These powerful applications provide institutions with additional tools to help their students stay on track and complete their diplomas and degrees.
Student retention and persistence rates are of crucial importance to educational institutions. One look at retention rates proves why: the ACT Institutional Data File reports that in 2012, only 55.5 percent of students returned for a second year of two-year public and private education. Four-year rates aren’t much better, with only 65.2 percent of students returning to public school and 67.3 percent returning to private. To combat the dismal rates, schools partner with educational technology companies who make it their goal to innovate the educational experience from the ground up.
What’s the difference between retention and persistence?
While student retention and persistence apply to the same general concept – keeping students in school – the two terms refer to very different data. Retention, the rate at which students return to school from year to year, is crucial information in the first few years of school. Retention rates naturally drop as students graduate, at which point persistence, which measures a student’s ability to complete their coursework and meet educational requirements, is often more reported for the final years of school and graduation. The formula to find each, according to the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Office of Institutional Research is:
- Retention Rate = total enrolled / total cohort
- Persistence Rate = total enrolled in the term + total graduated / total cohort
Emerging education technology providers aim to challenge the statistics
One of the trickiest elements of retention is how personal it can be to students. Factors like lifestyle, health, self-esteem and home life can all figure heavily into a student’s chances of finishing a project, acing a test and coming back the next semester.
Jill Frankfort is the co-founder of Persistence Plus, a 2011 start-up aimed at using behavioral research to actively engage students throughout their college experience. “There’s a tremendous need at the college level,” Frankfort says. “We’re only one part – there are many strategies students can use to be successful.” Take a look at Persistence Plus and three other emerging educational technology ventures.
A student enrolled in Persistence Plus might receive the following as a text message: “Students who pick specific times to finish assignments do better. Your personal essay is due soon. When and where will you finish it up?” The student is given the opportunity to respond, creating accountability. While most of Persistence Plus is automated, there is room for personal interaction. “One student who was pregnant was thinking of dropping out of school,” Frankfort says. “We were able to point her towards resources so she wouldn’t have to take a medical leave.”
Persistence Plus research found that 97 percent of young adults prefer text messaging to other forms of communication, and the company relies heavily on automated mobile apps and SMS as a result. They work directly with colleges in order to draw from the institution’s extensive data. It’s a good start for a company with the goal of becoming “the Weight Watchers of college completion.”
This powerhouse program suite, currently implemented at higher education institutions in the U.K., U.S. and India, is the brainchild of QuScient Technologies. ProRetention aims to easily bring in more data from students and retain it across administration, meaning the school’s advisor team has more information and can better work with students, whether they’re at-risk or excelling.
This platform combines sharp research to determine at-risk students with a robust management tool that measures the outcomes of staff effort to work one-on-one with students. Jason Bentley, Director of First-Year Experience and Special Projects for Academic Affairs at Central Michigan University, reports that MAP-Works was behind his school’s 4 percent jump in first-to-second-year persistence.
Over 150 institutions work with Starfish for retention and persistence automation. Students enrolled in Starfish not only immediately know when their school is concerned about their performance; they can also easily make appointments with tutors, teachers and financial aid advisors thanks to the program suite. Motivational messages also come in via text, email or private Facebook reminders.
Colleges and universities are early adopters of this educational technology
Retention and persistence rates are important to both high school and college educators. Because retention also means retaining tuition at the higher education level, the tools described here are typically used by colleges and universities. With more players entering world of automation within education technology, the tools above could eventually make their way to a school near you.
Janis Beem is a freelance writer in Los Angeles, CA. She has worked as a college instructor and is a contributor for OnlineSchools.com.
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