How our university improved student retention by 5 percent

As a student, choosing a college is a significant decision that has a lifelong impact, personally and professionally. Many factors come into play: the campus experience, available academic programs, cost, sports and athletic opportunities, residences, and word-of-mouth referrals.

Once a selection is made and the student enrolls, many of these same factors will also determine how students perceive their college experience. Living conditions, their roommate, how they finance their education, the groups they’re involved in, and the friends they meet, all shape student success—and that’s a perennial challenge for administrators charged with improving retention rates.

Uncovering retention insights with big data
As vice president for academic administration at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, making sense of the vast array of data that we know about students is critical to our objective of closing the student retention gap and developing programs that provide encouragement, coaching, and advice to those who exhibit the earliest signs of dropout risk.…Read More

Real-world learning comes to campus

Colleges and universities are enhancing undergraduate learning by combining in-class instruction with practical, real-world experiences. At Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), freshmen and seniors can take part in two innovative programs that “bookend” their academic career, according to Mark Brodl, provost and dean of faculty.

The effort began three years ago when IWU launched its Signature Experience for seniors. “A Signature Experience is meant to be a project that may often be anchored in a clear academic discipline, but it may not necessarily be. It’s meant to look holistically at a student’s breadth of interest across their time at IWU. It’s an opportunity for them to assemble for themselves a project that pulls those components together,” says Brodl.

Self-directed learning
Students come up with proposals that draw on their interests, working with faculty members who help them find projects outside the classroom that deepen their studies. For example, IWU Biology Professor Will Jaeckle arranged for an intensive research trip to the Smithsonian Marine Station in Florida for Jamie Blumberg, a senior with an interest in viruses.…Read More

Could “learning communities” hold the key to part-time student retention?

Only 37 percent of students who attend college part time earn a degree within six years, the nonprofit Center for American Progress (CAP) says. While student retention is a big issue for all colleges and universities, it’s especially challenging for community colleges, where three out of four students are enrolled part time. But an innovative approach taken by Bunker Hill Community College in Boston could encourage more part-time students to stay in school and finish their degree.

In the past, many student-retention efforts have focused on encouraging part-time students to take more credit hours per semester, so they can graduate sooner. But that’s not often possible for part-time students, many of whom have full-time jobs or other impediments to their education.

Bunker Hill Community College believes it has found an affordable way to improve part-time student retention by providing some important elements of a traditional college experience to students who often don’t get these, according to a CAP report. The college is doing this by extending its “learning community” model to part-time as well as full-time students.…Read More

Student services model improves retention, satisfaction

When Ivy Tech Community College needed to revamp its student services model, it turned to Blackboard.

A year ago, Ivy Tech Community College, a statewide community college in Indiana, was struggling to answer and reroute phone calls to and from its many different campuses.

Overly complex systems were mostly to blame for the college’s failure to answer phone calls in a timely manner, and students were beginning to post angry comments on the college’s Facebook page. Administrators faced a shifting landscape, and they knew that if they wanted the college to remain competitive, they would need to make some dramatic changes.

Ivy Tech operates 31 campuses across 14 administrative regions—meaning that within the community college there are 14 different financial aid departments, admissions departments, and so on.…Read More

New development could help colleges improve student retention

The PAR Framework project has released full data definitions in hopes of streamlining research to improve student retention.

A project that aims to identify common factors for why college students transfer, drop out, or fail to complete courses has released full definitions for the more than 60 data fields collected from its 16 institutional partners—a move that could help other schools improve student retention.

For the first time in the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework project’s history, it has publicly released full data definitions for the institutional, transcript, and student-level data in the PAR database. This is the first time the data fields and definitions used in PAR Framework modeling and analysis have been available beyond the project’s institutional partners.

PAR data definitions have been published using a Creative Commons license to encourage their distribution among the higher-education research community. Moving forward, PAR will continue to refine its data set to align, where appropriate, with the recently released Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) version 3 and other pertinent higher-ed data sets, the project says.…Read More

Top higher-education technology news: February 2013

The February issue of eCampus News focuses on Campus IT Suppot and Learning Analytics.

The nation’s largest MOOC platform says it will offer certification to students who complete its courses … Colleges turn to learning analytics programs to boost student retention … Campus CIOs have a new roadmap for success: These are among the top higher-education technology stories in the February 2013 edition of eCampus News.

Our February digital edition is now available online. You can browse the full publication here, or click on any of the headlines below to read these highlights:

Learning analytics aim to boost student retention, outcomes…Read More

How to manage barriers to online education programs

The University System of Georgia’s example can help other colleges improve online student retention levels.

A majority of higher-education institutions consider online education programs crucial to their long-term success, according to a recent study from Education Sector.

The study also examined key challenges in online education and explained how educators could learn from one successful college system’s impressive online student retention numbers.

The Calling for Success: Online Retention Rates Get Boost From Personal Outreach study closely aligns with another recent report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States, compiled by Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson, and Sloan-C. This 10th annual report about the state of online education programs is based on survey data collected and analyzed by Babson and the College Board from more than 2,800 colleges and universities.…Read More

Learning analytics tools aim to boost student retention, outcomes

Learning analytics software helps professors evaluate their course structures and ensure better student outcomes.

As policy makers and campus leaders focus on boosting college completion rates, learning analytics is a field that has exploded in importance. A number of programs now exist to help instructors and campus leaders track student progress more closely, leading to better student outcomes.

Some of these programs are standalone software packages, while others are modules or features included in leading student information or learning management systems. Here’s an overview of some of the many products that can improve communication between students and professors, allowing everyone to gain a clearer perspective on students’ needs.

Canvas Analytics…Read More

Three ways to improve your college’s recruitment program

Colleges’ recruitment efforts are based on large amounts of student data.

In today’s competitive climate, institutions face a significant conundrum: the need to simultaneously increase student enrollment and reduce student recruitment costs. This challenge has motivated institutions to stretch beyond their traditional recruitment boundaries.

In fact, admissions offices across the U.S. are taking a deep look into how they manage the student enrollment process. In many cases, institutions have adopted a business approach to enrollment management.

The admissions offices at these institutions apply a robust set of tools within their Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system to assist them with targeting and reaching specific student populations, often outside their traditional target population.…Read More

Small campuses focus on retaining students with the help of technology

Paul Smith’s College saw retention rise by 12 percent last year.

An Arizona community college and a New York campus with 1,000 students are using technology embraced by large research universities to stem alarming drops in student retention, especially among freshmen and sophomores.

Helping new college students – many away from home for the first time – stay in school through the sometimes-difficult transition from high school hallways to the campus dorm has long been a goal of colleges and universities.

Following the advice of a task force created to address falling retention rates, University of Kansas decision makers adopted software last year that would identify at-risk students with low grades and spotty attendance records who are not engaged in campus activities.…Read More