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Why Tracking Attendance Matters to Student Success

Why Tracking Attendance Matters to Student Success

While is seems like an inherent notion that a student’s attendance is a direct reflection of their ability to persist through their program of choice, very often colleges and universities do not require this as a practice. The reasons behind not actively taking attendance can range from faculty push back to the sheer number of students in classrooms is not conducive to obtaining accurate data. We also know there may be differing attendance requirements and guidelines at each institution.  While large classes in lecture halls seating 200+ can be a significant challenge, for many institutions it is simply a culture shift that can be hard to address.

With all the items on a faculty members plate, adding one more thing is often met with a significant amount of resistance. The idea that students are adults and responsible for their own attendance to the classes they are paying for is a valid response. However, this is simply not the reality of higher education. Student success often relies on early intervention from advisors and faculty members.

Taking attendance may not appear to initially impact our retention rates, but what we do with the knowledge of this early indicator has a momentous impact on student success. The reasons for student’s missing classes range from a lack of responsibility to a major life event.  Students often struggle with communicating the need for help or advice. We know this to be true, therefore the role faculty, advisors and success coaches becomes critical to early intervention and student success. Unless systems are put in place before hand, often by the time a student has the courage to ask for help or we realize they have not been attending their classes, it is too late. We also know this is even more critical for students who do not reside on our campuses. If they have stopped attending classes, attempting to coach them to come on campus for an advising appointment can feel a little bit like trying to move a mountain with our pinky.

Data seems to be the sexiest word in the higher education space as of late, and being a company in the business of student success, we would agree of the attractiveness of data! However, data alone will not provide the results colleges and universities need to gain higher retention rates. Should we obtain the insight that students on our case load have missed 3 out of the last 4 classes they were scheduled for, we can intervene before the student comes to us with a failing midterm grade.

So while taking attendance can provide challenges, the data it provides can arguably be one of the most important pieces in understanding student success. However this shift can take time, but there are a few key steps to assist:

  • Start with a Pilot: Often times when understanding the impact on a small group, campuses can gain additional buy in, assisting in the transition.
  • Slow Transition: Require attendance during certain parts of the year, beyond census dates.
  • Implement an Easy to Use System: The easier you can make taking attendance on your faculty the easier it will be to require it. If a faculty member needs to click through more than one screen, you have the wrong system.

Attendance is critical to student success and should become a priority for campus cultures. In order to do so our faculty must be appropriately supported. This will allow us to obtain critical data for early intervention, student success and ultimately higher retention rates.

Student Advising Models and Guided Pathways

Student Advising Models and Guided Pathways

“Guided Pathways” is the buzz phrase in higher ed these days.  Data is showing how a guided pathway’s solution impacts student success and graduation rates, especially at community colleges.  A study by Davis Jenkins and Sung-Woo Cho that was released in 2012 showed more than half of students who entered a program in their first year earned a credential or transferred within 5 years.  For students who did not enter a program until their 3rd year, the success rate was about 20%.

The concept of guided pathways makes a lot of sense.  It’s pretty amazing how often a student will register for a class that does not advance them closer to their academic goals, thus using up precious financial aid.  That being said, it’s a lot of work for an institution to take on.  In this case, it literally takes the entire village.

A guided pathway solution can still allow for customization of course schedules by way of academic plans with default choices.  There are several other benefits in shifting specific programs to a guided pathways route, including:

  • An increase in completion rates through enhanced structure and support for students
  • Optimization of the use of financial aid
  • Defining and assessing learning outcomes for entire programs
  • Faculty working together to create instructional program coherence
  • Students seeing the big picture of their program and how individual components lead to achieving their goals

For this model to be successful, there must be a shift in the overall student support network.  The American Association of Community Colleges states that the guided pathways redesign model should be built on three design principles:

  • Institutions must pay attention to the entire student experience, not just a segment of it
  • This is not an isolated solution in a long list of reforms, rather an opportunity to unify a variety of reform elements
  • Redesign process starts with the end-goal in mind (ie. employment) and then works backward to map out a program

