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'thave the structure of a face to face classroom. You're listening to enrollment growthuniversity from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders lookingto grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growthtechniques 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, aproud member of the connect Evu podcast network. I'm Eric Wilson with Helix Education andwe're here today with Dr Rebecca Glazier, Associate Professor at University of Arkansas atLittle Rock. Rebecca, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. It's my pleasure really excited to talk with you today about being prepared fora 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 bitbetter 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 Universityin our capital city and Little Rock, and we have a lot of reallyfantastic students who come from diverse backgrounds, pretty much as divers as you couldimagine it. We have students who are first generation students. About eighty percentof our students our first Gen. we have students from all different kinds ofethnic and racial all differ kinds of age, backgrounds and financial backgrounds. So wehave a really fantastic diverse student population right in the heart of our cityand Little Rock, and a lot of them take online classes. We haveabout sixty percent of our students who take online classes, at least one onlineclass, and so I have the opportunity to teach one online class each semesterand of course, this spring I had...

...the opportunity to transition all of myclasses to online very quickly. And I've been researching online education for the pasteleven years and have seen the difference that it can make when you connect withstudents 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 myown students. Yes, your expertise and your institutions, dept and online areare really needed right now for this conversation because across higher read we worked sohard to help students be able to continue with their education this fall, butyou'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 andlearning online is really challenging and when students get into those online classrooms they findthat it can be really difficult to succeed there when they don't have the structureof a facetoface classroom and especially when they...

...don't have that human connection of seeingtheir professor and of seeing their classmates, and if they are taking the classthat's completely asynchronous, where they don't have a scheduled meeting time and where they'renot seeing people and having conversations with them and making eye contact, it canbe easy to forget about those online classes, especially with everything else that's going onin their lives and what's going on in the world, and those canfall to the bottom of their priority lists and we have seen in the literaturethat 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 onlinestudent retention rate issues that existed pre pandemic, even for those students who actively showsonline as their preferred learning modality. Absolutely this is not new information forpeople who study online teaching and learning. We know that the online retention ratesare consistently anywhere from five to thirty year...

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

...their student athlete, they can fitin practice. It helps their lives then fit in everything that they have goingon in their lives. But we do see in the literature that there's atipping point around about forty percent of course load. Where students take more thanforty percent of their course load online, you start to see a precipitous declinein 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 tobe 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 datasay positively about our faculties potential role in dropout prevention? Yeah, these numberscan be a little bit discouraging, but there is good news to be hadhere because what we really do see in the data is that faculty can playsuch a key role here. Faculty make...

...more of a difference in student successthan anything else that we can point to. So more than any technology or programor initiative that universities have tried it's students having a good relationship with theirprofessors that help them succeed in their classes. So I can tell you this frompersonal experience because when I was a brand new faculty member teaching online forthe first time, I looked at my online introduction to political science class andI compared it to my facetoface introduction to political science class and I saw thatthirteen 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 withthem, I completely close that retention gap. And that US what we have seenin the data through experimental research,...

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

...classes, and that can be ittakes more thought and it takes more intentionality and it can be tricky. Butthere are lots of smart professors out in the world too are coming up withways to do this. So one example is Michelle Pecanski Brock, who talksabout 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 ideasand lives beyond just our classes. So one thing that I like to doin my classes is to send a survey before the class even starts to askstudents if they have maybe a nickname that they prefer to go by, toask them about preferred pronouns that they might like to use and to also askthem stuff like, you know, what are you binge watching on Netflix rightnow, or any pets that you might have or any challenges that you havegoing on in your lives right now but...

...might make it difficult for you todo 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 tothem if they're struggling and say, Hey, I know you mentioned that you hada lot going on at work. Is Everything okay? Do you needan 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 whenwe 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 harderand they want to do well and we'll see much greater student success when weshow that caring in that human connection. I love that idea of being intentionalto recreate the little things that may have an organically and in person. Thatwon't online really good stuff for Becca. Any final next steps? Advice forinstitutions looking to keep these new online students...

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

...latest tool and module, but they'renot trained on pedagogy. And when we talk to students in the research thatI've done, students don't care about the thous and whistles of online class that'snot 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 abouthaving an instructor in their class who cares about them and who wants them tosucceed 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 needhelp. And if we can be that for our students, if we canknow just how important it is to them for us to be responsive and tobe a real human and to be there for them, I think that willmake a huge difference. So if institutions can prioritize that pedagogical training for onlineclasses 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 thebest 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 somuch for joining us today. Rebecca. Thank you so much and I actuallyam really excited to announce just this morning I signed a book contract with JohnsHopkins University Press to write a book about the importance of connecting with students andbuilding rapport and online classrooms. So looking forward to that coming in two thousandand twenty one. Huge congratulations. Is there a title? Are these thatwe can look for when it's out? Yes, the title is connecting inthe online classroom teachers, students and building rapport and online learning. Really lookingforward to that. Thanks again, Rebecca. Thank you. It's going to pleasure. Attracting today's new post traditional learners...

...means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helixeducations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges anduniversities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the secondedition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutionscan 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 yourfavorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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