Preventing a Student Retention Crisis This Fall

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Rebecca Glazier, Associate Professor at University of Arkansas at Little Rock joined the podcast to talk about being prepared for a potential student retention crisis this fall with so many “new” online students, and what we can do to prevent it.

When students get into those online classrooms, they find that it can be really difficult to succeed there when they don't have the structure of a face to face classroom. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Evu podcast network. I'm Eric Wilson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Rebecca Glazier, Associate Professor at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Rebecca, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. It's my pleasure really excited to talk with you today about being prepared for a potential student retention crisis this fall and...

...what we can do to prevent it. Before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little bit better understanding of both University of Arkansas Little Rock and your role there? Sure? I am a professor of political science and the university is a Metropolitan University in our capital city and Little Rock, and we have a lot of really fantastic students who come from diverse backgrounds, pretty much as divers as you could imagine it. We have students who are first generation students. About eighty percent of our students our first Gen. we have students from all different kinds of ethnic and racial all differ kinds of age, backgrounds and financial backgrounds. So we have a really fantastic diverse student population right in the heart of our city and Little Rock, and a lot of them take online classes. We have about sixty percent of our students who take online classes, at least one online class, and so I have the opportunity to teach one online class each semester and of course, this spring I had...

...the opportunity to transition all of my classes to online very quickly. And I've been researching online education for the past eleven years and have seen the difference that it can make when you connect with students and online class and so that's really what I want to emphasize today, is that value, because I've seen what a difference it can make for my own students. Yes, your expertise and your institutions, dept and online are are really needed right now for this conversation because across higher read we worked so hard to help students be able to continue with their education this fall, but you're nervous about our ability to effectively keep them engaged if they stay with us, especially if there are a new online student. Absolutely, because teaching and learning online is really challenging and when students get into those online classrooms they find that it can be really difficult to succeed there when they don't have the structure of a facetoface classroom and especially when they...

...don't have that human connection of seeing their professor and of seeing their classmates, and if they are taking the class that's completely asynchronous, where they don't have a scheduled meeting time and where they're not seeing people and having conversations with them and making eye contact, it can be easy to forget about those online classes, especially with everything else that's going on in their lives and what's going on in the world, and those can fall to the bottom of their priority lists and we have seen in the literature that students are much more likely to drop in to fail those online classes. Yeah, let's dig into that, because can you remind us of the online student retention rate issues that existed pre pandemic, even for those students who actively shows online as their preferred learning modality. Absolutely this is not new information for people who study online teaching and learning. We know that the online retention rates are consistently anywhere from five to thirty year...

...even forty percent lower than the in class retention rates, and we have seen this for years. And what we know is that the more online classes a student takes, the less likely they are to be retained. So we see, from one class to another, comparing the exact same class, from in person to facetoface, even if it's top by the exact same professor, lower retention rates in online classes and we see that the same student, when they take a higher percentage of their classes online, are less likely to be retained. So for my own student population, we have a lot of students, as I mentioned, to maybe have families or non traditional students or a first generation students, maybe they're working full time, they have a lot going on in their lives. If those students take one or two online classes, that can actually be really helpful for them because it adds a little bit of flexibility. You know, they can pick up a couple extra shifts or maybe if...

...their student athlete, they can fit in practice. It helps their lives then fit in everything that they have going on in their lives. But we do see in the literature that there's a tipping point around about forty percent of course load. Where students take more than forty percent of their course load online, you start to see a precipitous decline in their retention rates. So among my own students at my own university, students who take all of their classes online are about twenty percent less likely to be retained than students who are taking only one or two classes online mine. So you've helped remind us of the depressing data. What does the retention data say positively about our faculties potential role in dropout prevention? Yeah, these numbers can be a little bit discouraging, but there is good news to be had here because what we really do see in the data is that faculty can play such a key role here. Faculty make...

...more of a difference in student success than anything else that we can point to. So more than any technology or program or initiative that universities have tried it's students having a good relationship with their professors that help them succeed in their classes. So I can tell you this from personal experience because when I was a brand new faculty member teaching online for the first time, I looked at my online introduction to political science class and I compared it to my facetoface introduction to political science class and I saw that thirteen percent more of my students were failing and dropping out and I was horrified. Yeah, but when I made a concerted effort to connect with my students, to really make those real human connections with them, to build relationships with them, I completely close that retention gap. And that US what we have seen in the data through experimental research,...

