While college completion rates remain stagnant nationally, new research from Western Governors University shows that when faculty personally reach out in a timely way to college students who show signs of struggle – and even signs of success – the students are more likely to complete their coursework vs. drop out.
WGU developed a Learner Care Dashboard that automatically alerts faculty members when a student may need individualized support, such as if they failed an assessment or haven’t logged into their coursework for a while.
Instead of waiting for a student to reach out for help, which in some cases may never happen, WGU faculty members receive notifications when activity, or lack thereof, indicates a student may need help. This lets faculty members know to reach out to the student and offer help, lifting the burden from the student.
Research, recently published in the Journal of Post Secondary Student Success, shows that the dashboard actually lowers the likelihood that a student will drop a course.
Students who were enrolled in online courses and received timely faculty outreach via the Learner Care Dashboard were 20 percent more likely to complete their course vs. students who did not receive the same level of personalized help.
Researchers found that such outreach particularly benefited historically marginalized learners. The research included over 300,000 student-course combinations over six months.
“Many students who are first-in-family college attendees or who have under-resourced personal circumstances less frequently ask for help when they encounter moments of struggle. The Learner Care Dashboard uses behavioral signals (such as inactivity for a number of days) to ensure students receive proactive support, when they need it, without having to ask for it,” said Jennie Sanders, vice president of Faculty Experience and Academic Services at WGU.
“Students tell us they feel noticed and cared about when one of our remarkable faculty members reaches out with personalized support at a time when the student feels unsure or stuck. Students can tell they matter to us. This feeling of mattering is enormously important for their experience, persistence, and success, and the results demonstrate that," said Sanders.
Encoura, an educational data science and research organization, recognized WGU for the Learner Care Dashboard and subsequent research on June 15 at the annual Innovation Awards Program at Eduventures Summit 2023 in Boston. The Innovation Awards Program was created to recognize and showcase the achievements of individuals and organizations that share Encoura’s vision for innovating to improve outcomes in higher education.
This year, Eduventures received a record number of submissions that showcased innovative and transformative projects. To enable the judges to recognize an even greater number of exceptional efforts, the program was expanded to include a special recognition category.
“More than ever, global society relies on innovation to help evolve humanity and make our lives more productive, healthy, and equitable” said Cara Quackenbush, Encoura’s executive vice president of research. “We are thrilled to be honoring the institutions that have created new, actionable and innovative programs that are changing the landscape for higher education and their shared commitment of serving their student bodies and the larger community.”