Getting students to sign up for online courses hasn’t been a problem, but getting them to finish the course has. The University System of Georgia (USG) has come up with a solution that is proving successful, according to a study from Education Sector.
The system determined that nontraditional students often take online classes with the misconception the course will be an easier version of what is being offered in the classroom. Those students tend to fall behind or drop out as they struggle with the difficulty of the online material.
To address the problem, USG developed a software program called eCore coupled with student success teams of full-time university employees to help the at-risk students. The eCore program provides instructors with alerts when students are having trouble with assignments or fail to attend online discussion boards. Team members then reach out to those online students during the first half of the semester, according to Education Sector blogger Mandy Zatynski.
“This semester, team members made 1,071 phone calls and sent 1,126 e-mails to students who hadn’t logged in by day three,” Zatynski told eCampus News. “The primary reason students hadn’t shown up? They couldn’t find or didn’t know their password.”
The program’s online retention rate for all USG campuses was up to 83% in 2012, an 11% increase over 2011. Zatynski pointed particularly to the University of West Georgia, where the retention rates are at 92%, up from 68% in 2007, when the team concept was launched.
“The lack of face-to-face accountability—and disapproving professor looks—requires online students to demonstrate more initiative and strong time-management skills,” Zatynski said. “And because half of eCore’s students are 25 years or older, chances are schoolwork is one chore on a long list of things to do and, thus, easy to push to the bottom if work or family demands more time.”