An Interactive Workshop: Using Data-Driven Indicators to Guide Online Undergraduate Faculty Outreach to Encourage the Success of Nontraditional Students

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

While studies show that faculty outreach is essential to student success (Cannady, King, & Blendinger, 2012), online faculty may be unsure of which strategies to employ to best engage their students. Using data mined from the online courses, including last date of attendance, retaker rates, assignment completion rates, and success on adaptive learning modules, faculty can selectively choose effective outreach. At Colorado Technical University, undergraduate psychology instructors have experienced success with tools such as group texting, email templates, phone calls, and Google Hangout.

Canady, R., King, S., & Blendinger, J. (2012). Proactive approach to adult students: A department and library collaborative effort. The Reference Librarian, 53: 156-169.


Dr. Rebecca Stout is the lead faculty for sociology within the General Education program at Colorado Technical University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Cornell College in biology, sociology, and premedical studies; her master’s degree is from the University of Colorado at Boulder in sociology; and her doctorate is in higher education from Argosy University. She has worked in higher ed for over 10 years, serving in a variety of administrative positions. Her research interests include identity, community, burnout, gender, and criminology. She has presented at a variety of conferences and continues to research in the fields of burnout and engagement.

Extended Abstract

Nontraditional students have unique challenges when pursuing their degrees. They are often older (over 30), minority, female, and juggle family, work, and community commitments. School is important to them, but may take a lower priority than their other obligations. Therefore, it is essential for faculty to extend a helping hand to these students to help them persist in their educational goals.

Faculty outreach remains critical for encouraging student success (Cannady, King, & Blendinger, 2012). As institutions gather pivotal data points, it is important for faculty to use these data to best guide their methods of outreach. At Colorado Technical University, lead faculty (faculty mentors) use these data to develop strategies to hone online faculty outreach approaches. These data points include:

  • Last date of attendance

  • Assignment completion rates

  • Assignment grades

  • Adaptive learning modules

  • Retakers

  • Originality reports

By gathering these key data, faculty are mentored to use various strategies to reach the nontraditional student. These strategies include:

  • Group texting using

  • Specific email templates for new students, returning students, retaker students

  • Curriculum feedback

  • Google Hangout

  • Student contracts

  • Daily monitoring of adaptive learning software

  • Phone calls

  • Live lectures

Results from a focus group indicate that certain interventions appear more effective than others. For beginning students who are taking 100- and 200-level courses, more personalized outreach can encourage them to engage early and sustain their momentum. Faculty feedback indicates that newer online students who connect with their faculty are more likely to complete their courses. The implication for these instructors is that they act not only as subject matter experts, but also as student mentors. For returning students who are advancing in their coursework, a slightly different approach appears to be successful. Group texting to remind students of due dates and to send notes of encouragement helps keep students engaged.

This workshop is an interactive one, using real-life scenarios to brainstorm effective outreach methodology. Data points guide the selection of outreach, altering faculty to student issues, including those who disappear from class, those who encounter a content difficulty, and who are at high-risk of not completing the class.

Canady, R., King, S., & Blendinger, J. (2012). Proactive approach to adult students: A department and library collaborative effort. The Reference Librarian, 53: 156-169.