AspirEDU Partnership Provides Retention Boost for Mississippi Community College’s Online Courses

June 6th, 2015

Krista M. LeBrun, Ph.D.

Dean of eLearning Education

East Central Community College

“What if you could increase your student retention by 5 percentage points?” asked Kim Munzo, President and CEO of AspirEDU. I was immediately skeptical. Much research has been conducted on retention and attrition in online courses, and many variables must be taken into consideration when trying to find the reasons students don’t complete.

As current president of the 15-member Mississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC) consortium and Dean of eLearning Education at East Central Community College (ECCC) in Decatur, Miss., I and my MSVCC colleagues are charged with the daunting task of ensuring quality education and student success, regardless of location. Two areas that have been troublesome are retention and student success.

When developing a new strategic plan that would guide our consortium over the next five years, we knew that retention and student success had to be key parts of this plan. Likewise, Student Success is one of the Institutional Commitments in ECCC’s 2020 Vision strategic plan adopted in 2013 to help the college achieve its vision and fulfill its mission.

Munzo’s question, therefore, piqued our interest. What if she really could assist us in increasing student retention? And how could we ensure students were successful in their online courses if we retained them?

With 2020 Vision in mind, ECCC, in conjunction with the MSVCC, moved forward with a pilot to implement AspirEDU’s Dropout Detective in combination with Link-Systems’ NetTutor into our online courses. Dropout Detective identifies at-risk students, who are then recommended for online tutoring through NetTutor at no cost to the student. Both products integrate with Canvas, our Learning Management System, for a seamless user experience. Identified at-risk students receive online tutoring in a variety of subjects from the convenience of their home or office from highly qualified current or retired instructors with master’s degrees or higher.

The results of this pilot have been overwhelming and led to a long-term partnership between MSVCC, AspirEDU, and NetTutor. Since the implementation of this model for the 2013-14 academic year, and in conjunction with other initiatives such as course templating and a redesign of online professional development, ECCC has realized pass rate increases for 15-week and 8-week online courses ranging from 5.2 to 32 percent and withdrawal rate decreases ranging from 6.5 to 54 percent.

A year into our partnership, it is evident that Munzo and the AspirEDU team and Link-Systems share the same passion for student success as we do at East Central Community College. Partnerships such as this are crucial in higher education, especially to small colleges with sometimes limited resources. This new venture is having a major impact on student success as we move forward to achieve both the strategic vision of the MSVCC and the 2020 Vision of East Central Community College.

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