Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Where do they go?

In 2016, UW Tacoma's Office of Institutional Research did a lengthy study of our direct-entry (from high school) student attrition in their lower division experience: Who Leaves and When. Everyone working with our students should read it, for it dispels a number of false narratives about the ~40% of DE students we lost in those vulnerable, lower division years. The surprising news was that we lose excellent students: no academic concerns, students with full ride scholarships, students who we thought were thriving. Seventy eight percent (78%) of these "leavers" were in good academic standing and 27% of them just slipped away during the first summer break.

What Institutional Research was not able to do in their study of who and when was to tell us where these students go. Many of us hoped these good students went to a campus that was a better fit: to UW Seattle, to Eastern or Western, even down the street to the University of Puget Sound. We hoped, but we didn't know. Turns out we could find out.

The National Student Clearinghouse tracks students from higher education institutions, with 90+ percent of schools participating and sending their data. You need to belong, and participate (shares well with others) to be able to tap in and track your "leavers" but it turns out that IR at UW Bothell did just that in 2015. Plus they were curious about how they were doing against us (their closest peer) and the high-achieving students at UW Seattle, so they tracked our students too.

They shared our results, aligning closely as an addendum to Who Leaves and When, So, here's a look at where they went. Slightly different years for the two studies, but same populations: leavers at UW Tacoma (2006-2012, 2007-2013).

The answer? 86% of them just drop out. Some go down the street to TCC, a few do go to UWS. Most just slip away in the summer. Next study? Why did they leave and what can we do to ensure that they are not just walking away with debt and disappointment. Who, when, where, what, why? More to come.

Correlation is not Causation

It is not; we know that - but correlation is a powerful tool for exploring and understanding situational effects. Let's do a for-instance: UW Tacoma and UW Bothell. They were started at the same time (1990), to offer regional options for a UW education...albeit in different parts of the PNW region. UW Bothell is 50 miles to the north of us, set in lovely woods, with new and shiny glass buildings. They are in tech country and are open to many innovative practices that make visiting their Learning Technologies group an adventure.  The group consists of 5 professionals, supporting ZERO online courses. They also have a bevy of students helping them create documentation and videos. Their site is a broad and deep exploration of pedagogy, help aids and ideas.

Contrast this with the UW Tacoma: embedded in history, community, and the story of access for our "new traditional" students. Due to resources always allocated first to "engagement of diverse students" our commitment to Academic Technologies differs from UW Bothell: 1.5 professionals, supporting more than 500 students and 15-20 instructors in fully online courses each quarter. Two students doing tutoring, one (1!) that will begin this quarter to do the kind of work that UWB's eight (8!) current Learning Technologies' student workers are doing.

What happens when culture creates a strong variance in commitment? Well, the only way to measure is with data. Correlation: despite our joined histories, UWB has a much higher 6-year retention rate (73 vs 65%) but that's just loose correlation. How do we know supporting students with technologies that are now used for learning would make a difference? Can we get closer to the source?

How about faculty adoption of the Canvas LMS, which gives students 24/7 access to online syllabi, tools, assignments and readings? Here's what we know since its adoption: UWT started with a higher initial adoption, but UWB's focus on support, training, and innovation quickly moved them forward until the latest numbers show a 16% difference in instructors using Canvas - at all. Not well, not deeply, not to reduce time constraints...just creating online access to course materials.

Correlation is not causation, but it tells a compelling story.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

3 Before Me!

The dreary season of 2016 is rushing past my ears, sounding like a hummingbird heading for home. I thought there would be time...to reflect, to learn new tools, to come to conclusions regarding practicing practices and troubling tech. Instead, I ran as fast as I could just to stay in same place.

But I promised a few colleagues that I would document '3 before me' - Academic Technology's ode to setting tech limits in Canvas - in time for Winter quarter. Here it is, wrapped for the holidays, in easy-content form:

The Practice

Tell you students not to email you, unless it's personal/private/confidential. Tell them you will not answer. If they have a question on the content, others probably have the same question and you don't want to answer it 30 times. Tell them here are 3 places to go before your mailbox. You can do this! 

#1) The course FAQ thread in Discussion Board. Someone will answer it there, often before you, the instructor, even sees it.

#2) The University Help Desk. You're not Tech Support and you don't need to know why their Windows Vista/BB9/IE8 combination doesn't display PDFs correctly. IT is paid to explore those issues, and some of them enjoy working on the problem.

#3) The syllabus. Doh! Time, due date, requirements, process is usually outlined there. If it's about course content issue, they should look there first.

3 before me. Easy rule. Put it in the syllabus and your online teaching becomes easier and your students become less dependent. Scout's honor.

Lots of faculty think they'll be seen as "nice" if they ignore this advice. Do so at your own peril. Online options can grow work at exponential rates when you start obsessing. '3 before me' is especially gold in online teaching. Why?

