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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Retention Roadmaps: A Map for Students and for Institutions

How can an institution boost its retention rates? How can you, the student, develop a plan for graduation? These are two sides of the same coin, and an effective plan, or "retention roadmap," must consider both.


Retention and satisfactory academic progress are closely linked, and both are influenced by numerous forces acting on the institution and the student. Very few institutions take a look at both sides of the retention issue. In order to develop an effective Retention Roadmap, both students and institutions must take responsibility for acting in the areas that they can influence.

A College Perspective: Institution Action Steps

Student-Focused Self-Guiding Tools
1. Develop a "Student Progress Grid Template" which each student can use for self-advising.
2. Collect three types of contact information and develop a communications plan that involves email, accessible e-mail information, and communities / networks.
3. Make resources easy to find, timely, and reliable.

CRM Tools and You: Customer Relationship Management
1. Look at students as customers you want to return to you
2. Track behaviors and preferences
3. Send questionnaires, use same strategies as marketing
4. Focus on the lifespan of the student, not just one-time enrollment
5. Viral Marketing: encourage students to share / post in discussion boards, be proactive and incorporate life issues to school (deals on books, job links, career posts, books, movies, culture, interests, affinities)
6. Make suggestions; related products and services
7. Do not inundate with email / spam
8. Make getting correspondence from the college fun, helpful, and part of a cool group

Student Support / Staff Capabilities
1. Hire knowledgeable recruiting and admissions counselors
2. Develop solid advisors / advising.
3. Maintain up-to-date web presence and email contact

Curriculum / Courses
1. Maintain clear planning of curriculum
2. Schedule courses in ways that students can take them in sequence
3. Make sure books and resources are in place (online content, online course materials)

Faculty Training / Support
1. Provide training for faculty and support
2. Maintain a nurturing environment for faculty; provide adequate resources
3. Provide support, books, resources (library access, course design support, software, training)

Community-Centered Success
1. Create locations that encourage interaction
2. Popularize a specific "go to" place
3. Instill a sense of pride and an "I can do it / we can succeed together" attitude
4. Student engagement on a real level

A Student's Perspective: Mapping Out a Strategy That Works

Your Major, Your Future
1. Choose a major you care about, and one which makes sense to you.
2. Make sure your major connects to your career goals and interests.
3. Take virtual internships when possible, gain experience in your career area.
4. Investigate credit for experience (portfolio).

Goal-Setting that Works
1. Look at the big picture. Set MetaGoals
2. Determine what you'll need to do to achieve the large goals. Small step goals.
3. Write down action steps. Make them concrete
4. Develop a timeline. Put your action steps in the timeline.
5. Reward yourself

Avoid Trouble Spots
1. Having issues in a class? Let someone know early in the game.
2. Get a mentor as soon as possible.
3. Read ahead.
4. If you must drop a class, do it early.

Pro-Active Advising and Course Planning
1. Work closely with your advisor.
2. Take courses in the correct sequence.
3. Do not skip prerequisites.
4. Take the correct number of hours, manage your load.
5. Balance courses (correct balance of easy / hard)
6. Make sure you have core competencies in writing and math.
7. Take accelerated courses with caution and planning.
8. Avoid Incompletes ("I"s).
9. Purchase your books early.
10. Buy the correct books.
11. Don't wait until the last minute.

Social Networking: Student Networks, Study Buddies, Support
1. Establish positive communication with your instructors.
2. Connect with classmates, share information with them.
3. Seek mentors, study buddies, tutors early.
4. Find ways to obtain information about registration, advising, library resources, support services.
5. Find the discussion boards, wikis, and networks that will help you get the information you need, and develop the friendships / connections that will motivate you.

Solid Financial Strategy
1. Take out as few student loans as possible.
2. Credit by exam when possible (CLEP, DANTES, Excelsior)
3. Credit for portfolio when applicable.
4. Investigate and apply for scholarships.

Technology, Equipment, Computers, and Connectivity
1. Purchase a good computer with sufficient capacity.
2. Make sure you have a good connection.
3. Use mobile devices to communicate as much as you can (check email, send messages, post to discussion, listen to lectures, watch videos).
4. Make sure you have the software you need.
5. Keep up to date with plug-ins (Flash, Java, Javascript, etc.) needed for your software.
6. Familiarize yourself with the learning management system. Be sure to go through any training that is available.

Self-Regulation: Study Habits and Study Environments
1. Create a study environment that fits your lifestyle.
2. Set goals.
3. Manage time effectively.
4. Adjust your study habits to fit your learning preferences and styles.
5. Visit your virtual library and resources often.
6. Investigate tutor centers.
7. Use simulations, serious games, and virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.) when it helps.
8. Avoid distractions.

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