Tech support

Colleges innovate to support at-risk students, inside and outside the classroom


The next step is for the UK strategic communications group to develop an outreach strategy. The university standardized Salesforce CRM software for staff to send text messages, emails, or calls to at-risk students. Previously, the UK used separate systems for each of these communication channels, but staff now manage and track them through Salesforce.

“It empowers the people who have the closest relationships with these students,” says Tyler Gayheart, executive director of corporate CRM and Salesforce in the UK.

The UK is also using predictive analytics to identify first-year students who need financial aid and, to increase their likelihood of staying enrolled, provides them with additional funding, says Todd Brann, UK executive director of the UK. institutional research, analysis and decision support.

“It really helped propel some of the retention improvements,” Brann said.

RELATED: Georgia Tech researcher explains how AI can improve student success and retention.

Chatbots provide a safe space for students to ask questions

Universities use chatbots in a number of ways, but one of their biggest benefits is giving students 24/7 access to information while removing the need for staff to answer routine questions.

Chatbots can also be a safe way to ask questions that students may be reluctant to ask in person, which can be especially useful for first-generation students without a family safety net, says Pelletier.

“They may feel embarrassed to ask staff questions about detailed processes such as applying for financial aid,” she says. “We have seen that many students are more likely to pose their questions to the institution via a chatbot and to get their questions answered that way. ”

The UK has piloted alert software that sends students personalized messages from teachers, such as encouragement to visit a learning center if they haven’t passed a test well and congratulations if they were successful, says Gayheart.

“The instructors liked it because it reduced their workload to personalize the course for the student,” he says. “Students appreciate the extra attention of instructors, especially in large lectures.”

RELATED: Here are 3 ways to increase student engagement in online learning.

Community and well-being for first generation college students

Many institutions are also taking a holistic approach to student success, using health and wellness apps to support students struggling with the stress, anxiety and isolation caused by the pandemic, Pelletier says.

“The apps track workouts and provide meditation and stress management techniques,” she says. “Some are used as triage tools. They are self-guided and allow students to interact with an app and get the right level of care.

To reduce isolation and create opportunities for distant students to socialize and build community, UConn has added a component to its Nexus web application that allows students to create study groups with their classmates for meetings. virtual or in person, Starke says.

In 2020, UConn’s student affairs division also launched the U-Kindness website, which allows students to connect with their peers and find virtual and in-person events.

“Finding a community to connect with is so important, especially for first generation students,” Starke says.


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