fish’ approach will enable us to provide even more personalized support for students as they navigate the complexities of higher education.”

To build the coaching program, a core group of student support staff will participate in a series of InsideTrack Coach Development & Training programs, which equip staff on the principles of effective student coaching and the skills needed to train peers on best practices, creating a scalable model that will enable the university to maintain and expand the program in years to come.

Using data and research to understand the student experience will also be a core component of work. Through the process of interacting with students via phone, email and mobile channels, coaches gather a wealth of insights on the learner experience, which can then be used by UMGC staff and administrators to improve the delivery of student support services and enhance the overall student experience.

“The challenge for many institutions today is that they need support systems that are adaptable enough to meet the needs of today’s increasingly diverse student demographics, but also consistent and proven to drive results at scale,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “This is about working with institutions to build their capacity to deliver impactful student support services in a highly cost-effective and scalable manner.”

This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione

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