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Improving Student Retention through Online Support

Updated 10/23/2023

We all know that for many students, college is just one part of a busy life that’s spent balancing work, family, and friendships. And ironically, the same flexibility that allows students to shape their course schedules around other obligations can put them at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing support services. Often, students who take night classes, weekend courses, or use remote learning tools have a difficult time plugging into those services that are campus-based and follow a more traditional 9-5 schedule.

To complicate matters further, some students aren’t equipped for the new digital norms of college life and can’t take full advantage of those services that are web-based. For many, learning through an LMS system and using web-based tutoring — even contacting instructors via email and text — are unfamiliar and represent real technical obstacles. When you combine support services that are structured around a limited schedule with students who have tech skill liability, it’s easy to see how retention rates can eventually begin to suffer.

But many colleges are addressing this complex issue by taking a proactive and two-pronged approach that blends strategic online expansion of student services with foundational skill-building. Let’s take a look at how some institutions are offering more accessible services and, in turn, building a more engaged student body:

1. Designing and delivering robust online tools. The first step to improve student service delivery is to truly leverage the power of the Internet. Removing barriers to success by allowing students to apply and enroll online, participate in online orientation, design their own advising schedules, access 24/7 online tutoring, manage schedules, and get real-time class updates are just a few of the ways that some institutions are applying a ‘students-first’ approach to technology.

But each of these tools can’t work effectively in isolation. A student-centered and retention-driven approach demands that online tools communicate with each other so that each can be more effective. For example, a well-integrated system that cues an advisor when a returning student hasn’t enrolled for classes or messages a student when he hasn’t completed financial aid paperwork well before the start date of classes is far more than a luxury — it’s a critical tool for active retention.

2. Training students and transitioning for success. At the same time institutions are working to deliver better online solutions, it’s important to avoid universal assumptions about students’ ability to use those solutions effectively. The best online support programs include a training component that helps students leverage all the benefits independently and throughout their college careers. Mandatory orientations and preparatory courses can be important resources as students transition to college life and build proficiencies with LMS, SARS software tools, online tutoring services, and other programs.

Better Retention Through Smarter Online Services: We Can Help

Enrollment Builders’ consultants collaborate with institutions on retention issues every day; we understand how online support and retention are interwoven. We also understand that the road from marketing and recruitment to enrollment is a long one—one that represents a significant portion of a college’s budget. Never before has it been so important to engage, support, and continuously monitor the persistence of students.

The information we offer and the solutions we can provide are designed to improve your institution’s success by improving the success of your students. Here are just a few of our related services that can help:

  • Enrollment Operations Assessment. Improve your institution’s online marketing and enrollment operations through our comprehensive analysis and custom recommendations.
  • Online Program Partnership Assessment.Considering launching an online program? We can help with research and competitive analysis, planning, logistics, and partnership options.
  • Online Program Readiness Assessment. Let us help you review the processes that surround online inquiries, conversion, recruitment, admission, enrollment, student services, and retention efforts at your institution.
  • Retention Audit. Are you doing everything you can to support and retain your online learners? Enrollment Builders will review the marketing/recruitment hand-off, orientation, student persistence, and faculty involvement to uncover opportunities for greater success.
  • Student Services Assessment. Are all of your departments working in concert for student success? Let us help you examine how orientation, student financial services, tutoring, and advising programs can integrate more effectively for the benefit of students.
  • Aviso Coaching System. Our consultants will work with your institution to identify custom student coaching stages, establish key intervention and retention strategies at each stage, and provide world-class staff training — all to increase student persistence and success.

If you’d like to learn more about Enrollment Builders’ range of enrollment management services, please contact us at 513-518-7824 or request information here.