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Top 5 Takeaways from Inaugural Student Persistence Summit

EdSights Head of Engineering John Hampton looking dapper in his sweater over a collared shirt. Smiling and holding a microphone.

At the recent PERSIST Summit, presented by EdSights, key leaders from around the country presented on a variety of topics centered around integrating Adaptive AI and SMS text messaging strategies to support student persistence and retention. In addition to recognizing top institutions with the inaugural PERSIST Awards, these five lessons stood out as high points of learning for summit attendees.

1) Planning is Good, Action is Better

Our Leadership in Persistence Award recipient, Jacksonville State University (AL), shared insights from early findings from their implementation. The institution was quick to select an approach to student engagement that didn’t seem to be moving the needle. They quickly realized they would find even better results by aligning their EdSights data with data from EAB navigate (more on this below!).

The JSU was able to identify this solution by moving beyond planning for perfection to simply “starting”. They understand that “done” is better than “perfect” when it comes to a new approach; giving the institution something to react to. With access to more data than ever, JSU understands that perfection is nearly impossible to achieve.

2) Traditional Approaches to Persistence Alone Aren’t Sufficient

Programs like pre-enrollment surveys, predictive models and early alert systems have been a part of a student success toolkit for some time. And yet, the college completion crisis continues. In fact, recent studies have drawn into question the equity and effectiveness of programs like Early Alert systems at all.

EdSights to EAB flow by Jacksonville State University
EdSights to EAB flow by Jacksonville State University

JSU understands that systems and processes must work together to maximize efficiency and success. During the PERSIST summit their team shared how they have incorporated students flagged for an opportunity to follow up from EdSights into their EAB Navigate system to augment data reported by faculty and staff with input from the students themselves. This created earlier and more accurate assessments of student risk and making more efficient use of staff time and resources.

3) Customized Outreach is Scalable

EdSights Partner Success Associate, Emma Bailey, shared great examples of how institutions leverage SMS text messaging to accomplish customized campaigns in support of goals outside of EdSights’ research-backed framework, including:

  • Western Nevada College reached out to all students to highlight reasons why an education at WNC is a smart investment for their future, shared words of encouragement, and wished them good luck on midterms

  • The University of Alabama Huntsville checked in with Honors Capstone students to see how their project was going and connected students who are having difficulty starting their project with helpful resources based on their needs

  • Missouri Valley College reached out to students who transferred to MVC to check in about their transition and make them aware of the resources they have access to on campus

The institutions above leveraged Custom Campaigns by EdSights to reach specific segments of students via SMS text messaging and quickly support each population at scale. Each campaign was built and deployed by an expert member of the EdSights team to ensure consistency of voice and appropriate timing based on the messages already being deployed as part of the institution's EdSights persistence framework.

This combination ensures the students are receptive to the message and do not get overwhelmed by too many messages coming at once.

4) Integrate Persistence Into Your Community

PERSIST Award recipients Genesee Community College (NY) and Jacksonville University (FL) kicked off our presentations by discussing how they worked to integrate Adaptive AI and SMS text messaging strategies into their campus communities.

Dr. Will Miller, Executive Director of Institutional Analytics, Effectiveness, and Strategic Planning at JU shared his story about the genesis of Nellie, their AI chatbot, and how the use of that name created a fun way for the campus community to bond. A happy accident led to increased awareness, adoption and openness to consistently engaging with an AI chatbot. Dr. Miller also shared this story earlier this year while discussing the launch of The Persistence Study.

Dr. Shelitha Williams, Vice President of Student & Enrollment Services at GCC shared how their AI chatbot, G-Dub, has become an integral part of their campus community; including being a standing agenda item for the institution’s leadership team. Additionally, Dr. Williams recently shared how GCC was recognized with a New York Community College Trustees (NYCCT) award for innovation.

5) Sometimes Listening Can Be Enough

During an open Q & A session a thoughtful and challenging question was posed:

“What do you do when a student confides a challenge you are just not simply equipped to or able to support?”

The panelists and attendees all agreed that no matter how much we invest in listening to students and tracking data; there is a human element that needs to be accounted for as well. The reality is that while we may be able to put some services such as food pantries or mental health programs in place, we cannot solve every problem each student may face in their desire to persist. It’s important for us to accept that and know that for some students it is simply about feeling heard and supported.

Not unlike addressing issues like food insecurity may also support mental health; simply reaching out and offering an ear or a shoulder may be what students need to decide to push through the challenge they face.

What’s Next?

These are our top 5 lessons from PERSIST 2022. Over the coming weeks we will continue to share insights and inspiration from this landmark event across our social media platforms. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected. To receive EdSights to your inbox, be sure to subscribe below!



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