My intention here is to focus on the student service component of the entire ecosystem.  From a student advising perspective, a guided pathways approach elevates the precision needed by student support services.  It’s critical that student services evolve with the guided pathways model.  Below are some key ingredients to consider:

  • Ability to closely monitor student academic plans
  • Automatic alerts that are triggered the minute a student falls off plan
  • Advisors and faculty can intervene early as at-risk indicators identify students who could potentially fail critical courses
  • Advisors and faculty work closely together to monitor and support student progress
  • Students can monitor their progress towards achieving their academic goals

Aviso is a turnkey solution that provides academic planning to support guided pathways, coupled with predictive analytics and an engagement platform that easily places a student’s challenges and achievements right in front of student support staff.  Rather than a reactive and transactional student environment, the intention is for advisors and faculty to focus on measuring outcomes and continuing to fine tune the guided pathways ecosystem.  If you aren’t doing this already, consider conducting a pilot to observe the impact yourself.

Aviso Retention provides analytics, software and expertise to increase student retention and engagement.  Click here to learn more.

The Retention Dilemma with Graduate Programs

The Retention Dilemma with Graduate Programs

When you think about student attrition, is it ever in the context of graduate school?

Probably not, but you should.  Undergrad retention rates hover around 50% and the same goes for masters and doctoral students.

Colleges and Universities are more focused on their undergraduate attrition than what is happening in their graduate programs.   I had the fortunate circumstance of attending the Annual Meeting for the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools in early March (which, by the way, is a fantastic group of people) where I had conversations with several Deans of graduate programs spread from Maryland to Texas.  The conversations were overwhelmingly similar.  Each one sharing they would love to have a retention solution similar to what their undegraduate counterpart currently has, but they don’t have the student numbers in their grad program to justify the cost.

Let’s pause and think about this for a minute.  One particular institution comes to mind that has 20,000 undergrads and 4,000 graduate students.  If this institution is experiencing an overall attrition rate of 20% annually for both programs, then they are looking at losing 4000 undergrad and 800 graduate students.  Seems to make sense to focus on the larger number, but losing 800 graduate students results in a $7.2m loss in tuition revenue for this particular institution.

Through my discussions, the predominant reasons I am hearing their institutions are not investing in a retention solution are:

  • Less Return on Investment when compared to undergrad
  • An assumption that students who leave cannot handle the academic rigor, so we should allow for this natural attrition
  • An assumption that some students leave because they’ve chosen a different career direction, which usually involves gainful full time employment

Let’s break these down…

Less Return on Investment when compared to undergrad

It’s hard to find numbers on loss in tuition revenue for graduate programs.  An Educational Policy Institute report shows a loss in tuition revenue for undergrad at $16.5B, so I’m guessing if graduate programs are experiencing a 50% attrition rate the financial loss there is still a staggering number.  The institution mentioned above would see an increase in tuition revenue of $0.5M with a 7% increase in retention.  An affordable solution would provide very strong return on investment.

An assumption that students who leave cannot handle the academic rigor, so we should allow for this natural attrition

A strong admissions department should be filtering out students who will struggle.  Of course, the expectation is rarely 100% retention and certainly a small population of students may struggle academically.  Most students admitted to graduate programs can meet and exceed the academic requirements, but life gets in the way.  When priorities shift and life intervenes, the performance drops.  It’s easy to point the finger at performance, but is that the true reason a student leaves their graduate program?  Identify these dips in performance quickly and then engage to uncover the real issue.

An assumption that some students leave because they’ve chosen a different career direction, which usually involves gainful employment

Students who drop of out graduate school are likely pulled away by life situations.  Families, health, career, finances, debt and self-confidence are key factors.  The latter factor there, self-confidence, is important to pay attention to.  In Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, she talks about the high number of people admitted to prestigious academic programs who experience imposter syndrome, which is basically a consistent feeling that they must have fooled the admissions folks to gain acceptance into their program.  She experienced the same thing herself as a grad student at Princeton, now she’s a best-selling author doing ground-breaking research in how people judge and influence each other.  My point here is that these are obstacles that graduate students can overcome.

