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Washington State University Office of the Provost

Early progress updates vital to student success

Washington State University is seeking to boost student retention through the use of timely warnings and progress updates for students. Early check-ins and interventions have shown to help students acclimate, and ultimately increase student progress toward graduation.

The Office of the Provost led a series of focus groups with faculty who are employing strategies to connect with struggling students early in the term to understand what is working and what tools or processes might simplify this work.

From three focus groups involving 15 faculty, ranging from instructor to tenure track faculty, and incorporating five colleges and 14 departments, several best practices were identified. The Office of the Provost and the Office of Academic Outreach and Innovation compiled a number of small strategies that ultimately can make a huge difference in student success.

Strategies include:

  • Grade early and often so that student have a good sense of how they are doing
    • It is important for students to receive feedback no later than the 3rd or 4th week of class.
  • Use the Blackboard gradebook so that students can see their progress prior to midterms, and more often than in MyWSU. Be sure to replace blanks with zeroes to get students’ attention.
  • Using teams or groups can help keep students more accountable to their peers and facilitates connections.
  • Use in-class assignments to gauge if students are in class – very simple quizzes and assignments just to know they are there and engaged.
  • Students respond to the fact that you notice them. Send emails to students you notice are missing, or not turning in assignments. Connect personally and use your students’ names in your communication. Be direct and give precise guidance.
  • Removal of the student’s sense of anonymity in the class is important.
  • Post accurate midterm grades and talk to your students about what they mean.

For more information and strategies regarding early alerts visit AOI’s Faculty Insider.

WSU Vancouver launched an Academic Alert system this fall. The system is designed to provide academic resources and assistance to students in need before the release of midterm grades. There have been 36 alerts submitted to date and responses are issued within 36 hours.

Washington State University