What factors contribute to persistence in an online, noncredit, rolling admission program? J. David Tate explained what strategies work for the Certificate of Christian Foundation program at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary at a session at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate conference.The certificate program is designed for members of Baptist churches. In Texas alone, there are 5,300 Baptist churches, with a median size of 65 members. And the certificate program has students from 19 states. The goal is to provide resources to those small church communities, Tate said. The future of the church depends on there being more bi‐vocational ministers, he added.Challenges of running the program and retaining students include that the customers are diverse, Tate said. They include church leaders and attendees. Some have degrees and some do not. To meet their needs, the program must be asynchronous. The program must be 100 percent financially sustainable, and the course cost must be kept low, at $200 to $300, Tate added.The program was launched in 2004, and in 2015 it was making $1,800 in revenue a month, on average. That's when Tate set out to make it sustainable. In the first year, tuition revenue and new student enrollment doubled. But retention was still too low, student progress was often stagnant, and the revenue was insufficient.But by the second year, the situation had improved. An average month saw $9,200 in gross revenue, 23 new students, and 31 returning students. Student retention was 72 percent, and a total of 174 students enrolled for the year, Tate said.Keys to success included:➢ Efficiency. When Tate was in seminary, he was taught to preach as if the people listening almost didn't come. In the certificate program, the goal is to teach like they almost didn't register. Specific approaches include:Giving students weekly assignments. Even though the program has rolling admission, each student is on a week‐by‐week plan. Students are given time estimates for every assignment. They know how many pages of reading they will have, how long quizzes should take, and how long videos last. That helps them plan their time.Keeping reading to manageable amounts. About 20 to 25 pages a week is what busy students can handle. That influences the books officials choose and the pace.Providing numeric feedback. Although grades cannot be assigned, numeric feedback, from –1 to 3, lets students know how they are doing and gives them a pat on the back for good work. Students must correct work to move forward if they score –1.Setting an end date for each course. Students have eight weeks to finish a course. If a student has a family emergency or otherwise needs more time, officials extend the time to completion. “If you take away the end date, students drag it out for months and months,” Tate said.The staff must also be efficient for the program to be sustainable. Tate works with two graduate assistants, and they try to answer all questions before the questions are asked.➢ Connection. Students need to feel connected to the course content, the professor, and other students. Methods that work include:Incorporating experiential examples and stories in the course content.Encouraging students to share their opinions on noncontroversial topics in a forum where other students can see their comments.Sending weekly emails. These are based on the student's start date. Although they are sent through an automated system, they use the student's first name.➢ Orientation. Students who have been out of school for 10 to 20 years need help getting started. Strategies include:Providing information in the first course on time management, finding a quiet place to study, and reading even when you disagree.Connecting the education students will receive to their calling and purpose.Adopt three keys for retention successThree key strategies were needed to retain students in an online, noncredit, rolling admission certificate program at Baylor University. At a session at the Online Learning Consortium Accelerate conference, J. David Tate explained that they were:Efficiency. The curriculum helps busy adult students understand how to use their time in the most efficient way possible.Connection. Helping students feel connected in an online, asynchronous environment is critical.Orientation. Adult students who have been out of school for a long time need to be taught how to be successful.
The Successful Registrar – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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