Browsed by
Tag: intervention

Is Your Title III Grant Money Working Hard Enough for Your Institution?

Is Your Title III Grant Money Working Hard Enough for Your Institution?

It’s a competition that happens every two years, or when department of education determines there is enough Title III funds.  The chance to be awarded a 5-year grant that is estimated between $400,000 and $450,000.  The grant is intended to strengthen institutions by supporting them to become more self-sufficient.  The money is to be used to expand capacity to serve low-income students and improve and strengthen academic quality, institutional management and fiscal stability.  Applications were due mid-April and institutions will learn if they have received the grant in mid-July.  There is close to $3.7M estimated available for this year’s highly competitive competition amongst a group of institutions who are all in need.

Once awarded, the competition heats up internally.  According to the Title III Grant website, funds awarded can be used for one or more of the following activities:

  • Scientific or laboratory equipment
  • Improving classrooms and facilities
  • Faculty support and development
  • Development and improvement of academic programs
  • Purchase of library books, periodicals, and other educational materials
  • Tutoring, counseling, and student service programs designed to improve academic success
  • Strengthening funds and administrative management
  • Establishing or improving an endowment fund
  • Creating or improving distance learning

I have focused largely on the student service side of the house for many years.  Institutions are hungry for Title III funds to support student success and retention.  The cost to acquire a student is substantial, but then once enrolled paper-based processes and sub-par systems create inefficiency and confusion.  As a result, students may not receive the support they need and they leave the institution as a result.

I have had the fortunate experience of observing many institutions and how they approach utilizing Title III funds.  There are a few who really approach this carefully and their approach is pretty similar.

  • Establish a 5-year plan
  • Identify technology or other solutions that support achieving these institutional objectives
  • Implement the technology or other solution successfully
  • Execute and manage like you have managed nothing before
  • Measure and document outcomes

Establish a 5-year Plan

Your team has applied and now after sweating it out waiting for results, your institution has received Title III funding.  What happens now?  All departments want a piece of the pie.  I have seen some strong roadmap with detailed, measurable outcomes after 5 years.  While you may come across progressive technology, if it is not aligned with your institution’s goals and objectives it is likely a poor investment.  It is also a good idea to involve as many as you can in the process while balancing progress through multiple opinions.  When implementation meets execution your funds will start working for you.

Identify Solutions that Support Achieving these Institutional Objectives

This is a critical process.  There are so many solutions out there and they each have their unique approach and set of features.  I have noticed a strong inclination to select solutions from current technology on campus, such as the existing Student Information System.  Michael Mathews, CIO and AVP for Technology and Innovation at Oral Roberts University, wrote an article in May 2017 titled “The Student Information System Dilemma.”  He talks about the SIS industry and the confusion being created.  He states, “As CIO’s, we are called to get into the digital era and lead revenue-generation efforts on campuses.”  Take this opportunity of awarded grant funding and explore what is out there.  These are big decisions and require a methodical approach to ensure the right solution is selected.

Implement Successfully

Once you have invested in the latest technology that is aligned with your 5-year plan, it is time to start the process of full integration.  This typically requires a culture change and certainly involves a new workflow.  Involve as many as possible.  Generate a level of enthusiasm about the new technology and set clear expectations for utilization.

Execute and Manage (like you have managed nothing before)

Change takes time and a good solution will provide the support and expertise to optimize usage.  It is important to realize that this takes a tremendous amount of work.  That being said, we should work really hard for our students.  As an example, it is not easy to move the needle on graduation rates.  There are some fantastic solutions out there that will provide the necessary increases.  The hard work that faculty and student support staff put into full utilization will lead to more students with a degree or certificate in hand.  We are in the business of changing lives.

Measure and Document Outcomes

There are published expectations for program-wide performance measures.  They center on year over year retention rates and graduation rates.  More important, the new solution being implemented should provide support in creating a baseline and measuring progress over time.  Adjustments should be made when falling short of expectations.  Publish your results as soon as possible so that faculty and staff can directly see the fruits of their effort.

You know your Title III funds are working hard enough for your institution when investments have been made in solutions that allow faculty and student support staff to enhance how they educate and support students.  These solutions result in measurable outcomes, namely increased retention and graduation rates.  Student outcomes are certainly the primary focus, but it is also important to consider the residual impact.  Such as, the ability to attract and retain top talent and energizing faculty and staff by providing innovation and technology.

Institutions that entered the Title III Grant competition are eagerly awaiting word.  The maximum award is $450,000.  This can go quickly.  With a methodical approach to selecting new solutions and technology, it is possible to impact several areas within the university.  If you are a fortunate winner, there is some pretty innovative technology out there just waiting to make a splash at your institution.

Aviso Retention provides software and predictive analytics to increase student success and retention.  Click here to learn more.

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.

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.

Six Steps to Impacting First-Year Retention Now

Six Steps to Impacting First-Year Retention Now

The “first-year experience” is a hot topic in higher ed.  If you are focused on new student fall to fall retention, you are entering a critical time.  Most obstacles and doubts have likely surfaced by now and in the spring term they will start to cement.  Missing home, program of study, social integration and finances are just some factors that come into play.  Reflecting on the fall term and identifying the predominant obstacles will lead to more effective student support and increased persistence.

I have consistently found year after year that an entering cohort of students has its own personality.  Meaning, each cohort has their own unique characteristics.  This results in shifting strengths and challenges your students face.  I love this aspect of student retention – it keeps you on your toes.  Considering that fall cohorts are typically the largest of the year, it’s valuable to hone in on the trends that are impacting student success for that cohort.  As you dive into the spring term, modifying your support to meet those needs can be highly advantageous.

Here are 6 steps to impact first year retention:

  1. Look at trends in obstacles students are facing
  2. Identify common themes
  3. Shift resources to meet student challenges
  4. Collaborate and gain alignment on strategies to support students
  5. Share tools and approaches that have worked to help students overcome obstacles
  6. Identify the students who are facing these obstacles quickly

Look for trends in obstacles students are facing.  Discuss as a group what you are observing with your students while also pulling any quantitative data available.

Identify common themes.  Document 3 to 5 barriers keeping the themes student-focused (meaning, don’t blame the football team’s poor season).

Shift resources to meet student challenges.  Ensure that the size of the team or department is commensurate with the number of students who need support.

Collaborate and gain alignment on strategies to support students.  Utilize the collective wisdom of your team to document how to approach and navigate through your common themes.

Share tools and approaches that have worked to help students overcome obstacles.  If an approach doesn’t work, don’t give up.  It often takes a couple of times before you get it down.  Celebrate wins and publicize effective strategies.

Identify the students who are facing these obstacles quickly.  The best time to build skills and hone a student’s attitude is when they are face to face with their challenge.

If you’re lucky, a student will sit down with an instructor, advisor, coach or support staff and clearly articulate the concerns on their mind.  But don’t count on this to happen.  Engage, listen and poke around to flush out potential barriers to year two.  You’re the expert who can provide coaching and make the difference between a student achieving their academic goals or not.  Believe that you have the ability to make that difference and you will!!

Aviso provides software and analytics to increase student success and retention.  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.

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.