  • so you don't burn out teaching online
  • so students take ownership of their learning and problem-solving
  • so they form community unto themselves

You can do this. You can set limits, encourage problem-solving, create more collaborations. 3 Before Me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nudge Update from the Trenches

NUDGE: (n) a light touch or push. poke, prod, jog, jab.

The history of mobile phones and text support nudges for students at UW Tacoma seems long to tech innovators, but in terms of the culture of a college campus, it's been the blink of an eye. We recently read that millenials check their phones 40-75 times a day, and they attempt to respond to texts immediately. They're also infamous for not checking email. UW Tacoma recognized this early on, based on the research of Carmean and Mizzi, and began searching for ways to reach out via the millenial's omnipresent cellphone. 

We found a solution for mobile support nudges via a partnership with Persistence Plus, a higher education mobile texting platform that keeps students on track by sending different populations of students nudges related to their academics, time and stress management, and information on campus resources for success.

Historically, our first project with P+ was nudging students to successful completion in newly ONLINE math courses. These online courses were a concern, much desired in the online format for working adults, but - as is always the case with the online format - worrisome for the administration if students would be more at risk not to complete. With twice-weekly nudges, P+ students stayed on task, completing with equivalent grades as the face-to-face courses and with higher grades and completion rates than students who opted out of text message support. 

In 2013-14, we also began nudging first year (freshmen) students, with texts regarding resources, the campus, getting connected, studying ...and having fun. We continue to see significant increases in retention for students that opt-in for support over those that do not. 

Life doesn't get easier for UW Tacoma students after the first year. After summer break, we have traditionally lost 25-30% of our first years and 10-15% of our sophomores. A body at rest wants to stay at rest. It needs a nudge to get back in motion.

In the Fall, we now nudge non-registered "rising sophomores" on reasons to come in and register. Last summer, days before Fall term, we brought 36% of these eligible/not registered students back to campus after 1-4 nudges. This summer, we'll also nudge the 10-15% we usually lose after sophomore year.

But let's not forget that millenials aren't even the majority of UW Tacoma students. Working, 30+ years of age, parents, and stressed is "the new traditional" and they need help too. UW Tacoma is now beginning an initiative for mobile support for near-completers,  helping them stay on track and take all the steps needed to step over the finish line. We'll keep you posted.

If you're interested in knowing more about UW Tacoma's nudge initiative, we've done our best to record our work in the scholarly and trade literature. Here's all the most popular that Google can find. You'll find even more at Google Scholar if you want to dive deep into the data.  

PS:Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy breakfast to be of optimum energy during the day (nudge).

Thursday, June 2, 2016

And that's a wrap!

Access RoseEnd of Spring quarter, end of our academic year. Wow. What a wild ride. We are certainly living in a time of great change and if you don't buckle in, you may be jostled a bit as new people, processes, tools, technologies, ideas...fly in and out, up and down, all around.

UW Tacoma will soon release a new strategic plan. The result of very hard work by many people over a year of consensus-building, it affirms our ACCESS mission as the center of a focus on diversity, innovation, community, and  excellence. This may seem apparent, but it took hard work to own, agree, convince ourselves that we are not a baby UW Seattle. We are Tacoma. With a vision:

The University of Washington Tacoma fosters thriving and equitable society by educating diverse learners and expanding knowledge through partnership and collaboration with all our communities.
Now why am I sharing this on the TLT all-things-learning & technology site? Because this campus vision affects each and all of us as we move forward with who we are and what we value. So, here in the Faculty Resource Center, Darcy and I wrap the year with excitement and commitment to provide what our diverse, busy, new traditional learners need - including the support of a faculty able to deliver flexible and innovative pedagogy.

iTech Fellows has 19 participants this summer, ready to take 20th Century teaching skills and adapt them to online and hybrid environments. Yeah! Why? UW Tacoma responding to the need for new literacies, reduced seat time, and more flexible paths to graduation from students. We're exploring change in teaching, engaging, and designing for anytime/all the time learning.

We've also seen the roll out of analytics on campus, provided by our collaboration with Civitas Learning: a first time ability to SEE real time student data from a lens of persistence. Taking a first look at what we know now: F2F degree program undergraduates who avail themselves of online courses are 7% more likely to persist to the next quarter than their peers taking only on-ground courses at UW Tacoma. SEVEN percent. 

And that's even though UW Tacoma has only put 3% of its catalog online. Even though 95% of the online courses each quarter are full within a day or two, sometimes within hours. Even though more than 10% of our students are rushing to find and take these time-flexible courses any given quarter. 

