Measuring Success in Higher Ed: The Crucial Link Between ROI and Student Retention

Measuring Success in Higher Ed: The Crucial Link Between ROI and Student Retention

woman at graduation day

In the first blog in our ROI series, Measuring Success in Higher Ed: Understanding ROI and Student Outcomes, we covered the strategic shift universities must make to factor financial ROI into their decision making to ensure viability. We also underscored the importance of data in measuring success and how learning technology platforms can provide an excellent source of data for measuring educational outcomes and academic performance metrics. As universities sharpen their focus on ROI, many are making concerted efforts to improve student retention—a crucial lever in increasing revenues.

Student Retention: A Critical Metric

Student retention is crucial because it indicates two things a university needs for viability and long-term success:

  • The ability to deliver students quality courses and programs that help them achieve their learning goals and graduate.
  • The ability to generate a steady stream of tuition revenue, ensuring the fiscal sustainability needed to operate the university and fulfill its mission.

In its absolute simplest form, retention for online higher education programs is typically monitored on a term-over-term basis and calculated as:

retained students ÷ all students enrolled in online programs = retention rate

Calculating the student retention rate for online learning is no different than how it is calculated for traditional, in-person learning. However, there is a marked difference between the amount of insight into the factors that influence student retention in online courses and programs versus in-person courses and programs. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power. Well-designed digital education platforms and learning management systems provide data that indicate whether a student is struggling in a course or program or if they’re at risk for dropping out, enabling the university to proactively intervene and assist the student in persisting in their program and ultimately graduating. Online learning platforms also enable universities to monitor, react to, and continuously improve known variables that contribute to student retention, inclusive of:

  • Student engagement in a course or program
  • Student learning style and preferences
  • Academic support systems

Strategies for Enhancing ROI and Student Retention

Digital learning has greatly impacted universities by providing the capability to swiftly identify and address gaps in education delivery. If student engagement declines, is it down across the board or only within one segment? For example, you may identify that parents (students with children) are less engaged, but non-parents are fully engaged. Additionally, the data could indicate that the synchronous elements of online courses are impacting parents, diminishing their engagement and, consequently, their retention. At that point, the university can strategically insert more flexibility into courses to cater to parents’ learning styles. At a granular level, robust online learning platforms scan student behavioral data, identify early warning signs that an individual is at risk of dropping out, and create alerts. Advisors receive the alerts significantly earlier than is possible in traditional courses, enabling them to intervene before it’s too late.

The strategic use of data from online learning platforms, whether applied broadly or to individual users, highlights their ability to pinpoint at-risk students quickly and empowers universities to boost retention rates and ROI.

Empowering Future Success: Harnessing ROI and Student Retention for Academic Excellence

The link between ROI and student retention is vital for universities’ success. Implementing data-driven strategies from online learning platforms to enhance student outcomes is critical to universities’ long-term financial health. Embracing these strategies is a win-win for universities and for the students they serve. In our next and final blog in the ROI series, we’ll look at how higher education’s shift to ROI-focused strategies will evolve in response to future trends and emerging technologies.

Contact Everspring to learn how our technology and expertise enable outstanding student outcomes, including strong retention rates.