Driving Student Persistence with Timely, Personalized Faculty Support

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

We developed student-focused planning tools that provide insight into each student's needs, preparation, and preferences, as well as a system to alert faculty to student needs at key touchpoints to deepen our commitment to personalized faculty support for students. Implementation of these tools has improved student persistence and faculty efficiency.


Jennie Sanders applies a scientist’s mind with an educator’s heart to reimagine the role of faculty in learner-centered education today and in the future. As a first-in-family college graduate, Jennie is enthusiastically committed to creating transformative educational experiences accessible to every learner. As Vice President of Faculty Experience and Operations at WGU, she is responsible for leading the digital transformation of the faculty model, including data-informed strategies, technology innovations, and social-emotional learning to improve student experiences and outcomes. She holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cornell University and has over 10 years of experience in higher education serving in leadership, innovation, and instructional roles.

Additional Authors

Liz McKay is the Director of Student Success and Academic Services at Western Governors University. She leads transformative initiatives at WGU directly impacting the student experience and success. Her teams are responsible for aspects of the student experience from orientation, first year experience, and career insights. She has a Bachelors in English and a Masters in Teaching from Union College and lives in Austin, Texas.

Extended Abstract

Regular engagement and timely, personalized faculty support are critical to student success in online learning, but recognizing what support students need and when they need it is an ongoing challenge in online educational contexts, especially those using a competency-based education (CBE) model with flexible terms. Our institution designed and implemented two student-focused planning tools that provide data on student preparedness, needs, and experience, as well as an alert dashboard for faculty to surface student information at key touchpoints, such as an unsuccessful assessment attempt or a period of inactivity.

Information from the planning tools allows faculty and students to more effectively collaborate on the development of personalized term and course plans, ensuring each student has a pacing and proactive support plan that meets their individual needs. Both tools include questions focused on non-academic aspects of the student's educational experience (such as confidence, study time, and technology readiness) in addition to academic and course-specific questions. Together, the tools enable substantive faculty-student collaboration to identify resources (such as math, writing, or technology centers, social-emotional learning activities, or wellbeing options), promote student agency and self-efficacy, and ensure holistic support for each student throughout their program.

Alerts on the faculty dashboard include an expected response time (service-level agreement, SLA) based on our understanding of how soon a student needs support following a specific key moment. For example, when a student has an unsuccessful assessment attempt, the SLA is for faculty outreach within 24 hours. Analysis of student persistence (defined as completing the required courses in the current term and remaining enrolled or graduating at least 45 days into the subsequent term) has validated that timely faculty outreach triggered by these alerts is associated with statistically significant increases in persistence.

In this session, we will share data from our implementation of these tools that highlight the value of this type of approach to student persistence. Participants will explore the student journey at their institutions and identify applications of this approach that may be of benefit to their students and faculty. We will provide guiding questions that participants can use in analyzing their students' needs and designing relevant tools for use at their institutions and share key best practices and lessons learned from our implementation so far.