Top Ten Retention Tips in Less Than Ten Minutes
You invest significant resources into enrollment to get students in the door, but sometimes, life happens, and students cannot continue their education. When a student drops out, it’s a lose-lose for everyone. Students are left with debt, no degree, and schools lose out on tuition. Unfortunately for everyone, there are many times a drop could be prevented with a little extra support.
Based on conversations with leading career education institutions across the country, we’ve identified ten student retention tips your school can use to ensure more students graduate on time. First, we’ll collect the dots or data points your school should zero in on. Then we’ll connect the dots and determine the best retention solutions.
For more information on improving retention rates, check out Five Signs You Need A New Retention Solution.
Student Retention Tips: Collecting the Dots
The first step in improving the student experience from enrollment to graduation is considering the daily processes that keep your school functioning and your students engaged.
Every process, even those you may not expect, has student data attached—student data your school needs to make the most informed decision.
These tips will help you collect the different data points you need to understand your student’s needs, and then we will connect them to implement appropriate solutions.
1. Analyze your attendance collection methods and record-keeping processes
Paper attendance checklists, biometric hand scanners, and ID badges take precious time from your program. Students stand impatiently in line, creating a poor student experience. Some may even cheat the system or buddy punch, making them less likely to persist if their education gets hard.
Digitizing attendance collection eliminates these tedious processes, creating a better student experience. Students enjoy being able to check-in and out quickly. Plus, digital attendance solutions allow students to monitor their hours right from their mobile devices.
Digital attendance solutions automatically transfer attendance data to administrators, giving you the real-time data you need to identify and intervene with at-risk students faster.
2. Obtain immediate insights into first and last day attended
Having real-time insights into the first day of attendance (FDA) enables staff to reach out to students who weren’t present and encourage them to attend. The personal touch of reaching out may just be the push they needed to get through the door. Show them you know who they are and create that bond on the first day of class. Likewise, knowing how long a student has been absent is critical to identifying how to help.
Manual data entry creates delays, and you may not know a student isn’t present for a week or more. With a digital attendance solution, you can spot last date of attendance (LDA) before the five-day mark, making outreach more effective. The sooner you notice their absence, the faster you can get them back in the door.
3. Examine trends in grades and assignments
Poor scores often indicate that the student may be struggling, but it’s difficult to identify trends in student grades if you’re only entering grades once every module or quarter. Check in on student grades regularly, or implement a software system that does the heavy lifting for you. Find a solution that allows you to create automated alerts for repeat low marks. The alerts will notify staff when students perform poorly, and they can assess how at-risk the student is by identifying trends and patterns in their grades and assignments.
4. Analyze externship partnerships
Not all externships are created equal. Develop partnerships with externship sites that have site preceptors known to focus on your students. Teaching them well is pivotal to ensure they graduate and find employment in their field. Because students are off-site and in charge of their own externship experience, student feedback is more important than ever in determining which partnerships to maintain and which to re-evaluate. This leads to our final point in collecting the dots.
5. Survey students to discover areas for improvement
When collecting data points, it’s essential to recognize where the most reliable data comes from. If you want to know more about the student experience, the best way to find out is to simply ask. Ena Hull with Legacy Education said, “I’ve had the greatest success identifying just the small things, like the microwave in the student rest area is not working or there’s a broken leg on a chair. You would be shocked to see how fixing those little things can quickly improve your satisfaction rates.”
Student Retention Tips: Connecting the Dots
You’ve collected all the data you need to help retain more students, and it’s time to connect it! Identifying patterns in your data and implementing informed solutions is the most critical step in improving student retention. Now, let’s review the remaining tips to help you implement new solutions.
6. Use technology students are familiar with
It sounds silly to get in touch with a student via fax machine or telegram. Likewise, gone are the days of pen and paper planners, notepads, and notebooks. Every student, traditional or non-traditional, uses a mobile device. You can connect better with students and improve their overall experience by utilizing technology they’re familiar with.
7. Build digital learning communities
Your students are busy. They are parents, employees, and family members. Most are too short on time to attend an in-person event but have easy access to online communities. Creating learning communities ties them together, encouraging them to participate in school activities with their peers.
“You can’t fail by using social media,” said Ena, “They’re very familiar with that technology, and we should be too,” Ena recommends tactics like connecting with students on social when other outreach fails and creating alumni Facebook groups to foster a long-term community.
8. Give students access to their progress in real time
When students see the hours put in and remaining, they can track their progress as they would with a fitness tracker. Ena noted, “Doing those countdowns of the days left or the number of hours left like a fitness tracker works really well also.” It’s entertaining, encouraging, and promotes engagement. And engaged students are retained students.
9. Daily alerts to staff identifying at-risk students
Staff can’t help a student unless they know they’re at risk. Keep your eyes on students who may be falling behind with automated alerts. Staff can connect with high-risk students and make them feel understood, encouraged, and motivated.
Setting up a general retention catch-all email to distribute alerts ensures that every staff member is on the same page about who is at risk and who is in the clear.
10. Automating communications for students and staff
Setting up event-based push notifications for students and automating communications for staff keeps student engagement high without adding additional burden to staff members.
Counting down the days left before a student has perfect attendance or graduates from their program keeps them motivated. Likewise, sending alerts if they’ve been absent or their grades are slipping reminds them to say on track. All communications—positive or negative—lead to increased student interactions. Those interactions may be the difference between graduation or dropping.
You already have the data you need; it’s just a matter of collecting it and connecting it to improve your retention rates and help more students across the finish line.
CourseKey helps 300+ campuses across the country collect the dots and connect the dots to improve retention rates and student experience. Request a demo to see how CourseKey can help your school.