By Scott Dolan, executive director of accreditation
School of Business & Technology
Through funding received in May from the Student Success Steering Committee (SSSC) and the Provost’s Office, the School of Business & Technology (SBT) is providing proactive outreach to two key student populations: newly enrolled students and first time course takers. The approach adopted by SBT emerged after examining research conducted by the College’s Office of Strategy and Institutional Effectiveness (SIE), which showed that 81 percent of students who attempted credits within their first six months were retained 15-months later, compared to 60 percent of students who did not attempt credits within the first six months.
“When looking at the data, we thought it was essential to engage with students early in order to help them succeed,” notes Eileen Young, an assistant dean of advising. “We were hoping that students would see our outreach in a positive light. We know our students are eager to get started, but we thought maybe they needed help getting acclimated to the College’s processes and policies.”
As part of this early engagement process, the Academic, Advising, and Assessment units within SBT worked collaboratively to develop a multi-pronged approach to make phone calls and send follow-up emails to newly enrolled students who hadn’t received course approvals or registered for courses within three weeks of enrollment. For the first-time coursetaker population, SBT developed a webinar orienting students to SBT’s courses and Blackboard, provided the names of first time course takers to instructors, and delivered proactive outreach to students who were inactive during the first week of the term, or who failed to submit an assignment or discussion post during any given week of the term.
Outreach was provided by Retention Counselor Marge DerGurahian, a retired academic advisor from the College with 21 years of experience, who worked part-time and flexible hours in order to provide outreach to students at times when they would be available. As Terry Brown, director of advising and evaluation said in a recent interview, the goal was “to provide personalized communication with students, so they could connect with an experienced, and caring advising counselor early in the process.”
Proactive outreach to students enabled SBT to reach nearly 233 students and collect information on reasons why they might not have registered for courses or were unable to remain active during the week. Not surprisingly, job and family responsibilities topped the list, but financial and academic policy issues were also common, allowing Ms. DerGurahian to refer cases to the appropriate administrative unit, and to help students navigate the College’s policies.
Implementation of this initiative has led to greatly improved outcomes for first-time course takers. During the Spring I and II terms, there was a 5 percent improvement in successful course completion rates during project implementation, as compared to the results from first time course takers from the previous six terms.
SBT sees its current efforts as a continuation and complement to the Provost’s Office student success programming.
“SBT is excited about the Board’s decision to fund the Exceptional Learner Experience and the Student Success Center,” said Young. “Now more than ever, I believe that we as a College can be most successful in our retention efforts if we engage students early, communicate with them to ensure they feel connected to us, and provide resources to ensure their success.”
Photo Credit: Russell Sadur/ Dorlng Kindersley / Universal Images Group