There is an answer…  a practical and affordable retention solution can support the right students to persist to graduation.  A system that bolsters the work our professional and faculty advisors are doing to support students.  Being able to find and engage students who are at-risk is advantageous, but so is having a system that automatically recognizes key accomplishments and benchmarks.  The return on investing in a solution can add significant tuition revenue.  More important, it’s difficult to put a monetary value on the impact to the university and future of the student, as well.

I have to share that this topic is close to my heart.  I almost left graduate school myself.  I realized early on in my clinical psychology program that I was not interested in being a therapist.  Furthermore, I was presented with a fantastic job offer that would have been hard to refuse.  A faculty mentor showed me the value of finishing my program.  Looking back, I made exactly the right decision.

Aviso Retention provides analytics, software and expertise to increase student retention and engagement.  Click here to learn more.

Is Technology replacing Advising?

Is Technology replacing Advising?

According to MarketWatch, by 2035 there will be 2.7bn students worldwide and in order to meet this demand we would need to build two universities per day over the next 20 years.  Couple this growth with tightening budgets in higher education and cuts have to occur somewhere.  Are you currently experiencing this in student services on your campus?

MarketWatch also indicates that EdTech will be a $252bn industry by 2020.  We can register students without a human interaction.  Students can get career or academic advice through search engines and phone apps.  It’s the Big Bang of EdTech, but if technology slowly replaces advising our retention crisis will only deepen.

Advising through technology with no human contact is largely transactional.  The truth is that many students would still achieve their academic goals with this type of advising.  However, we all know students vary by college and university and a majority of them require an interpersonal connection.

On the surface, computers are unable to replace the value of human interaction.

When you look a little bit deeper, we see that individuals seek out advising and student support roles because they care about people and this is their opportunity to shape the lives of others.

At the core, we have students who are facing new and unique challenges every day and require support from an actual person who is trained to drive their college experience.

The trick is providing technology that allows front-line student support to do their job effectively and efficiently.  Don’t replace technology with advising, rather provide smarter tools so advisors can do what they love.  The question becomes not, “Is technology replacing advising,” rather, “Which technology is ideal for my staff to effectively support students?”

If you value that human interaction on the advising front, then work to align a technology solution with campus culture, student success initiatives and the needs of your students.

Select technology that reflects campus culture.  You can purchase a wide range of data analytic products.  Deciding upon a complex solution without a campus culture to match and you could end up with superfluous data.

Align your student success initiatives with a retention solution.  Technology should mirror the student success initiatives you have or want to put into place.

Align technology with the needs of your students.  Institutions serve different types of students and it’s important to ensure the data that you are gathering and utilizing to engage students is most pertinent to your institution.

Student advising can be incredibly rewarding.  Connecting the dots for a student and working to constantly connect their hard work to the value of a degree and their future is necessary.  These conversations can happen through careful strategy and planning.  In other words, retention technology should allow you the time to think about how you will advance your students rather than trying to figure out who actually needs your support.

Aviso Retention provides analytics, software and expertise to increase student retention and engagement.  Click here to learn more.

How to Select Retention Software

How to Select Retention Software

If you are supporting students in higher ed then you likely could benefit from one of the many solutions currently available.  A great retention solution will do a couple of critical things for student success:

  1. Get the right student information in the right hands at the right time
  2. Eliminate grunt work so your focus is on quality student support

Whether your first-year retention is 90% or 60%, student advising and engagement is vital to the health of a university.  You have a wide range of options to explore.  This article focuses on 5 things that should be on your list when considering a retention solution:

Cost:  The solution you select should more than pay for itself.  Determine a reasonable expectation for an increase in retention (whether its total enrollment, first year retention or a specified sub-population) and ensure the resulting tuition gain is significantly greater than the cost of the software.

Implementation:  I hear about system fatigue a lot.  IT teams are always overloaded.  Faculty needs a break from new system integrations.  Student support staff are comfortable with what the antiquated system they are currently using.  The more complex your solution, the greater impact on resources.  Select a solution that has minimal impact on your IT team and can train your staff in less than a day.

On-going Admin:  The more complex a retention solution the more on-going admin support and maintenance you will need.  When you hire or reallocate a part or full time individual as an on-going administrator, you have to include this in your overall cost.

