Student retention refers to how well an educational institution guarantees a student’s success. This is determined by the percentage of students that enroll in a term and subsequently accomplish all the requirements needed to progress to the next grade level or graduate from a course of study. It’s calculated by dividing the number of students on the last day of the given semester or school year by the number of students on the first day of class, which is then multiplied by 100 to convert it to a percentage. Retention rates are what local governments and stakeholders refer to when gauging a school’s performance.
Attrition, on the other hand, has to do with the number of students dropping out of classes over a given term. This can be caused by several factors, such as a failure to meet the requirements for preschool to senior high school enrollment, high cost of education, or social anxiety. Attrition rates in schools have been steadily increasing with every passing year. It’s only about to worsen due to the abrupt shift to online learning environments due to the ongoing global crisis. Both teachers and students have had to adjust to a new way of teaching and learning in a short amount of time and without adequate resources.
Consequently, many schools struggle to maintain a high student retention rate as students drop out due to a reluctance to adapt to this new set-up, dissatisfaction with the type of education they’re receiving, or financial difficulties. The following are a few strategies to address these problems and help educators improve their online student retention rates.
Establish “early alert” protocols
It’s crucial to establish preventative measures to help students who exhibit early warning signs of dropping out. Frequent absence, late responses, and poor performance are all indicators that a student is uncommitted and might likely drop out. A teacher who notices any of these signs should immediately follow an “early alert” protocol. This process includes reaching out to the at-risk student through email or a personal phone call. The instructor can ask the student if there’s anything they can do to help them get back on track with their studies, and then they can formulate a plan to accommodate the student’s needs.
Set up realistic goals and milestones
The leading cause of student disengagement is a lack of motivation. If students feel that their work isn’t valued and aren’t regularly held accountable for their performance, they can quickly lose interest in what they’re doing. This is why it’s necessary to set up realistic goals and milestones to accomplish at a given time frame. This will give them a reason to keep working hard and make them more inclined to stick with their studies.
Listen to the students
At the end of every week or month, allow students to voice their concerns about the curriculum and the learning environment. This is the best time to gather ideas about how to improve the class and address as many issues as possible. Teachers should also be readily available to answer questions and concerns during regular class hours through email, in case a student feels more comfortable sharing their thoughts privately.
Adapt curriculum for online learning
What works in a physical classroom might not necessarily work in a digital one. It’s essential to make sure that all courses and modules are adapted to suit an online learning environment. Otherwise, you could risk losing your students’ focus and interest in the lessons. Lectures and in-class worksheets don’t often translate well in a virtual classroom setting. Still, games, group activities, and discussions that make full use of the digital medium can pique the interest of students and keep them engaged.
Take advantage of all the school’s resources
Student retention is something that concerns the entire school, not just the teachers. This means that available resources to keep students in school and satisfied with their education should be utilized. This includes speaking with financial aid and accounting to see if there are ways to help students having trouble staying in school. Consider working with the school’s IT department to distribute laptops, tablets, and Wi-Fi hot spots to students who don’t have these resources.
Offer incentives for good performance and attendance
Acknowledge the student’s efforts to attend class and keep up with their work with simple incentives, such as an extra break period or a no-homework day. These efforts have been proven to encourage students to keep up the good work and keep coming to class.
As the number of students dropping out of school continues to rise due to the ongoing global crisis, educators need to find ways to improve online student retention rates. These strategies can help in that area.