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Frank Jacobus and students in studio

Enhancing Recruitment and Retention Through Engaged Teaching and Learning

Lead: Jeanne Christiansen

Vision: The University is faced with a constellation of challenges and opportunities regarding how to best recruit, retain, and engage students in high-quality learning experiences. In decades past, this was a relatively straightforward task: Students graduated from high school, and, in ever-increasing numbers, applied to institutions of higher education (with relatively little active university recruitment efforts); colleges and universities accepted students; and the students enrolled and attended courses in classrooms, where the bulk of their learning often occurred in lecture-based pedagogies.

Today, many parts of that picture have changed.

  • Our state has one of the highest rates of high school graduation and lowest rates of college attendance.
  • Students who consider postsecondary degrees have a number of choices: inside the state, outside the state, and online. They expect and increasingly require a variety of delivery methods, whether it is the traditional classroom experience, online courses, dual-enrollment programs prior to high school graduation, or active learning experiences that deepen engagement far beyond traditional classrooms.
  • Students have many educational opportunities in a highly competitive market and are shopping for schools that can offer the learning content and style they desire. While increasing numbers of students are focused on career aspirations, their aspirations often include altruistic goals to benefit society.

Traditionally the University of Idaho has been the institution of choice for the state’s most accomplished students. There are many options today with our growing sister institutions in the state as well as rapidly growing online opportunities. To provide the best learning experience and continue to attract the quality and number of students that fit our mission, it will be important to continue to enhance our commitment to active and engaged learning. While our retention rate is very high relative to other public schools in Idaho, there is significant room for improvement relative to national norms. This affords us an opportunity to create solutions and experiences for students that will both serve their needs and be models for higher education throughout the country. As such, three innovation proposals addressing dual enrollment, online learning, and active learning will serve as the foundation for the creation of a comprehensive approach to increasing access, and to providing increasingly effective learning experiences for students.

Dual Enrollment:
The State Board of Education, concerned about the low rate of college attendance, has mandated Idaho universities to expand their dual-enrollment programs in partnership with state high schools to engage secondary-level students in college courses. There is evidence that taking dual-enrollment courses increases college participation and persistence rates. While we have offered dual-enrollment courses for a number of years, our increased offerings in the past two years provide the first of many opportunities to increase college participation rates, enhance our recruitment and retention, and fulfill the Board’s expectations. We need to expand these efforts.
Active Learning:
Engaging students in active learning opportunities (e.g., service learning, volunteerism, undergraduate research, internships, problem-based learning, and education abroad) also can have positive effects on student retention and their transformative experience. This is an area of growing strength for the University of Idaho and one in which we will continue to focus and lead.
Technology Enhanced Learning:
Technology can be used to enhance both active learning pedagogies and dual-enrollment courses. Current and prospective students expect such online learning opportunities and, in the state of Idaho particularly, they are not finding what they need from us. Currently, 13% of the Moscow campus schedule is online and 30% of the off-Moscow campus schedule is online. Some of our in-state sister institutions teach three times as many online credit hours as we do, and even this amount does not match national trends, which indicate acceptance of and demand for online education.

Across each of these areas (dual enrollment, improved teaching and learning, and online and distance education) we share a common current state of affairs: our efforts are disaggregated and lack coordination. While we have many good individual programs in place with dedicated faculty and staff running them, the lack of integrated strategic, structural, technology, fiscal, teacher, and student support impacts our opportunities to join in and then to lead in these critical instructional venues.

Three of the innovation proposals addressed significant portions of these issues: Supporting the Dual-Credit Program at the University of Idaho: A Model for Better Operationalizing a State Mandate; Improving the Quality of Instruction While Significantly Lowering Costs: Teaching in the 21st Century; and Enhancing Online and Distance Education at the University of Idaho. Taken together, these proposals suggest an important series of next steps. A report submitted by the Distance Education Task Force in 2007 will continued to inform this work. Recognizing that we cannot do everything for every potential student, we need to set priorities for segments where we can have the greatest impact on student learning, fill specialized market niches, and expand our offerings. To meet these priorities, we need to strategically plan the degree programs, certificates, traditional and dual-enrollment courses in which we have strengths and that we wish to pursue. We then need a coordinated support structure to implement those priorities.