Type of Partnership: Do you prefer a collaborative partner with higher ed expertise or would you prefer to be left alone with the software?  Many solutions out there will have you pay extra for the “consulting” portion.  A true collaborative partner will be just as invested in supporting the achievement of established retention targets without piling on extra fees.

Features:  It’s going to be hard to find a solution that meets every single one of your needs.  Go for the solution that has your essential components and choose a partner that is nimble enough to build the extra features you need down the road.

There are several options out there to enhance how your faculty and staff engage students.  Include faculty, student support staff and IT in your decision-making process.  They will thank you in the end.

Aviso Retention provides analytics, software and expertise to increase student retention and engagement.  Click here to learn more.

 

Early Intervention- When Knowing My Name Didn’t Matter.

Early Intervention- When Knowing My Name Didn’t Matter.

This past weekend I ran a ½ marathon. This was not my first and I hope will not be my last as my results were less then desirable. I had made a promise to myself that I would run at least one ½ marathon a year, not because I particularly like race day, but training for these races will keep me in somewhat good-ish shape…I tell myself this anyway. All to say, I had trained for this race and was excited for what was ahead. That morning, came with little anxiety however,  as I did not have a running buddy therefore was relying on a carefully picked play list to carry me through. I had also made the decision not to drive the course before-hand, so as to not psych myself out. This would later prove to be one mistake of many that I would make.

So feeling all the feels, I made my second poor decision. Not wanting to run alone, I decided at the last minute to join a pace group. Pace groups are those that are led by wonderful volunteers to ensure you are running at a specific pace so that you might achieve a certain race time. I chose a group that was running at a faster pace than I have ever run a ½ marathon, not by much (I’m not that crazy), but about 40 seconds faster per mile. This may not seem too bad….but at mile 10, it feels like A LOT.

So fast forward and the race begins. I am doing ok with the pace group. Thoughts of “oh man, this is it? I can totally do this”, race through my head. I quickly make friends with the pacers and fellow racers in the group. We each have different stories and very different physical builds, but all share the same goal.  As the race continued, I started to feel the fatigue of running faster than I had ever trained for. I also learned this particular course had the most/steepest hills of any race the area had to offer. I could feel every single one.  At mile 10, I made the last bad decision that would prove to be detrimental to my race efforts. I over-hydrated. I’ll spare you the details of what comes next. All to say, I quickly found myself far behind the pace group and very alone.  I needed to mentally tough it out. I was not in good shape and quickly loosing spirit. The last 2 miles felt as if I was starting from the beginning. Hill after hill, I decided that in order to survive I needed to take a run/walk approach, walking up the last few hills. The mental games were at an all-time high. Then just at the right moment, one of the pacers that I had run with during the first 10 miles, came back on the course to get me. She stayed by my side encouraging me to keep moving forward. This was amazing. Intervention happened when I felt as if I would rather be carted off the course then take one more step. She came to get me at the perfect time and while I am certain she probably doesn’t even know my name, that doesn’t matter. She provided what I needed most. Not water or time checks but just encouragement.

We are at that time in the school year where our students may be starting to lose their excitement for classes and their collegiate journey. The initial “I got this!” has been met with a few less than perfect test scores. The fatigue of everything happening outside of classes is starting to take its toll. Students thought they knew what going to school would take and prepared for the year, yet life circumstances and possibly a few errors in judgment are starting to catch up with them.

This can be hard, student success is what we care about most, but unlike the volunteer that came back for me, she was encouraging one person, while we are trying to encourage hundreds. Not every student will show the need for early intervention, or encouragement. It may simply look like a skipped class, missed appointment or overall lack of engagement. So how do we even attempt to catch all of these behaviors when our caseloads are overwhelming on their own? Its simple. We cant. Not well, anyway. Early intervention, encouragements and alerts only work if staff is working together. A faculty member can record a missed class or lack of engagement, a success coach can record a missed meeting and a financial aid representative can become aware of financial hardship, but unless all of this information is coming together, it becomes very difficult to fully understand how to best serve our students or intervene before it is too late.

