Using Data to Help Ensure Adult Student Success


With nearly a quarter of students over the age of 30, the increase in adult learners on campus is perhaps the most significant shift in American higher education in quite some time. The thought that “non-traditional students”—students over the age of 24, enrolled part-time, and financing their own education—account for 38% of all campus enrollments is as exciting as it is challenging. When you consider that such percentages are only projected to increase in the coming years, institutions are rightly asking how they should adapt to the needs of this ever-increasing population.

What, then, do institutions need to keep in mind when building an adult learner retention strategy? The extent to which this can be answered is, of course, contingent on the institutional mandate, mission, and commitment to such an endeavor. While many universities are looking for ways to expand enrollment capacity, it is haphazard to simply develop a recruitment strategy without considering how this vastly different student population will be supported inside and outside the classroom. While each student will present a different set of challenges, institutions that have established a student-centric philosophy and have implemented adult friendly policies, practices, and solutions will set students up for success and not frustration.

In-depth personal contact, informed by data analytics, however can help alleviate many of the challenges that adult students face. Adult students face a myriad of competing priorities and constantly make adjustments to achieve a responsible work-life-school balance. An optimal student experience is created when an institution seeks to create informative, meaningful student-coach relationships.  Guiding students through policies, procedures, and timelines empowers the student to make responsible, focused decisions. Further, skilled coaches learn to not only listen, but also learn to proactively follow up, anticipate next steps, and offer further assistance.

If time management wasn’t stressful enough, adult students commit their family’s limited financial resources to achieving their degree. Unexpected setbacks, misadvising, or unexpected fees can have devastating financial and time-to-degree completion implications. It is in the university’s best interest to have a proactive, coordinated student retention communication plan to intervene and assist students, especially when personal finances are impacted. Having the ability to document conversations, archive messages, and analyze trends is key to helping the institution offer the absolute best in coaching quality while also ensuring that students avoid unnecessary delays and financial snares as they achieve their goals.

What, then, is the role of data? Adult students benefit most when a combination of high touch and high tech solutions work in tandem to create the optimum retention safety net. Understanding the factors that relate to student retention at your institution empowers coaches to act earlier and enable more meaningful conversations between coach and student.  Here are three effective ways to use data to help ensure adult student success.

Task and Document Tracking

Institutions should identify and track important tasks that students need to complete in order to matriculate.  The practice of tracking which documents are required, the actions needed to be taken and when they are completed helps coaches keep students on the right path.  A case management software tool can be configured to record these data points so that automated alerts and messages can be programmed to notify students about deadlines and required actions.

Task and document tracking can be a useful way for managers to keeps coaches on task as well. The case management tool can be used to generate reports illustrating things like the percentage of a coach's case load that has scheduled for the next term, the number of students who have yet to file their FAFSA renewal, or a comparison of monthly student contact rates.

Attendance and Activity

Some of the most effective colleges and universities utilize their learning management system as a source of important data about student attendance and activity.  Both campus-based and online programs extract participation and activity information and make it available to coaches and advisors within the case management system.

This way coaches know if a student has been absent from class, has not been submitting assignments, or has not been logging enough activity in the online class.  By configuring the case management tool to automatically alert coaches when things have gone awry, the coach is able to intervene and help get students back on track academically before it is too late.

Retention Modeling

The ability to estimate a student’s probability of success allows for coaches to customize their approach when advising students and enhances the overall student experience at your institution.  Institutions can predict the likelihood of student challenges by building a predictive model which is derived from academic, financial and behavioral information.

By doing so, students who are at the greatest risk of attrition can be easily identified, monitored more closely and can be provided with more frequent outreach. Other resources such as tutoring, institutional financial aid and additional mentoring can also be directed towards those at risk students.

Simply put, a high touch-high tech experience that utilizes important information about student behavior creates the academic environment that today’s adult students desire. The Aviso Coaching software platform can help create such an environment and empower your teams to reach adult students.  To learn more about document tracking, retention modeling and how you can use the Aviso Coaching software to help improve student success at your institution, give us a call or email us to learn more.