The Learner Care Dashboard: An Innovation in Student Support

Concurrent Session 9

Brief Abstract

We evaluated the impact of Western Governors University’s Learner Care Dashboard (LCD) on student retention and course completion rates and found that LCD-based intervention improved retention and course completion.  LCD outreach was particularly beneficial for struggling students and students from marginalized groups.


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.

Extended Abstract


Despite post-secondary education’s social and economic benefits, (Baum, 2014; Mirowsky & Ross, 1998; Chetty et al 2020; Carnevale, 2022), students sometimes progress slowly or leave college altogether (NCES, 2022), particularly online students’ who drop out 10 to 20 percent more often than their in-person counterparts (Herbert, 2006; Bawa, 2016).  While there are many remedies for attrition and delayed progression, decades of research suggests that personalized faculty outreach improves student experience and outcomes both in person (Tinto, 1975; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1978; Endo & Harpel, 1982; Lamport, 1993, Thompson, 2001; Cole & Griffin, 2013) and online (LaPadula, 2003; Sher, 2009; Richardson et al., 2015).  Most of this research; however, describes interventions that occur in one course, one degree, or for a limited time.  Western Governors University (WGU) has created a student outreach program that occurs in all courses for students’ entire enrollment.  We describe WGU’s novel program and provide preliminary evidence of its effectiveness.   

In 2019, WGU launched a student support program called Learner-Centered Faculty (LCF).  LCF contains several initiatives, however, this presentation focuses on its student support component.  As part of LCF, WGU created a faculty tool called the Learner Care Dashboard (LCD) which  notifies faculty when students have completed--or failed to complete--activities that could affect their performance or progression.  Each EA has a recommended response time called a Service Level Agreement (SLA). For example, when a student passes a pre-assessment, the SLA recommends that faculty reach out within 24 hours with personalized, focused study recommendations and encouragement to continue. Outreach may involve congratulations, encouragement, or support in the form of resources, a 1:1 appointment, or an invitation to a related live web conference event.  Furthermore, outreach may occur via several modalities including email, short message service (SMS), phone call, or online video conference.  Students receive outreach via the LCD in every course for their entire time at WGU. 

Results indicated LCD outreach benefitted students, particularly when it was delivered within the SLA recommendation.  Specifically, students who received consistent outreach completed their courses at a higher rate and dropped at a lower rate than students who did not receive consistent outreach.  When only comparing students who received consistent outreach, those who received outreach that was both consistent and prompt completed their courses at a higher rate and dropped at a lower rate than students who received outreach that was not prompt. 

Outreach benefitted some groups more than others.  Students who belonged to historically marginalized groups tended to show a more positive response to outreach than those who did not belong to marginalized groups.  Additionally, students who were predicted to struggle in the upcoming term showed a more positive response to outreach than students who were not predicted to struggle. 

Our analyses are a preliminary description of the effectiveness of a student outreach program.  As such, there are many open questions.  For example, we have not identified the mechanisms that account for our overall or group-specific effects.  Additionally, there are many ways to group students: age, gender, income, employment status, etc, and it is likely that any of these—individually or in combination--affect how they respond to outreach.  In the current manuscript, we chose to focus on predicted likelihood to struggle and race/ethnicity given that there was a larger achievement gap within these categories than in any of the others that we may have chosen.  We will explore these questions in future analyses.  We will also examine the effect of different communication modalities (SMS, email, virtual meeting, etc) as moderators of outreach effectiveness.  For now, we believe that is enough to introduce and evaluate a novel and consistently implemented student outreach program.   


Our presentation addresses each of OLC’s Five Pillars of Quality Online Education. 

  1. Learning:  OLC states the Learning Effectiveness, “ means that instructors and course developers should take advantage of the unique characteristics of online environments to provide learning experiences that represent the distinctive quality of the institution offering them”  WGU’s learner care dashboard is tailored to the online environment.  It allows WGU to provide prompt, personalized, and coordinated outreach to every student for their entire tenure.  

  1. Faculty: OLC states that Faculty Satisfaction, “means that instructors find the online teaching experience personally rewarding and professionally beneficial”  LCD was informed by faculty’s desire for a system to improve efficiency in identifying students for outreach.  

  1. Students:  OLC states that, “As consumers, students are satisfied when provider services-learning resources, academic and administrative services, technology and infrastructure support — are responsive, timely, and personalized.”  Our presentation describes the effectiveness of a student outreach program.  Furthermore, we measure and report both timeliness and responsiveness data.  LCD outreach is also personalized.  For example, LCD outreach may involve congratulations, encouragement, or support in the form of resources, a 1:1 appointment, or an invitation to a related live web conference event.  Furthermore, outreach may occur via several modalities including email, short message service (SMS), phone call, or online video conference.   

  1. Scale: According to OLC, “is the principle that enables institutions to offer their best educational value to learners and to achieve capacity enrollment.”  As mentioned in the Faculty pillar, LCD has streamlined faculty outreach, both saving faculty time and ensuring the students receive timely and personalized outreach. 

  1. Access: OLC includes academic support in their definition of access.  LCD is a student support program.  Furthermore, our presentation will demonstrate the LCD outreach is particularly beneficial to struggling students and students from marginalized groups. 

Our presentation also addresses the session requirements: 

–Submissions to this track should focus on initiatives, services, and practices offered virtually related to supporting student access and success throughout the entire lifecycle of their educational journey: 

LCD outreach is administered virtually for the entire educational journey, and our data demonstrate that it improves retention and course completion rates. 


 In order to contextualize our results, we will need to describe WGU’s unique educational model.  We also have a fair amount of data to present. Given these two constraints, most of the presentation will be lecture, however, we will incorporate active participation in two places 

  1. After we describe LCD’s structure and function, we will ask attendees to discuss whether and how a similar program could be implemented at their institutions.  What obstacles might they face?  Is a program like LCD appropriate for their institution?  What adjustments might they make? 

  1. After we present our results, we will set aside time for questions and additional research ideas.    

Learning Outcomes:   

Attendees will be able to 1) Summarize foundational and current research on faculty outreach to students  2)  Describe WGU’s LCD model and its impact on student outcomes 3)  Discuss their visions for student outreach programs at their home universities. 4) Discuss which practices make student outreach more vs less effective. 

Identifiable Information:   

All of our data is aggregated and individuals cannot be identified from any of our charts/tables. Additionally, we removed all identifying information before performing any analyses