Symp.improving first yearretentionthroughsocialnetworking
Improving First-Year Student RetentionThrough Social Networking and Learning Communities Indiana University South Bend Spring Symposium Friday, April 22, 2011Ronald Kovach, Ed.D. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Purdue University Calumet email@example.com Cathi Kadow, M.A., Manager of Academic Advising, Purdue University Calumet catkadow@.purduecal.edu Lisa Kovacs, B.S. Manager of Retention Initiatives, Purdue University Calumet firstname.lastname@example.org
ObjectivesYou will understand the basic conceptsof the program as well as thetheoretical knowledge supporting theprogramYou will understand how the universityimplemented the program from thebeginning and how to generalize this toyour student population
Starting from the BeginningPurdue University Calumet—Who are we?Four-year, regional campusPredominantly commuter campusMajority first-generation college students (over 60% of new students)Title III institution (33% minority population)10,000 students, NW Indiana - 27 miles from ChicagoFoundations of Excellence studyOur findingsWhat we did to implement our recommendations
The Whole PackagePilot Program for IPEDS Cohort of Undecided Students Learning Community Block Scheduling Common Reading Program Portal and Social Media (Facebook) Initiatives Academic Alert SystemAdded a virtual learning community component using theUniversity’s new Portal Project and social mediaCreated a new assessment course in Behavioral Sciences toformally assess the FYE; experiential learning coursedesignation
Program ConceptsMeeting students where they’re atEasing transitions Connections to faculty Connections to peersStudent SatisfactionLongitudinal Effects on retention/persistence
Importance to StudentsThe first six weeks are imperative forstudent connectivityCurrent student characteristics 99% of college students believe that the internet is for communication purposes Studies show students want personal connections with faculty and peers over the internet
Why Virtual Learning Communities?Upcraft, Gardner, & Barefoot (2005) mention that the“integration of technology into first year initiatives” hasbeen one of the biggest accomplishments of the first-yearseminar’s success in the past twenty years. This technological integration, however, focuses mostly on academic support services that help first-year students persist and succeed, not on other areas of student integration.Unfortunately, there is still a large deficit in universities’attempts to harness current technological trends in theway of social networking websites to best serve theirstudents.
Our Learning Community New students were placed into a physical as well as virtual learning community. The learning community consisted of a block schedule of classes based upon the students’ English and math placement and preference for day or evening classes. Groups in Facebook as well as the university portal – myPUC - were created for students and faculty. Both faculty and students were instructed on how to use the groups and the portal. A common learning experience was incorporated into the block scheduled courses. Faculty of the First-Year Experience courses had access to an online Academic Alert System to report student issues.
Block ScheduleBlock schedules were designed to give new students thefoundational courses they needed to be successful.Students were grouped together so they would see many ofthe same people in their first-semester courses.A common theme was incorporated into the first-semesterclasses. The common reading program provided a meansfor students to connect the core classes to the First-YearExperience course.
Common ReaderThe book selection for the commonreading program was Nickel and Dimed,by Barbara Ehrenreich.Nickel and Dimed is about one woman’sexperiences trying to make a living inlow-paying jobs. Her “real” job was investigatingthe day-to-day hardships of America’s working poor.Students read the book in their First-Year Experiencecourse and had assignments related to the text intheir English, speech, and math courses.
myPUC Portal & Facebook MyPUC is a web portal and hub of the university’s online resources. A large group for all new students was created as well as groups for individual classes and their instructors. Links to the Facebook groups were also available for easy access in the portal. Facebook groups allowed students and faculty to post and discuss course material. A schedule of relevant communications was developed for weekly “Personal Announcements” to the larger group. Some of the topics included: Learning Styles, Study Skills, Financial Literacy, Choosing a Major, as well as event announcements and general reminders.
Academic Alert SystemAn online Academic Alert System was provided throughthe portal to faculty teaching the First-Year Experiencecourses.Faculty were encouraged to report attendance and otherissues that could affect a student’s grade (excessiveabsences or tardiness, missing homework, poorperformance on test/quizzes, etc). 93% of faculty used theonline system.The Center for Student Achievement acted as a clearinghouse for these notifications and referred them to theappropriate academic advisors for personal follow-upwith the students.In Fall 2010, 107 students were referredthrough the system with most notificationsoccurring at weeks 2, 3, 6, and 7.
Summer PreparationGraduate students and research teamcontacted faculty preparing for participationCreated a curriculum for a faculty training onFacebook with the university portalCreated predetermined Facebook groups forthe student courses and an overall socialgroup for studentsScheduled one-hour training with each FYEseminar course to guide students to groupsand connect them electronically to myPUC,the university portal
Faculty Minimums toMeet RequirementsCourse hour dedicated to settingup portalPosting on Facebook Campus events Class related events Class related discussionSurvey participation
SurveyThe last two weeks of class students take a surveyon … personal connections transitions Overall satisfactionControl group is given the same survey forcomparison.Both groups will be followed longitudinally throughthe school system to check GPA and enrollmentafter an 18-month period.
The SurveyTitle pageConsent form6 pages of actual survey1 page for comments
Problem SolvingThere were some initial issues with the training andsupport of the Limited Term Lecturers.(We have full-time advisors as instructors as well asLTLs.)One or two instructors were fearful of the entireconcept out of a general fear of identity theft.Plus some of our LTLs were not computer savvy.Students who used an alias were not easilyrecognized by their instructors when they submittedemails or phone messages.
Privacy ConcernsRecommended students make their Facebook profiles“private” and not “friend” their instructor.Same for instructors, and not to “friend” their students.Students were allowed to go by an alias on their Facebookprofile as long as researchers were given their university-recognized name (in order to give them credit forparticipating in the survey) .Very few students chose to opt out of Facebookparticipation due to security concerns.
Preliminary FindingsThe more the instructor and other students used the Facebookgroups, the more the students enjoyed it/found it useful.Students who indicated less satisfaction/utility with theFacebook groups were members of classes in which theinstructor used it less. There were student commentslamenting the fact that they wanted to utilize the media andwere disappointed that their instructor and classmates did not.Instructor feedback has indicated similar findings; theinstructors who used it frequently found it to be very helpful.Several instructors are using Facebook groups for their springsemester classes as well.
Comments from the Student Survey“I liked the Facebook group because it made school aneveryday activity for me. It was very convenient.”“I liked how I was able to talk or discuss things aboutschool online. If I forgot something for a class I wasable to ask someone for help.”“It was cool to see other students that I see in schoolon there. We could message each other and makefriends.”
Citations• Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefit of Facebook “friends.” Social Capital and college students’ use of online social networking sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communications, 12(3).• Martinez Aleman, A. M. & Wartman, K. L. (2009). Online social networking on campus: Understanding what matters in student culture. New York: Routledge.• Morris, J., Reese, J., Beck, R., & Mattis, C. (2009). Facebook usage as a predictor of retention at a private 4-year institution. Journal of College Student Retention, 11, 311-322.• Nora, A., & Snyder, B. P. (2008). Technology and higher education: The impact of e-learning approaches on student academic achievement, perceptions and persistence. Journal of College Student Retention, 10, 3-19.