...through multi year experimental studies, that professors can make that difference. Yeah, so let's dig into some of those intervention options. What are some of the different, very practical, tangible ways faculty can work to create that same kind of student rapport and relationship online and hopefully help avoid this retention crisis? Yeah, so this comes really easily to us, almost naturally when we're in person with students. We smile, we use body language, we make eye contact, we easily chat with students before after class, we say hi to them when we're walking around campus. It's really easy to build those relationships and to build that rapport with students when we're teaching facetoface, but we don't have those kind of casual interactions when we are in our online classes. So we have to be much more intentional about creating those opportunities for connection when we're teaching online...

...classes, and that can be it takes more thought and it takes more intentionality and it can be tricky. But there are lots of smart professors out in the world too are coming up with ways to do this. So one example is Michelle Pecanski Brock, who talks about humanizing and this is really about helping our students see us as professors, as real people, and helping us see our students as real people as well, so we get to know each other as people who have interests and ideas and lives beyond just our classes. So one thing that I like to do in my classes is to send a survey before the class even starts to ask students if they have maybe a nickname that they prefer to go by, to ask them about preferred pronouns that they might like to use and to also ask them stuff like, you know, what are you binge watching on Netflix right now, or any pets that you might have or any challenges that you have going on in your lives right now but...

...might make it difficult for you to do well this semester. And once we know those things about our students, we can connect with them better during the semester. We can reach out to them if they're struggling and say, Hey, I know you mentioned that you had a lot going on at work. Is Everything okay? Do you need an extension on the steadline? Or I know you mentioned that your you know, mom was having chemotherapy. I hope she's doing all right. And when we show a little bit extra care and concern about our students as real people, they want to stay engaged in our class and they want to work harder and they want to do well and we'll see much greater student success when we show that caring in that human connection. I love that idea of being intentional to recreate the little things that may have an organically and in person. That won't online really good stuff for Becca. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions looking to keep these new online students...

...engage this fall. Yeah, it's going to be tricky and I think putting a little bit of thought into it is definitely worth it. On the Front End, I think knowledge is power for both students and for faculty. So I think it's worth it for institutions to talk with these new online students and give them as much information as they can, to tell them the challenges that come with online classes and to encourage them to connect with their faculty, to attend their virtual office hours. And I think it's really important for faculty to receive training in the importance of connecting with their online students. So many institutions I've seen focus on technology. They're trained on you know how to use zoom and how to record videos and how to navigate blackboard and how to upload the...

...latest tool and module, but they're not trained on pedagogy. And when we talk to students in the research that I've done, students don't care about the thous and whistles of online class that's not what matters to them. That's not what is going to help them succeed. What students care about is that relationship with their professor. They care about having an instructor in their class who cares about them and who wants them to succeed and who is there for them, who will be responsive to their questions, who will reply to their email, who will help them when they need help. And if we can be that for our students, if we can know just how important it is to them for us to be responsive and to be a real human and to be there for them, I think that will make a huge difference. So if institutions can prioritize that pedagogical training for online classes over technology, I think they'll be way ahead of the game. Rebecca, such wonderful advice. Thanks so much...

...for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? I would love to answer follow up questions. The email would be great. I'm at Aur a Glazier, Gela Z ieer at you alr Dot Edu, and I'm also on twitter at Rebecca Glacier. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today. Rebecca. Thank you so much and I actually am really excited to announce just this morning I signed a book contract with Johns Hopkins University Press to write a book about the importance of connecting with students and building rapport and online classrooms. So looking forward to that coming in two thousand and twenty one. Huge congratulations. Is there a title? Are these that we can look for when it's out? Yes, the title is connecting in the online classroom teachers, students and building rapport and online learning. Really looking forward to that. Thanks again, Rebecca. Thank you. It's going to pleasure. Attracting today's new post traditional learners...

...means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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