Coaching grad students who stop out

By: | Issue: November, 2017
October 25, 2017

Officials at Webster University in Missouri noticed a number of graduate students had stopped registering for classes. Recognizing they did not have the staff resources to provide intensive support, they formed a pilot with InsideTrack, a company that partners with colleges to create adaptive coaching options.

Launched in fall 2017, the pilot included 511 students (including 101 online-only students) who receive specialized coaching.

“The goal was to bring these students back, get them into classes and provide them with strategies they can use toward the completion of their degrees,” says Michael Cottam, associate vice president for academic affairs and director of the Online Learning Center at Webster.

Link to main story: Getting college students back and on track

Students meet as often as weekly, virtually, with coaches through the first three weeks of class and then point them to other resources Webster has to offer long-term, such as tutoring or the online learning center.

The coaches, all college graduates themselves and about half of whom have advanced degrees, are trained specifically to deal with challenges that are nonacademic. Each coach undergoes a certification and credentialing process, followed by ongoing professional development—including more than 100 hours of coursework and close mentoring.

The students get guidance on career exploration and planning, program selection, time-management skills and communication skills.

According to Cottam, most of the students have work and family obligations on top of school, so the coach will also help them plan how to balance those competing demands, how to engage their boss and family members as supporters, and connect them to campus resources, so they can take full advantage of what the school has to offer.

“Early results are positive,” says Cottam, adding that after tracking student success over the next two terms, a decision will be made about continuing and/or expanding the program.

Elaina Loveland is a Northern Virginia-based writer.