A student’s collegiate experience is a marathon not a sprint. Road blocks come in many forms and it can be hard for a success coach or faculty member to manage each student’s hurdles. Yet when we intervene and offer encouragement or work through solutions with our students at the right time, the results can not only affect our overall retention but can be life-changing for the students that we work with.

Renew, Refocus, Revitalize…Retention

Renew, Refocus, Revitalize…Retention

As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change. While this continues to be true, we can also appreciate when things stay the same. As long as those “things” are adding to our lives in a positive way.  When change does happen, it is often given a title that typically has  “re” at the beginning. Essentially, we are revisiting the way we have once done something and changing it.

With this in mind the main focus of our team at Aviso Coaching continues to be the success of our partner institutions. This will remain the same, as we lead college and universities through renewing their team’s energy, refocusing their efforts into a unified early alert software system and revitalizing student success and degree completion on their campus. We encourage campuses to change daily, even in the smallest ways to best meet the needs of their student populations. Sometimes these are easy changes, while others take time and effort to incorporate. All the while we ensure each team is fully supported.  This is our story. We are passionate about student success and retention and remain firmly focused on these initiatives.

So while our team continues to support and encourage our partnering campuses to adjust when needed, we must do the same. Therefore, we have decided to move forward with a few key modifications.

First, we wanted to make sure we were telling our story in a way that portrayed who we are and where Aviso is going. Therefore, Aviso Coaching is now Aviso Retention. Why? We have grown quite a bit in the last few years, but the laser focus on retention, student success and degree completion remains the same. We feel that Aviso Retention better captures the overall impact of our solution and the value of our partnership.

Second, while we encourage our partnering campuses to stay on the forefront of innovation and student retention, we as the Aviso team need to do the same. Therefore, we have revitalized our logo to reflect this forward movement. The transition has already begun and will continue throughout the next few months.

The success of our partners and the students they serve continues to be our priority. We are thrilled to be transitioning to Aviso Retention and excited for the years to come. Cheers to continued quality and exciting innovation!

Please take time to check out our new website: Avisoretention.com

Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up with the new and exciting things happening with our team!

Contact Us to learn more about our student centered retention initiatives!

Now I’m worried about the DRAIN, not the DRIP

Now I’m worried about the DRAIN, not the DRIP

References to “data rich, information poor” (DRIP) syndrome are ubiquitous; a quick Google search returns articles addressing DRIP in numerous disciplines including education, health care, and water quality management. Organizations suffering from DRIP find themselves awash in data—quantifiable facts and statistics—but lacking information—knowledge obtained through analysis of these data.

Universities and colleges are avoiding DRIP by employing data management procedures that result in consumable, aggregated information. These activities may be the responsibility of an internal office, contracted to an external group, or, as I have found useful, assigned to a mix of both internal and external data professionals.

Following the distillation of relevant information through data analytics, institutions must avoid the next hurdle: “data rich, abundant information, non-action” (DRAIN) syndrome. DRAIN occurs when information lies dormant. This syndrome may be the result of a lack of institutional resources to take on a new project, the inability to navigate institutional silos to prompt action, or poor cross-divisional communication channels for sharing information.

A signal that DRAIN is present is the utterance of the phrase “OK, so what?” or “Interesting” after a quick scan of a report. For example, insights about the success factors for student sub-populations are bundled into reports, shared across departments, viewed with mild curiosity, and then filed away without prompting action.

DRAIN is akin to and sometimes accompanied by “paralysis by analysis.” In this situation, the constant quest for the “perfect data point” stymies any project built on the available information. “If we only knew . . .” has halted action and constricted development of relevant programs many times over.

The best remedy for DRAIN is to prepare a plan to leverage information derived from large data sets. The following steps will assist in developing these types of procedures, and discussion on each step will be addressed in future blog posts on DRAIN.

  1. Determine if the information is actionable
  2. Decide how to employ the information
  3. Pilot programs or outreach
  4. Measure the effectiveness of the program
  5. Revise, expand, or retire the program

 

 

 

About the Author:

Nathan Miller, Ph.D. is the Senior Director for Student Success at Columbia College in Columbia, MO. In this role he is responsible for the design, implementation of student success programming for a diverse and geographically disparate student population.