With the increase in online learning options for adult learners, competition with not only other universities and complimentary credit classes, along with time and family obligations requires a strategic approach to help your students achieve their academic goals. To cut through the clutter, strategic online marketing and recruiting are now, more often, a typical part of the process, but retention is not given as much thought or focus. At JMH, we have changed that by implementing a student retention plan that makes an impact before the student ever steps into the virtual learning environment. This approach assists our university partners to retain their students and ensure they complete the program.
Here’s what we recommend as you think about successful retention strategies:
Connect with students
For new students, phone calls and emails before a semester starts are effective even when you only leave a voice mail message.
- Reach out early and frequently. Developing a relationship with each student is the most important factor in academic success. Establish an email communication plan to encourage students throughout each semester.
- Answer any final questions before they begin the program. For example, who to contact about registration or payment issues and questions.
- Let them know what other information they will still receive from an instructor prior to the start of the class.
If you have students who are enrolled a month or more before the start of a program, we recommend email communication plans that include topics to keep your enrolled students excited about their decision to get started and further their education. We also include a plan to reach out every few weeks to ensure each student is on track to complete their semester class. The topics that you choose should be based on your audience and their needs. Here are a few ideas that we found were effective:
- Tips and techniques for success – include information about networking with classmates, study skills, and what to expect from instructors and staff.
- Instructor introductions – include their background and a brief bio; don’t forget fun or unique information that will help your students get to know the instructor.
- What to expect from your program – include information about learning objectives, curriculum, or resources available.
- Hear from our graduates – include quotes from graduates that express the value they received from their studies.
- How are classes going and requesting feedback to improve their learning experience which can be shared with the university or faculty member.
Texting or SMS correspondence has become increasingly more popular with the rapid growth in mobile devices users over the past years. More than ever, student engage with technology to supplement their educational pursuits, whether it be asking about registration or drop deadlines or responding to a phone call or email. Using text messages to supplement your call strategy, share progress about registration or share upcoming deadlines gives the user an easy and quick way to respond which many prefer.
It’s always valuable to email students 1 week before class begins and 1 day before class starts with reminder information and sharing your availability to help, if needed. If you are not sure what your students need then ask them. Use surveys of current students to determine what information they felt like was missing or what was unclear as they began their journey.
At JMH, we also make calls to each new student before their class starts. Many students have expressed their appreciation from a personal phone call that alleviated their concerns or apprehension about returning to school or time away from their personal or professional commitments who expressed what a difference it made for them.
These phone calls communicate to students the university’s commitment to their education. It also lets them know who to reach out to if they have any questions or problems.
Utilizing these simple steps to student retention effectiveness, you will have an engaged and enthusiastic student audience before their class starts. The ability to provide all of your students with a few different options for a conversation will make a difference in your ongoing enrollment numbers and each student’s success.