How to Improve Student Retention in Your University: 7 Best Practices

Keeping students enrolled and interested is a challenge for universities of all sizes in the higher education sector. After all, it’s not easy to keep learners engaged when they’re exposed to new information every day. From the beginning stages of class registration to the final graduation ceremony, many universities struggle with student retention rates. In some cases, as many as half of all first-time freshmen don’t return to school after their first year. 

With that problem in mind in the context of the digital transformation process in higher education institutions, uPlanner’s Student Success solution allows for integrated communications and student services to predictively identify who is at risk of dropping out, in order to provide the necessary student support.

To obtain a true ROI on student retention, higher education institutions can establish effective communications directed at the academic community, as well as coordinated communication and intervention flows.

The Student Success solution guarantees that all student services and resources are hosted in one platform including chats, course contents and notes, announcements, payments, and more.

Also, each student has a personalized AI-based model, with more than 100 variables,which calculates an individual risk score. This will help in the delivery of counseling interventions, accompaniment, and retention programs.

In addition to what the Student Success solution provides, we will share 7 best practices that your institution can apply today to further improve student retention.

Section 1: Create engaging online course content

Section 2: Offer flexible class options and schedules

Section 3: Provide effective communication channels

Section 4: Translate campus culture to an online environment

Section 5: Measure everything and use data analytics to anticipate dropout

Section 6: Offer online student support

Section 7: Create a campus-wide commitment to student success

Create engaging online course content

Online courses that are interactive and offer a variety of learning styles are popular with students. They’re an excellent way for universities to provide their learners with engaging content that will keep them interested. There are many different methods for designing interactive content, including using images, videos, audio, and text to tell a story. 

In some online courses, the professor might be the only presenter. But in other courses, there might be one or more guest speakers who come in as guest lecturers or as experts in their field. This is an excellent way for learners to get a broader perspective on a topic because they’ll hear from different voices and points of view. 

Additionally, you want to make sure that you’re involving your students in the design process when it comes to course content. When learners feel like they have agency over the material they’re absorbing, they’ll be more engaged and invested in what they’re learning.

Offer flexible class options and schedules

This allows students to better manage their time and commitments by giving them the freedom to work around other commitments. For example, many students have a job or are taking care of children during the day. 

In order to accommodate those responsibilities, universities should offer evening classes or part-time courses. These types of courses help give students flexibility when it comes to choosing their classes, which can lead to better outcomes. If you want your university’s retention rate to increase, you also need to consider scheduling an easier course load for first-year students. 

A high-stress schedule that is overloaded with too many difficult courses may lead some students who don’t feel confident in their skill sets or abilities and may not return for another semester.

Provide effective communication channels

Communication is key when it comes to student retention. You need to make it possible for students to get in touch with the people they need at any time. Whether they have questions about their classes, financial aid, or anything else, having an easy way for them to ask and receive answers is essential for student retention

Students are busy and you have a lot of work to do, so it’s important that you don’t give them a reason not to stay enrolled. They need information about their schedule and teachers, as well as details about their financial aid. If there are any changes or if they need help understanding something on their class page, they should be able to get in touch with someone who can answer their question quickly.

Translate campus culture to an online environment

Many universities are finding success with their online programs. The key to making these programs successful is translating the campus culture to the online environment. One way to do this is by using video testimonials

If you can get students involved in providing their own video testimonial, they will feel more connected with your university and its campus. You can also use video testimonials during live events like graduation ceremonies, where students are seeing other students who have been through the program talk about how it helped them reach their goals. Digital marketing strategies like this help keep prospective students engaged, which can lead to higher retention rates and more successful alumni.

Measure everything and use data analytics to anticipate dropout trends 

Universities should always be tracking how students interact with their coursework, as well as what their eventual graduation rates are. Once you have a baseline for your average success rate, you can use data analytics to anticipate dropout trends and plan accordingly. For example, if a certain course has historically high dropout rates, then it might be best to create supplementary course materials or hold more office hours to help those students graduate

You can also use data analytics to identify which courses work better for different groups of learners, giving you an edge with prospective students who are weighing their options when they apply.

Offer online student support

Many universities are now offering online student support through video conference, live chat, email, and more. This is a great way to provide students with the help they need at any time of day. Some universities even offer emergency support for when a student needs immediate assistance. Online tutoring services are becoming increasingly popular as well because it helps students navigate difficult courses that might require more one-on-one instruction. 

Students can get help from subject experts on demand which makes it easier for them to succeed in college. These online programs also provide a cost-effective way for colleges to reduce the number of classroom seats needed while still providing learners with the help they need.

Create a campus-wide commitment to student success

Campus leaders should commit to making the university a place where students want to be by focusing on what helps them succeed. This may mean creating partnerships with local hospitals or other businesses, investing in career development, providing tutoring services, and more. Make sure you’re committed to helping your students succeed before you ask them to commit to you. 

By committing from the beginning, you’ll set the tone for how all faculty and staff interact with your students. You can also encourage faculty members who have a lot of contact with students during class time and any extracurricular activities they participate in because they have an important opportunity to help reinforce your message of a commitment to student success alongside engagement. Creating a campus culture that’s inclusive and welcoming will go a long way toward improving student retention rates.