3 Tips For Improving Student Rention in Continuing Education

Wed, Aug 15,2012 @ 01:59 PM
by Suzanne Kart |

student retention, continuing educationWith high unemployment rates and the transition into a knowledge economy, workforce training programs for entry-level and displaced workers are crucial. These programs don’t come without their challenges though.

When talking with LERN members, one common theme that tends to emerge is that entry level and displaced workers often do not have sufficiently developed daily life management skills so trying to successfully navigate the academic world in addition can be an overwhelming burden.

In addition, research has found that for women in particular participating in post-secondary training can be more difficult and negative emotionally than for men, primarily because women are still expected to maintain all their personal, professional and social obligations; whereas, for men other people in their lives are often willing to assume some of their obligations so that they can contribute more time and energy to their studies. As a strong support system can play a crucial role in the learning experience and retention at the adult level, it’s prudent for programs to consider ways in which they can support students in entry-level and displaced worker training.

Here are a few ideas that programs have implemented to help students develop stronger life-management skills.

1) Identifying “mentors” within previous classes of students that come talk to the incoming students at an orientation regarding the challenges they faced (both academically and personally) and ways they overcame those challenges;

2) Providing incoming students with information about resources available in the community that can help with child care and transportation services and costs;

3) Student services counseling with incoming students a few weeks prior to class starting to discuss the arrangements they have made for child care (both daily and in emergency situations), transportation, scheduling with any other employment they may have, how they will deal with the financial burden of going back to school and who they have as back-up to handle those “everyday emergencies” such as receiving a text during class that the milk has run out at home.

Of course there are also academic measures that can be taken to help students be successful including 1) for face-to-face classes, setting a time when a student who has missed a class to come in and receive a “quick review” of the topics that were covered in the missed class—another way to offer something similar  would be to record classes and have it available online; 2) the instructor establishing study groups and assigning tasks to the groups to help them start working together from the beginning of class; 3) having mandatory “meetings” between one-on-one meetings between the student and the instructor where each can address any concerns they have about the class or student’s work.

While these support programs tend to be wider in scope than those provided to traditional students, students embarking in entry-level and displaced worker training frequently have complex life challenges not seen in the traditional student population. As such, specialized support programs can be one key to retention and success for them.

This article was written by Heather Dimitt, LERN's Director of Membership. Heather will be speaking at the big LERN Conference this November in Washington, D.C.

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