Oregon State Ecampus: Early engagement promotes distance student success

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Oregon State Ecampus Student Success expanded services by launching three initiatives focusing on supporting newly admitted students from the point of admission through the first year of enrollment.  Join us for a brief overview of our efforts and early outcomes with time to share your own experience supporting student success.


Kyle Whitehouse is the Assistant Director for Student Success at Oregon State University Ecampus. She leads the student success coaching team and grows OSU Ecampus initiatives through partnerships across campus and institutions. Prior to her work with Ecampus, Kyle’s roles have included career counselor, instructor, and academic advisor working with students actively exploring majors and careers.

Extended Abstract

Oregon State (OSU) Ecampus experiences a steady increase in new enrollments at an average rate of 15% each year.  With a strategic focus at our institution, like most, on retention and student success efforts that make a positive impact on graduation rates and close the achievement gap for all students, the Ecampus Student Success Team launched a set of initiatives for the 2016-2017 focused on supporting the incoming student from the point of admission. The goals, briefly, included extending the reach of a small staff, creating tiered services based on student need, providing multiple access points for all students, and increasing both academic outcomes (such as GPA, completion and term-to-term retention rates) and self-efficacy skills (such as self-confidence, connection to the university, identifying sources of support) indicative of student success.

Our Ecampus Student Success Team consists of 3 academic counselors, 2 student services staff, and a student success project manager. This group has essentially maintained staffing levels over the past 4 years but has stretched to keep up with the ever-increasing population of OSU’s online students which includes both degree seeking and non-degree seeking undergraduates as well as a growing population of on-campus students taking online courses.

Prior to the 2016-2017 academic year, the Ecampus Success Team’s work was primarily responsive. Student services provided first-line response and support to students who initiated calls and emails seeking assistance with university processes or requesting clarification of procedures, deadlines, and access to resources such as online tutoring, advising, or career services. Additionally, grounded in Motivational Interviewing techniques and a Presence Based Coaching model, the success counselors provided valuable academic success coaching and counseling to students who self-referred or were connected to the service by an academic advisor. This program was well-received and built a vital collaboration with both the campus community and distance students. There were many successes to celebrate for the young team.

During the summer of 2016 and in a period of re-visioning, the team shifted its approach by designing additional services that were 1) data-informed, thereby better positioned for assessment, and 2) proactively engaging, providing an opportunity to reach every student. The result was a scaffold of services focused on supporting the newly admitted student from the point of admission through the first year of enrollment. 

The suite consists of 3 new initiatives which provides tiered support, reaching out to every student and offering layers of greater support to students demonstrating characteristics of academic struggle (i.e., no-to-little previous college coursework, low gpa, and factors generally associated with academic risk). To date, the program has produced promising outcomes: 

1) Initial and direct outreach through both email and phone call campaigns upon admission: increased engagement with students and increased ability to tag and track the decision-making behaviors of online students between admission and enrollment

2) Invitations to participate in an online learning community hosted in OSU’s LMS, available to a cohort of incoming students for a full academic year and consisting of academic success modules, university deadlines and resources, and an active discussion board: 95% student acceptance rates and data-collection on engagement patterns, FAQ’s, and student-to-student connection

3) Intensive one-on-one academic coaching throughout the first term: increases in term GPA, term completion and term-to-term retention rates; strong satisfaction and increased confidence scores as self-reported by students post-term as compared to pre-term survey results

In this pilot year, we have been most interested in student engagement as a point of access for support as well as the data generated to evaluate effectiveness and to learn more about the online student experience in a transitioning year. At OSU alone, the interest in the successful LMS community has gained attention. Our team has had the chance to share best practices with our own colleagues interested in supporting populations of online learners beyond the first year with cohorts such as active military and veteran students, specific majors and post-bacc students, and a mentoring community.

Session participants will:

  • Receive a high-level, brief overview of 3 initiatives supporting newly enrolled students during their first-year with OSU Ecampus
  • Learn about the early assessment outcomes based on quantitative and qualitative data
  • Gain insight into program adjustments we have made for Year 2 based on the data collected
  • Have an opportunity to interact beyond the presentation for additional discussion or collaboration

Although the format of this presentation is a brief Discovery Session, the presenters are eager to engage attendees in dialogue about similar student success programs and practices. To help mediate the short format, we will offer a sign-up sheet so that we can follow-up with colleagues who have additional questions or want to continue the conversation. Handouts in the form of a brief slide deck and summarized outcomes will be available.