3 promising strategies for improving student success
- CRM can help identify at risk students
- Formalizing an education plan early on helps with retention
- An assessment plan with multiple measures gives a holistic view of students
In her position as district director of Information Services at one of California’s leading community colleges, Deborah Ludford understands the challenges of building long-term solutions that address student needs holistically. Despite a budgeting process that sometimes favors short-term answers, she and her team have recently initiated seven specific technology programs that improve student access and service over time. Ludford points to three of these programs (education planning, customer relationship management, and assessment), as the most promising, and the ones that have her most excited about the future.
“Research shows that students who develop a formal education plan early on and who enjoy early successes in their coursework, particularly in math and English, are more likely to persist and complete their degree,” says Ludford. “Such an outcome requires monitoring success, completion, and retention on a regular basis across the entire system.” The North Orange County Community College District began implementing online tools and technology to deliver its orientation process.
“Students can go into the system and — based on who they are and what they’re interested in — they get a ‘tree structure’ set of questions,” Ludford explains. “Depending on how the students answer these questions, they get a specific set of additional materials to complete (for example, for international students or students with disabilities or special needs). The carrot for completing this process and submitting an education plan before enrollment is that the student gets priority at registration.”
Customer Relationship Management
The North Orange County Community College District also uses a customer relationship management (CRM) system system to identify students who may be at risk, says Ludford. The CRM system monitors the student and can identify when he or she is potentially in trouble. Then, a counselor does an intervention to see what the cause might be and whether a new education plan is in order for that student.
We’re trying to be proactive as we work with students,” says Ludford, who explains this goes beyond an early alert program. “It’s holistically looking to see whether students are progressing,” she says. “If they’re not, then we identify that and try to intervene because it’s far better for us to keep students who are already in the system and get them through rather than lose them, and then have them come back into the system later and start over. We can also use that same system to look at students who are doing well,” she says. “We can send them an email to say, ‘Hey, you’re doing awesome. Keep up the good work.’”
The CRM system encourages teachers, counselors and administration to all be involved in managing a student’s progress and provides a single platform to assure consistency, transparency, and accuracy. “We’re using it on all fronts to try to keep students involved,” says Ludford, “persistently following up with them because what we found in our system is that it’s the personal touch which is most effective. If students feel that somebody cares about them on the campus, and cares about their success, then they’re more likely to succeed.”
“Another important thing that we do is assessment,” says Ludford. “We have a statewide initiative, and now the state is building tools so that soon no matter where you’re assessed in the state, you can move from institution to institution and your assessment results will follow you.” The North Orange County Community College has had many of these programs in place for years. Now that they’re being implemented statewide, the collective results will be even more helpful to students.
“The other thing we’ve done,” she says, “is move to a model of what we call multiple measures. Multiple measures say that no single assessment can determine where you’re likely to be placed because a single assessment isn’t that accurate or reliable. So now, we look at students more holistically — high school graduation rate, the courses they took and how they did in them, and any work they may have done at another community college. Then, we add in the assessment, trying to place each student in the highest-level class for which he or she qualifies. A single assessment just doesn’t do that.”
DEBORAH LUDFORD, District Director, Information Services, North Orange County Community College District
Deborah Ludford worked for 10 years in the private sector before leaving to become a professor of computer science and information systems. She has since been president of the academic senate and chief information systems officer at two colleges, is past president of the Chief Information Systems Officers Association for California Community Colleges, is treasurer of the CCC Banner User’s Group, and is a board member of CENIC. Currently, Deborah is district director, Information Services, at North Orange County Community College.