Our new strategic plan's focus on access is bound to change these numbers. If we truly focus on student success, we'll create more online and hybrid options. Create options for students to go to school, to work AND to take care of their families. Create more graduates. Here's the kind of data we now know, thanks to Civitas: 
  • 10.24% of our students who took a mix of online and F2F courses do not  persist to graduation.
  • 17.25%   of our students who do NOT avail themselves of online courses did not persist.
We can do better for them. Buckle your seat belts! UW Tacoma is learning to fly.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Exploring the Nudge

 to push or poke (someone) gently, esp with the elbow, to get attention; jog, 2. to push slowly or lightly as I drove out, I just nudged the gatepost, 3. to give (someone) a gentle reminder or encouragement.
- The Free Dictionary

It's spring break at UW and Academic Technologies is busy planning, catching up, thinking ahead and even presenting to colleagues on how we're using technology in new ways to engage students and improve our retention efforts. 

Presenting: shout out to UW's TechConnect and to the Washington State CanvasCon. Local conferences create great community connections!

What are we speaking about?


Following the work of Cass and Sunstein, documenting the way that subtle interventions can improve choices in a variety of situations, UW Tacoma has been exploring how we can improve student performance, engagement and behaviors in the educational setting. 

Carmean and Mizzi took this research and explored the idea of nudge interventions in higher education and where we might see improvements. 

The Mobile Nudge

Based on that work, UW Tacoma began working with Persistence Plus, a vendor that sends mobile text messages to students with information, encouragement and behavioral interventions. 

The collaboration began with online math classes,
expanded to math and stats and to the first year experience

We saw significant success in specific targets, but less evidence that mobile nudges can improve retention for the general population. We are now expanding to new behavioral interventions:  

  • targeting students not registered for Autumn courses 3 weeks before school starts
  •  and to near completers struggling with final courses and requirements. 

Every student is different, every student may need different supports - at different times, in different ways. Nudge initiatives meet the students where they are.

Nudging with Canvas & Analytics

Returning to Carmean and Mizzi's research hypothesis that nudge initiatives can best be directed at persistent and retention challenges for the 21st century university, UW Tacoma is looking into more effective ways to build a Nudge Culture into the curriculum. The LMS is our focus point, as it has increasingly added analytic features that allow better, quicker, personalization of learning. They simply need to be implemented into practice. One underutilized (some would claim well-hidden) feature for nudging to performance is the Gradebook's "Message students who..."

In the past, it has been time-consuming for faculty to give feedback to students that perform in patterns that would benefit from feedback, resources, encouragement. Now, students are sent a personal message based on behavior seen in the LMS. In moments, instructors can select a message category and send personal notes to all students meeting that criteria. The challenge, since this has not been a practice in the past, is to tap into a collective understanding of effective nudges. UW Tacoma has been doing workshops to create shared, tested, effective triggers and phrases.  

And that's just the beginning. We're learning so much from colleagues regarding use of Syllabus Quiz, multiple attempt quizzing, Discussion Board reveals, prerequisite modeling, gamification of content, and more. Keep nudging, the we smarter than me!
Collaborative response from Washington State CanvasCon workshop on using Canvas as Nudge environment.

AND...New Possibilities in Nudge Analytics at UWT

Eyes on the horizon, the University of Washington has partnered with Civitas Learning to bring all our data about students together in one interface. We will be able to data mine for trigger points of poor persistence, and if we rise to the challenge of moving analytics into action, we will create new nudges, supports, and resources to target interventions. 

Each student is different, learns differently, faces different challenges. The 21st century campus has the opportunity to meet them where they are and provide the support, resources, and interventions that student needs. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

State of Online Learning

Pearson's 13th annual report on the #StateOfOnline Learning is out. Good news for advocates of innovation and leveraging technology. Lovely use of infographics to tell the story. A worthy read. Some food for thought from the report:

  • 28.4% of higher education students are enrolled in at least one online course
  • Last year, the US saw 147,000 new online enrollments
  • Nearly 2/3 of academic leaders call online education “critical to the long-term strategy of my institution”
  • Larger growth is being seen in hybrid courses, with 35.6% of academic leaders now calling blended/hybrid outcomes “superior” & somewhat superior to classroom instruction alone.

Meanwhile from the trenches of University of Washington:
  • The Seattle faculty just voted that 99% online is not an online course. IF you meet with your students one time, THEN they can scurry around the military and international student blocks on online courses. It also gets around the bizarre UW "residency" rule for Senior year study demanding butt in seat with no more than 15/60 finishing credits done online. (Outcomes are NOT enough. You must listen in your Senior credits).
  • Tacoma faculty are poised to follow suit on the 99% policy. Soon, the count of online courses at UW will most likely drop to zero, unless enrolled in an online degree.
It gets worse:
  • Currently, pre-passage, only ~2% of UW Tacoma's courses are online. 
  • In any quarter, less than 10% of our students are taking an online course. They WANT online courses, NEED online courses, FILL all the enrollment seats within hours of registration, 
Your friendly bloggers at TLT Corner would love to hear from you if you faced fear of change and contribute to the digital possibilities that allow 28.4% of higher education enrollments in online courses.