Over the course of five years, Watermark (formerly Aviso Retention) – partnered with DVP-PRAXIS LTD, JFF, and the Carolina Works consortium led by Central Carolina Community College – to conduct the First in the World (FITW) research program, studying the effects of success coaching. Without support, guidance, and mentorship, achieving a college degree can be a challenge. Nearly one in three first-year students do not make it back for their sophomore year of college and almost half of the students who start a college education don’t finish.
Through the FITW research study, 10 North Carolina Community Colleges administered Watermark’s technology-enabled success platform in an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of success coaching on student persistence and degree completion. Understanding that students are entering higher education institutions with unique challenges and obstacles, Watermark and its capabilities – including predictive analytics, technology support, and success coaching practices – aim to help colleges and universities close the equity gap. Through success coaching, students have the ability to express needs, gain assistance and follow a guided pathway to success based on their individual requirements.
As the findings of the FITW research study show, success coaching can positively impact student achievement in terms of student persistence, student retention, and degree completion. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the specific success coaching outcomes that are supported by the FITW research findings.
The nature of the FITW study required outcomes to be tracked for at least two academic years to ensure the validity of the results. What the study found over the two-year trial was that students assigned a coach are 4% more likely to stay enrolled for two academic years. As success coaching is fundamentally built on a relationship between the student and coach, results showed the benefits of coaching increase as the relationship strengthens over the span of several semesters.
One institution that participated in the study, Randolph Community College, shared insights on how Watermark’s products assisted in identifying student risk factors and maintaining transparency and communication among success coaches, faculty, and staff. Watermark Student Success & Engagement (formerly Aviso Predict) utilizes predictive analytics to measure and analyze why students may be successful or at risk of not completing their course work and continuing to the next semester. Watermark analyzes student data and then places each student in one of three corresponding zones: Green/Low Risk, Yellow/Medium Risk, and Red/High Risk. Through Watermark Student Success & Engagement (formerly Aviso Engage), success coaches are notified so that outreach and resolution can take place.
Having the resources to analyze risk, communication with faculty and coaches can allow for proactive intervention and a more effective strategy for retaining at-risk students. Pam Wiggins, Success Coach at Randolph Community College shared her experience with Watermark.
“These risk factors actually drive the intervention. For example, the student may have a low GPA. We may work on forecasting on how to obtain a higher GPA. Maybe they failed a particular course a number of times or have struggled in online courses. Success coaches can do a deep dive into all the risk factors that occur with a particular student and then formulate interventions to allow them to be successful,” said Wiggins.
After a semester into the FITW research study, Watermark implemented a face-to-face meeting note, enabling success coaches to record when they actually met with a student, instead of communicating via email, text, or the Watermark platform. The findings showed a significant increase in retention for students that met with their success coach face-to-face. Students who met with their success coach were roughly 13% more likely to be retained and complete their coursework from the Fall to Spring semester. Although the results of this specific finding are outside of the experimental design and can’t fully account for outside factors, such as motivation, drive, or engagement, it shows that relationships between students and success coaches lead to increased retention outcomes.
When analyzing the relationship between credential completion and success coaching, it was evident that the implementation and fidelity of success coaching matters. Do you have faculty buy-in? Is the academic leadership team communicating the importance of utilizing the learning management system? Is communication and engagement around the project high? These institutional drivers can greatly impact the success of the project outcome. Institutions that were operating with high fidelity and implementation showed larger upticks in credential completion as opposed to institutions with lower fidelity. Specifically, the study showed that success coaching – when complemented with institutional buy-in – resulted in a 9% increase in credential completion.
Another important factor to note in success coaching and credential completion is consistency. Students who had the same coach for the duration of the study experienced a 12% increase in credential completion. Success coaching is synonymous with relationship building and takes time to develop. For students to maximize the impact of success coaching, higher education institutions need to remain consistent and reliable with their success coaching assignments.
Another participating institution, Roanoke-Chowan Community College shared the importance of degree completion and how visibility and accountability hold a great power to impact these rates.
“As higher education institutions, regardless of size or notability, we all share the same goal - to lead every student to degree completion,” said J. Darius Greene, Dean of Services at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. “The research findings are abundantly clear that success coaching is a successful strategy to combat student attrition and assist higher education institutions in meeting that goal of student completion. Incorporating education technology like Watermark puts higher education institutions one step closer to helping students succeed.”
Closing the Equity Gap
While the goal of the FITW research study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of success coaching among all community college students involved, success coaching also provided significant positive outcomes to diverse student populations. In particular, African American and male students – both are likely to have a less favorable outcome in higher education on average – respectively showed a boost in student retention and credential completion as a result of success coaching over the course of the study. Black students who were assigned to a coach were 8% more likely to remain enrolled for a year and 18% more likely to stay enrolled for two academic years. First-year male students with a success coach experienced an 8% increase in Fall-Fall retention and an 8% increase in credential completion. As a higher education equity solution, Watermark aims to provide technology, tools, and support to assist higher education institutions in knocking down barriers that diverse and minority students face on their educational journey. Watermark creates equity solutions designed to allow a level-playing field for students on the path to success.
The findings of the FITW research study support that success coaching is an effective strategy to support student achievement on many fronts – retention, credential completion, persistence, and helping to close the equity gap. As higher education transitions through a time of uncertainty, institutions who provide their success coaches with Watermark ensure their students receive timely and relevant communications with insights, support, and guidance to continue on their path to success.
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