Early Childhood Student Retention Project at the University of Arizona Global Campus

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

The purpose of this study is to increase online student course completion and progression using social engagement strategies that provide support and motivation through peer-to-peer and peer-to-faculty engagement. This study aims to promote the kind of online academic momentum which contributes to long-term retention and, ultimately, graduation.


Jennifer Zaur is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a BA in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy, both from Arizona State University. She been an elementary school teacher, a reading interventionist, teacher mentor, and an instructor of professional development workshops. For the last eight years she has worked in higher education focusing on student retention, curriculum development and best practices in online learning.
Dr. Amy Johnson is a Core Faculty member for the Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). She earned a Doctorate of Early Childhood Development and Education from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Dr. Johnson began her career teaching elementary grades in the Cajon Valley School District. She transitioned into higher education in 2010 and enjoys the diversity of University of Arizona Global Campus students. Dr. Johnson lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas, area with her husband and two daughters.

Extended Abstract

There are five programs at the University of Arizona Global Campus that share several courses across a spectrum of early childhood education and child development.  These programs currently serve 2,888 students, and the average one-year persistence rate across programs is approximately 47%. Several courses in each program have also been identified as having a lower progression rate, meaning that students in these courses are less likely to progress to their next scheduled course. This research project aims to impact retention by implementing two social engagement intervention strategies that provide a supportive learning community for the students in these five programs. The first strategy is to provide a virtual learning community available asynchronously in Canvas which will provide 1) a platform for students to interact with peers and instructors and 2) provide information on upcoming live events and professional development resources related to the ECE field. The second strategy is to hold monthly synchronous meetings to provide an orientation to the five ECE programs and promote social interaction between peers and faculty. The goal of these interventions is to promote the kind of academic growth and momentum which can contribute to long-term retention and ultimately, graduation. Because graduation rates are generally observed over the course of one year, this study will focus on short periods of retention data by observing student persistence and progression rates across the five programs on a monthly basis. The research team expects that, by implementing two different methods of social interaction, student persistence and progression rates will increase based on data current rates at the start of the study. Additionally, we expect that there will be an increase in persistence and progression rates for students who utilize the asynchronous/synchronous tools versus students who do not. Preliminary data will be available in early 2023.