Student retention is one of the most persistent and important issues in higher education. Churning students reduces graduation rates and creates a loss of potential tuition revenue as students transfer or quit going to school entirely. Because of this potential loss of revenue, it is important for universities and colleges to promote retention rates while also remaining within the moral and legal boundaries of the higher education system. One of the most useful ways to promote retention rates in the classroom and in online courses is to tailor content to students to increase engagement.
Engagement Strategies in Online Education
It is no secret that many students feel that online education is impersonal compared to traditional, physical classes. This lack of engagement at the personal level can lead to many students abandoning the course either by dropping it or simply not participating. Because of this, one of the best ways to increase retention rates in online learning is to personally engage students in a meaningful way.
Have the Instructor Be Present
One of the most prevalent issues with online courses is that the instructor will seem distant from the class, and most of the communication is through impersonal texts sent out en masse once a week. This can easily be remedied if the instructor is available to the class via a digital classroom or other live mediums. Allowing the students to interact and engage with the teacher in the learning process creates a more adaptive learning experience while also allowing the students to reap the benefits of online learning.
Aside from the digital classroom, students may also need outside opportunities for engagement. This can be employed by allowing students to collaborate on group projects so that they engage, interact and learn with one another on a personal level. These group learning opportunities could once again be over a group video chat or even in-person meetings set up by the students. The possibilities here are really quite endless, and creating group projects not only frees up the instructor's time but also makes it so the students can hold one another accountable for participating in the class.
Personalization to Evaluation
Creating personalized learning environments is likely to be more difficult to incorporate into digital learning than engagement. However, it is just as important when it comes to good course instruction.
Evaluation as a Strategy
Evaluating the needs of students is one of the key strategies to providing an effective educational experience. It's a waste of time and resources to teach every student the same content when some may not understand the foundational material and others will have already progressed past the topics covered in the course material. By evaluating a student's knowledge on a subject, you can rule out material and tailor a more personal experience to the needs of a student. Much like you shouldn't judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you shouldn't standardize every instance in an online course.
Creating New Content
Don't be afraid to create new content for the particular needs of the students in a course. Once a student's or a group's needs have been evaluated, it is important to act on that knowledge and create materials that work on their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. One of the greatest missed opportunities in education is failing to offer personalized learning and making it so that students don't have any room for growth throughout the course.