Personalized, data-informed ‘Success Coaching’ improves community college students’ academic progress
Colleges and universities across the country are increasingly implementing technology-mediated advising or coaching in an effort to more effectively support students’ academic and non-academic needs. By providing services that are personalized, proactive, and informed by real-time data on students’ academic and non-academic progress and challenges, success coaching has the potential to help students stay on path and improve postsecondary attainment rates.
Less than 40 percent of community college students earn a postsecondary credential of any kind within six years. Although barriers to completion are often academic in nature, many community college students—a diverse population of learners including recent high school graduates, returning adult students, and incumbent workers looking to upgrade skills—face challenges not directly related to academics, including balancing study with work, childcare, and other life responsibilities; financial pressures; personal health needs; and uncertainty about career goals, how college courses connect with job opportunities, and how to prepare and search for employment.
We are currently working with a consortium of 10 North Carolina community colleges that are using data-informed Success Coaching to proactively address students’ academic and personal needs. Our evaluation is examining the impact of this approach on students’ retention and completion outcomes. The initiative—called Carolina Works and led by Central Carolina Community College—is funded by a First in the World validation grant by the U.S. Department of Education, which seeks to test interventions for student success that are supported by previous evidence. The impact study follows an experimental design in which the outcomes of students randomly assigned to receive Success Coaching services are compared to outcomes of students not assigned a coach.
Although the study is still underway, preliminary results – summarized in our March 2019 Carolina Works Evaluation Brief—suggest that success coaching has a positive impact on students’ academic outcomes. Specifically, results from the earliest cohort of students suggest that success coaching improves students’ longer-term retention rates by an average of three percentage points. Preliminary analyses also suggest that specific coaching practices may be particularly effective in improving student outcomes. For example, early retention outcomes were higher for students in the subset of colleges in which Success Coaches are spending a greater amount of time engaging with students outside of their offices.
DVP-PRAXIS is documenting the operationalization of the Success Coaching model across the 10 North Carolina institutions to better understand best practices that may improve success rates for more students. Final results – which will include credential completion in addition to retention outcomes—will be available in Fall 2020.
Jessa Lewis Valentine