Addressing student success: strategies and tools

The call to action “Addressing Student Success” is by no means a small or simple task. The response cannot be a short-term project with easily achievable goals a campus will be able to launch one year and then declare victory a year or two later. Institutions that have seen some success in this area report they have been doing this work for a decade or more. They do not consider the work finished; rather, they are even more committed to and excited about the work that has transformed their campuses and the lives of so many students.

For the last two years, student success has been in EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT issues. In fact, IT professionals identified it as number two this past year, immediately following the issue of security. Student success efforts are bringing about the implementation of new technologies, changing processes, integrating tools, and forcing institutions to rethink how they support students, centered not on the administration but on the students themselves.

The work, as EDUCAUSE staff have witnessed while supporting institutions’ efforts, entails a thoughtful implementation of technologies guided by the integral part of change management—getting people to change the way they do things. In our work with the institutions, we developed tools that offer a mix of best practices in deploying and/or choosing technologies in this area of student success, combined with a purposeful approach to the “people change” aspect that is critical for this work to succeed. These tools allow an institution to follow proven best practices and avoid common pitfalls as they prepare to select and implement the three key pillars of iPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success), also popularly known as technology-enabled advising.…Read More

Middle Tennessee State University: Pressing forward on the quest for student success

Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), a public research university of 22,000 students, is located in Murfreesboro, southeast of Nashville and almost exactly in the geographic center of Tennessee. Its student body is 50% Pell Grant eligible, 50% first generation, and 40% minority. It has recently received wide recognition for improvements in the rates at which its students persist from one year to the next. The improvement has been gradual, steady, and impressive: In fall 2012, MTSU’s rate of year-to-year retention was 65.2%; by fall 2016, it had risen to 76.4%. This represents the highest level of retention in the modern history of the institution.

How has this transformation come about?
MTSU made a strong commitment to student success—and followed through on it with a set of concrete steps to transform the ways in which it helps students achieve success. A little more than four years ago, MTSU advised its students in a traditional way. Advisors held meetings with students to ensure that they carried out the basic business transactions necessary to register themselves for the following semester’s classes. At these meetings, advisors had scant information at hand on their students’ backgrounds and experiences and they faced large caseloads of students, all of whom needed to see them in a short period of time. As a result, advisor-advisee meetings typically did not include discussions about how the proposed classes did or did not align with the student’s recent academic effort, progress toward completing a degree or a major, or career plans.

The model is quite different today. MTSU, recipient of a 2015 grant for Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS), has been pressing forward in the pioneering use of data collection and sharing to maximize the potential of these advising relationships. In doing so, the institution has achieved significant increases in the rates at which students persist and, ultimately, complete degrees.…Read More

How iPASS worked in supporting student success—The two sides of the coin: technology & people

Increasing student success has moved high on the priority list at many institutions of higher education in the last five plus years. In their latest articulation of their vision, institutions have framed specific outcomes in student success. They have issued calls to action to measurably improve the institutional capability to help students complete their education. These student success efforts are long-term commitments on the part of an institution and should not be seen as “initiatives” or “projects” that can be completed within a year—or even two or three. To be effective in helping students complete what they have started, a student success approach must be ongoing and multi-faceted.

For the last five plus years, several dozen institutions have been working on student success efforts in a movement referred to as iPASS, which has been funded by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The acronym stands for “Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success,” a concept also popularly called technology-enabled advising. In simple English it involves leveraging technology in support of advising transformation that in turn supports students in a more holistic way to achieve their goals.

IPASS has focused on three main areas: Degree Planning, Coaching and Advising, and Early Alert and Risk Targeting.…Read More

4 reasons why student success is misdefined in higher ed and how data can fix it

What is student success? Let’s start with the most fundamental definition: completing and receiving a degree. For decades, national completion rates have hovered around 20-30 percent in three years for an associate’s degree and 50-60 percent in six years for undergraduate degrees.

Here’s the problem: The data is not actionable and is enabling low-expectations creep, such as setting expectations that a six-year completion rate is a success metric for first-time full-time students in a four-year program. Low-expectations creep can best be summed up by Eberhardt Rechtin:

“High expectations, because they are unlikely to be fulfilled, define failure… low expectations, because they are likely to be accomplished, define success.”…Read More

Program stimulates collaborative efforts, academic outcomes

Ten more schools are joining a project that encourages community colleges to design programs that support academics and boost learning outcomes, thanks to a grant from the MetLife Foundation.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) recently announced the addition to its Developing a Community College Student Roadmap Projectwhich is a part of AAC&U’s Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.

The Roadmap Project encourages community colleges to design practical programs that offer effective academic support and improve learning outcomes. By modifying preexisting academic programs, or creating news ones, administrators can not only optimize student success rates in their coursework, but also help students develop skills that will benefit them long into their career paths.…Read More