- Western Governors University saw a 10% increase in graduation rates in just two years, while George Mason University saw a 15% jump after both universities zeroed in on the idea of connecting students with mentors, according to eCampus News.
- Western Governors University, an online institution, used Salesforce’s Communities tech to offer students and mentors the means to establish and maintain connections, allowing the free flow of advice and student access to additional content, videos and FAQs.
- George Mason University lets students sign up for counseling appointments and name a subject of discussion, which allows staff to be better prepared for the appointment, and educators used software to track students who needed assistance because they were academically at-risk.
As online learning continues to grow in popularity, many classes will eventually involve significant online interaction between student, educator and peer, and the use of technology platforms to connect people is an example of universities conducting additional aspects of the college experience digitally. However, the results from George Mason University indicate that such tools could be beneficial in getting assistance to at-risk distance learning students who never step foot on a campus.
GMU found the approach actually increased the percentage of at-risk students who sought help from an advisor, and utilizing online tools helps to bridge the gap between students and faculty and administrators. For example, frequent absences from a physical classroom would likely lead to inquiries from educators or college staff, and it is important to ensure that this kind of follow-up exists for online learners, as well.
A personalized online record for each student could also help advisors and counselors better understand the challenges each student faces, especially since online learners tend to be non-traditional students. For example, a “student who has two jobs, kids and no spouse is going to be stretched thin and might need extra support or earlier interventions,” Danny McDonald, a faculty development specialist for Learning House, wrote in a blog post on how to assist at-risk online learners. Advisors need to have this information even if they never physically meet the student.