Schools are judged by their retention rates—this is especially true at the college level. Reputation, funding, and of course actual effectiveness for students are all tied in to retention rates, and the problem of reduced retention rates seems to be getting worse every year. In fact, according to The National Student Clearinghouse, only 55 percent of first-time undergraduates who enrolled in fall 2008 finished a degree within six years.
Those who work in higher ed know retention is a major concern, and they’re rightly prioritizing finding solutions. Some of these solutions are old fashioned interventions, but many of the most exciting—and effective—approaches take advantage of technology in new and interesting ways.
Here are a few examples:
Student Information Portals
Today’s students are more tech-savvy than ever, and rather than getting progress updates through an academic advisor’s office, they’d much rather log on to an information packed, self-serve student portal where they can see their grades, get information about transfers, check on how they are progressing with their particular degree requirements, and get access to programs and even financial tools. These portals have the advantage of giving students the information they need on-demand, thus freeing up educational resources for more complex needs. They’re a natural fit for any institution seeking to increase retention.
With online learning accounting for nearly three-quarters of higher education’s enrollment increases, institutions are faced with new challenges when it comes to student attrition. On-campus events and in-person meetings can’t solve retention issues when the reality of the student body is increasingly virtual. That’s why videoconferencing and its potential to enrich e-classroom offerings, as well as provide otherwise unavailable opportunities for collaboration is increasingly considered an essential tool to help drive student retention.
Improved Mobile Access
Just like business owners, educators can’t fight the influx of personal devices in their classrooms. On the contrary, smart education professionals are embracing the mobile trend, realizing that for many students, their primary computing access may well be through a mobile device. When educators create mobile friendly classrooms and classroom systems, students gain greater flexibility in how, when, and where they can work. Incorporating mobile into the classroom can even be one effective way to increase engagement, and student engagement has clear positive implications for retention, as well.
One perennial problem with student retention at the higher education level is that outreach often doesn’t happen because educators simply don’t see problems develop until it’s too late to intervene. But today, learning analytics tools that bring together data points from different sources are available to create an early alert system. These systems can help educators or other staff members reach out to students and provide resources early enough that the intervention can actually be effective. Many institutions of higher education have seen great success with these new tools.
Student attrition in higher education is a complicated problem, and requires multifaceted and creative approaches. The onus is on decision makers at colleges and universities, community colleges, and technical schools to prove their worth by helping their students succeed.
Fortunately, there are a number of novel approaches to student retention that are helping keep students enrolled and on a path toward a degree, including better analytics, improved use of mobile devices, video conferencing, and student information portals.