Four members of the DELO family presented topics at WKU’s third annual Student Success Summit. Dr. Wren Mills, and the team of Tanja Bibbs, Danita Reiger-Ward, and Tanya Vincent conducted two sessions for the Summit, focusing on different aspects of encouraging and retaining students, specifically for online learners. The 2016 Summit, entitled “Cultivating a Culture of Retention”, concentrated on approaches to retention and student success with the goal of finding ways to better utilize our campus community’s resources, expertise, and strengths.
In his address, keynote speaker Provost David Lee enumerated four areas that he believes we need to target more effectively as a University: increase the total number of Bachelor’s degrees awarded, improve persistence rates, strengthen progression rates, and raise six year graduation rates. Sharon Hunter, Director of Strategic Enrollment Management & Retention Support, and Chris Jensen, Interim Director of the Academic Advising and Retention Center, updated attendees regarding Enrollment Management’s efforts to intervene with at-risk students by identifying and reaching out to more students, earlier, with new 5th week assessment goals. A Retention Task Force can help students overcome self-defeating behaviors in the B.E.P. (Best Expectation Program), and new programs are being offered in Tutoring services in the AARC, including peer-assisted study sessions, and group tutoring.
Dr. Wren Mills, Distance Learning Training Coordinator, addressed the topic of retention in online courses in her presentation, “Encouraging Online Students to Increase Retention.” Developing a relationship with their students is one of the most challenging and important ways for instructors to improve retention in their online courses, and Dr. Mills outlined different strategies for instructors to increase their presence in their courses. By using video lectures, providing audio feedback, building a learning community, emphasizing the instructor’s social presence, and crafting assignments that encourage retention, instructors can reduce ‘perceived distance’ in the online learning course, and create a safe learning space for their students.
Tanja Bibbs, Assistant Director – Distance Learning, Tanya Vincent, Distance Learning Coordinator – WKU On Demand, and Danita Reiger-Ward, Student Support Specialist – Online Program Services, presented “A Collaborative Approach to Recruiting and Retaining Students for a Personalized Learning Program.” This innovative partnership between the Dept. of Architectural and Manufacturing Sciences and DELO offers modularized, competency-based courses for the bachelor-completion program that has been designed specifically for KCTCS students who are completing their Associates of Science degree. The competency-based AMS Online Bachelor’s program is a personalized learning pathway that provides support for the needs of contemporary students.
President Ransdell stressed in his opening remarks for the Summit that we must find ways to better use our campus community’s resources to support our students. WKU On Demand and Online Program Services are doing that by utilizing their existing infrastructure and resources to create a collaborative approach to recruitment and retention for the AMS Online Bachelor’s program. Distance Learning Training Coordinator, Wren Mills, and the DELO Instructional Design team support and guide instructors as they develop and implement successful online courses for students. The 22 information sessions of the Summit provided varied insights into ways we can support the diverse needs of all of our WKU students, and attendees were encouraged to use the knowledge and connections they acquired at the Summit to improve student success here at WKU.