[Guide] Strategies To Improve Student Outcomes in Career Education
Improve student outcomes by improving three key areas of your school’s operations.
Staff members at every school we’ve talked to—regardless of school size or industry—have one thing in common; They got into career education to help students succeed.
There is no better feeling for a staff member than graduation day. Students have achieved their goal of graduation and are one step closer to a career in the field of their choice.
Not every student makes it to graduation, but schools can use three key strategies to unlock students’ potential.
In career education programs, student success impacts everyone: The student, the school, and the communities in need of essential workers. Career education programs across the country train thousands of essential workers annually, but unfortunately, many students who begin their program don’t complete it for various reasons.
Life happens, and sometimes students drop out due to family, work, or financial changes. Other times, students drop for a reason that could have been prevented with earlier intervention. Proprietary schools are subject to a regulation under Title IV that any student who is absent for 14-days in a row is automatically dropped from the program.
When students are dropped from the program, they’re left with debt and no training, and your school’s outcomes are impacted.
Many different factors play into the student journey, but schools can improve student success by focusing on three key areas: Leveraging data, building learning communities, and fostering agency.
Improving these three areas helps students achieve their goals, leads to better outcomes for your school, and ultimately enhances the surrounding community.
Using data to improve student outcomes
Grades, attendance, and tardiness can all signal that a student is not succeeding in their program and could be at risk. But you can’t tell unless you have this information up to date and in an easily accessible place. When data is fragmented across paper attendance sheets, excel sheets, the SIS, and the LMS, you’re getting delayed data susceptible to human error. It can take several days for staff to consolidate that data in one place to get a full view of the student’s progress.
According to Ena Hull, COO of Legacy Education, students are 50% more likely to finish their program if they’re attending class. But attendance is just one factor. Students who attend class every day but fail all their assignments are still at risk. Calculating grades at the end of every class or even weekly doesn’t give a clear insight into student progress.
Ena Hull, COO, Legacy Education
Students and instructors must be proactive, which is easier said than done depending on your school’s process. Plus, many of the students in danger of becoming at risk are typically students who are less likely to reach out for progress updates proactively.
Leveraging a mobile attendance tool eliminates the data delay and potential human error, while visualizing the data your staff needs to intervene faster.
Ena says early intervention is critical.
“The moment they fall off, and we see the attendance drop, that is a red flag for us to find out what’s happening with the classroom and what’s going on,” said Ena. “The moment we get a report where there are five days of no attendance, that begins to set off the alarms, and there is an effort from all of us to work together to find out what is going on with the student. Sometimes life happens, and if something is going on with the student, we want to save them as early as possible. We know the more days they miss, the less likely they are to succeed, so we want to get ahead of it quickly.”
In the short term, immediate insight into student data can help you support your students on a case-by-case basis.
Unfortunately, even waiting just a few days can elevate a student’s risk level. Aside from the 14-day automatic drop rule, the more classes/assignments a student misses, the more difficult it becomes to catch up. Real-time attendance lets you check in on at-risk students instantly. If you see a high-risk student is not in class, you can intervene with them and stress the importance of getting to class. If you offer online programs, students can be easily persuaded to log on and receive credit for the day, keeping them in the program.
This level of outreach is only possible with real-time data across all learning environments.
In the long term, you can use your data to identify common trends and risk factors for students and put measures in place to eliminate them. For example, Monroe College found that something as small as a student getting a C in psychology is a heavy indicator that they may not make it to graduation. You can establish guardrails and resources to prevent students from falling off track when you spot these trends.
Building learning communities to improve student outcomes
Students involved in learning communities are more likely to complete their programs. Instructors can foster peer-level learning communities by encouraging study groups, class discussions, and other engagement opportunities. As a result, students become motivated to stay on track and graduate on time with their peers. It becomes more difficult to foster learning communities in online courses, but it’s not impossible. Online engagement tools allow students to have live chats about the coursework, giving students who may not feel comfortable speaking up in front of people a chance to shine and feel included.
Building on-ground learning communities to improve student outcomes
Building a learning community on-ground starts with simply showing up for your students and showing that you care—which comes naturally to the instructors who pursue career education.
Many students will naturally gravitate towards each other before and after class to socialize and discuss questions about the coursework. Some students exchange numbers and organize outside study time, creating learning communities. It’s also easier for instructors to foster strong relationships with students on-ground. Instructors can identify reserved students who may not have gravitated towards their peers and check in to ensure they feel supported throughout their program.
While learning communities do happen naturally on-ground, there are ways that instructors and administrators can foster communities that include introverted students. Instructors can hold study sessions in preparation for exams, allowing any student who needs extra support to attend. Instructors can also assign group projects or assign students into small breakout groups during class time.
Campus directors, administrators, and advisors also play a key role in fostering community by holding regular counseling meetings with students.
Building online learning communities to improve student outcomes
Building an online learning community is inherently more difficult than an on-ground community. Students don’t have that face time with their peers before and after class, and instructors have less insight into who is connected with their peers. Often, schools will simply move their curriculum online without adding student engagement and connection opportunities. Simply expecting students to complete assignments and log on for class time can leave them disconnected from their education. In reality, transitioning to an online or blended learning program program requires additional technology to keep students feeling like part of a community.
Building community by supporting instructors
Instructors and administrators also foster community by making one-on-one time for students. Unfortunately for many advisors and instructors, there are simply never enough hours in the day to be as hands-on with students as they would like. Student success and support is the main reason why many instructors and administrators started their jobs, but they’re bogged down with attendance management and other administrative processes. Implementing a software system that automates attendance and other back-office tasks empowers advisors and instructors to spend more time with students. Every minute of one-on-one connection in online learning programs helps students feel more involved in their learning community.
According to Ena, implementing an automated attendance software freed up the faculty time to do what they’re supposed to do: teach in the classroom. Additionally, faculty has peace of mind knowing that accurate attendance is being pushed up to administrators instantly. She says that it’s a win-win for the student, faculty, and registrar experience.
Ena Hull, COO, Legacy Education
Fostering agency to improve student outcomes
Agency helps students take ownership and develop an active role in their learning, thereby becoming more invested in their education and motivated to continue. Students without agency take a passive role in their education and may feel dependent on their instructors or institutions to reach their goals. If they encounter a barrier in completing their education, they may be reliant on someone else to break that barrier down—which isn’t always possible. Students with agency take a proactive role in their education and are more likely to confront and overcome obstacles to achieving their degree.
Brian Scott, Instructor, Bellus Academy
Fostering agency isn’t wholly on the student. You must provide students with the tools they need to take control of their education. For example, if a student has to rely on administrators for progress updates, they are more likely to use a lack of progress visibility as an excuse for falling behind.
Giving students visibility into their progress empowers them to feel in control and make decisions that support their graduation.
Ena said that implementing a mobile application displaying progress caused students to feel more engaged with monitoring their attendance. She compared it to trying to get 10,000 steps on a fitness tracker. Students love to see their time go up because it signifies how far they’ve come and how close they are to reaching their goal.
Ena Hull, COO, Legacy Education
Begin improving student outcomes today
By fostering learning communities, leveraging your data, and presenting that data back to your students in a straightforward mobile application, your school can help more students succeed in 2022.
As the Department of Education considers new regulations and standards regarding student outcomes and gainful employment, schools must ensure as many students succeed as possible. Life does happen, and students aren’t always able to graduate, but through early intervention, strong learning communities, and student agency, institutions can help as many students graduate as possible to help combat the shortage of essential workers in the United States.
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