GETTING UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TO FINISH WHAT THEY STARTED: DESIGN, TESTING AND ITERATION OF AN APP TO PROMOTE STUDENT RETENTION IN HIGHER EDUCATION
1 Mount Saint Joseph University (UNITED STATES)
2 University of Cincinnati (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Conference name: 11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2019
Location: Palma, Spain
Abstract:University student dropout is an issue of concern worldwide; lecturers, administrators and governments alike aspire to see students complete their degrees. Within academic literature, student retention has been conceptualized as a function of engagement (with engagement meaning investment in a particular learning institution and culture). In the literature, it is also known that students tend to copy the behavior of their peers: if a student’s friends leave, that student may be more likely to leave; if a student’s friends stay, then that student may be more likely to stay too.
Aiming to reduce the dropout rate in our institution, we developed an App that highlights student activities, fosters social connections, and aims to make it easier for faculty and staff to communicate with students. We tested the App’s impact on student retention by asking: Would highlighting positive engagement and retention behaviors as well as promoting community building through the use of an App positively influence student persistence rates within a small US university? Answering this question was and is both easy and hard. Quantitatively, dropout rates are easy to measure. However, the behaviors that lead to those dropout numbers are often influenced by a series of human interactions, so qualitative data was also collected. Specifically, a design-based research framework - an iterative framework well-suited for ongoing technological innovations, and improvements - was employed. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected through surveys, focus groups, interviews, user data, and institutional metrics.
Initial results have been promising. During the first two weeks of the fall 2018 term the App was used 14,990 times by 911 distinct users with the total undergraduate enrollment being just over 1,300 students. A small increase in fall to spring semester student retention has been measured; in our current stage of research we are aiming to measure to what extent the App may have had an impact on this potentially positive development. This presentation will showcase the App, overview our data on the relationship between the App and retention, and discuss our developing features and versions of the App.
Keywords: Student retention, student persistence, student engagement, higher education, educational apps.