Last week Carolina Recchi made the case for making mental health a priority for higher education. We understand that with student motivation (to persist) at an all-time low the college completion crisis is on a trajectory of getting worse before it gets better. We cannot take a “wait and see” approach when it comes to addressing the issue of mental health services on our campuses. The time to act is now.
As Carolina mentioned last week, “mental health is not only one of the top four barriers to persistence but is arguably also impacted by financial concerns, academic challenges, and a sense of belonging.” Therefore, addressing any of the four key drivers (as defined by the work of Dr. Vincent Tinto and built into EdSights’ Adaptive AI framework) is a step in the right direction for supporting student persistence, retention and success.
Through our millions of interactions with students each academic year we have developed a methodology, built on Dr. Vincent Tinto’s research, to better support mental health by proactively identifying students who need support the most based on their interactions with their institutionally-branded AI chatbot. We do this by following these three steps.
Step 1: Ask students how they’re doing
It sounds simple, but as John Warner recently noted in Inside Higher Ed, the practice of truly listening to students is exceptionally rare. We recently discussed 3 ways of encouraging a sense of belonging after census date. At their core, each recommendation followed the same theme of asking students simple questions such as if they felt they belonged or if they were excited for the start of the semester. Continuing this process throughout the semester using a platform like EdSights and our Adaptive AI framework can ensure that students are identified earlier and in real-time versus static predictive models or alert systems alone.
Step 2: Take Meaningful Action
We all know that time and resources are not unlimited. With Quiet Quitting sure to impact student affairs and enrollment management teams sooner than later, it is important to define meaningful action in a scalable and repeatable way. As mentioned above, addressing any of the four main drivers impacting persistence is a step in the right direction in supporting student success. The first action we must take is to define the drivers and consistently reference them throughout our interactions across departments on campus. Once again, nearly 4 decades of research has pointed to the key drivers impacting student persistence being:
While nomenclature may differ in some studies, the common themes outlined above consistently mostly remain the same.
Examples of Institutional Action to Support Student Persistence
EdSights develops institutionally-branded chatbots driven by Adaptive AI. Unlike traditional reactive chatbots that tout efficiency by embedding an emotionless robot on your website to answer questions 24/7, EdSights operationalizes student persistence research to build an SMS text message-based framework that proactively engages with students regularly throughout the semester. Through this process we identify students who are being impacted by the key drivers impacting persistence; connecting them with resources and people that can support them.
Here are a few example of how institutions are leveraging data from EdSights to change or implement processes and programs to better support students:
Step 3: Measure and Repeat
Finally, it is important to measure results in order to ensure actions are generating results. Because EdSights operates in real-time, and is providing a consistent opportunity to listen to student feedback and perspectives, institutions see high active engagement as well as visible boost in retention and persistence metrics.
Here are a couple of examples of institutional success using Adaptive AI to boost student engagement:
Mental health is a global priority. It needs to be one for higher education institutions. With motivation at an all-time low and criticism of higher education institutions at an all-time high, institutions must act on all of the information available to them to address the key drivers impacting student persistence.
Legacy tactics like pre-enrollment surveys, predictive models and ineffective early alert systems are not enough. It’s time to listen to students more clearly and more regularly and operationalize how we act on their response.
By Gil Rogers
Head of Marketing at EdSights
Gil is a recognized leader in higher education enrollment management having served in leadership roles at the University of New Haven (CT) as well as Director of Enrollment Marketing at Chegg, Director of Marketing at NRCCUA (now Encoura) and most recently as Executive Vice President at PlatformQ Education.
Gil has conducted numerous research studies on student engagement published by Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education and presented at numerous regional and national conferences focused on student recruitment and engagement including the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference, ACT Enrollment Planners Conference, TargetX Summit and more.