Elyse Crichton spends a lot of time thinking about ways to identify at-risk students and improve student retention. Crichton, an Instructional Design Technologist at Northwest Christian University in Oregon, knows from experience that extra care must be taken for students working in an online environment to ensure they stay on track. One of her primary objectives in working with the school’s Moodle-based LMS is to foster student retention as a way to encourage success.
“When I first came into this position, I quickly realized how much importance is placed on retention for at-risk students, especially for a small school like ours. Just losing one or two students a term can be a big deal. We want to support our mission statement. We want to keep our students and help them be successful here,” she said.
One factor hindering that goal was a lack of communication between instructors.
“In a university setting there is no teacher lounge to discuss students who may be struggling in multiple areas. There are some safeguards in place – like participation reports – which often help identify at-risk students, but by that point it can be too late to intervene and get the student back on track,” she said. “I had been looking for a while for a retention tool, something that was easy to use, built into Moodle, and something that professors would actually use.”
Unfortunately, Crichton was not able to find a plugin or tool that fulfilled all her requirements while still being affordable and easy to use. So, she came up with her own idealized concept. Crichton envisioned a sort of virtual traffic light. Instructors could assign a student a yellow or red alert if the student was falling behind in assignments or attendance. If a given student receives multiple alerts, an email is sent to the student’s academic adviser or student life representative.
“The value of the tool is in encouraging better communication. Different professors see different signs of struggle from the same students but they may not talk about it. If there were one or two people who could see the data trends, they could pull those pieces together and talk to the students who need additional support,” Crichton explained.
For her next step, Crichton is working with Remote Learner’s development team to figure out the best approach to turning her idea into a reality. She said she was thrilled to be working to improve the school’s online experience.
“It would be great if I could teach instructors here how to use the tool I helped create.”