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How Important Are Students to Student Retention?

Over the last several weeks, we have been conducting extensive research on retention solutions to help higher education leaders make sense of this expanding and crowded market. We have interviewed dozens of solution providers to learn about their products, services, differentiators, and views on high-level issues impacting student success, retention, and persistence. To complement these conversations, we have also interviewed several higher education leaders to get their feedback on the current market and to hear what retention solutions they would like to see in the market. We identified two segments of the market:
  • Segment 1: Students are a data source, an input, or a byproduct of the retention solution, which primarily seeks to meet institutional goals and generate efficiencies.
  • Segment 2: Students are customers who require a consumer-grade experience for self-discovery and self-efficacy that will directly improve retention and student outcomes.
Eduventures believes that savvy institutions increasingly will demand solutions that include students in the equation, either by providing a high-quality student experience in addition to creating institutional efficiencies or by leveraging student data as an input for predictive analytics and scoring. Several of the institutions we spoke to have sought to create a student experience that they believe will address retention challenges. Below are short profiles of a set of vendors we spoke to that have different student-facing components to their retention solutions. In addition to this group, we have also spoken to Blue CanaryCivitasETSiData HubNth Degree AnalyticsRapid Insight, and Wiley. We will cover these solutions in future tech alerts.

Campus Labs

Campus Labs delivers a suite of products designed to support student retention through student-facing assessments, a dashboard, and a co-curricular transcript. We spoke to J.D. White, President of Product Management, and Sean Casey, VP of Strategic Initiatives and Corporate Development. Campus Labs’ Beacon aggregates and integrates all of the data from the student information system (SIS), learning management system (LMS), and other data repositories in conjunction with two research-driven student assessments, the Student Strengths Inventory (SSI) and the Continuing Student Assessment (CSA). These data elements create an at-risk profile that not only allows advisors to communicate effectively, but also enables students to view their own records. Eduventures’ Take: Whereas most retention solutions leverage institutionally focused tools to produce a good student experience, Campus Labs created student-facing tools that also benefit administrators. These tools enable students to understand their support networks, events and activities, and personal progress via a co-curricular transcript, which enables them to benefit from the same data that institutional leaders use to impact their own retention.

Copley Retention Solutions

We spoke to Ed Clougherty, Chief Retention Officer at Copley Retention Solutions, which delivers Copley Square. This centralized communications platform creates a pathway to close the retention loop by tracking LMS, SIS, and student-provided data and enabling personalized interventions. Copley offers tools that capture student data through surveys, near peer mentoring, and a student dashboard with data similar to what administrators, advisors, and faculty members use. Copley also enables direct engagement with video chat and online meeting rooms to allow students to collaborate with advisors, mentors, tutors, or peers directly through the platform. Eduventures’ Take: Copley’s unique platform enables advisors and faculty members to directly set up a video chat or online meeting room to deliver student interventions in order to resolve retention issues in a just-in-time fashion.

Greenwood Hall

We spoke to John Hall, CEO of Greenwood Hall, which provides an end-to-end bundle of services that supports retention across the student lifecycle, from enrollment through matriculation. They treat students as customers, because their research shows that the vast majority of attrition can be attributed to academic or customer service challenges. By developing ongoing advising and coaching relationships with students that are supported by technology solutions, Greenwood Hall can create efficiencies to improve the student experience. Eduventures’ Take: Greenwood Hall’s student-focused mentality is paramount to improving retention. It takes a customer service-focused approach by centering all of its activities on building relationships with students to create a compelling experience that drives success.

Education Advisory Board (EAB)

The Education Advisory Board (EAB) provides a Student Success Collaborative (SSC) that combines technology, consulting, and best practices research to help institutions use data to improve retention and graduation rates. We spoke with Richard Staley, Managing Director, and Ed Venit, Senior Director. EAB sees students as an important part of the puzzle, which is evident given their acquisition strategy to purchase GradesFirst and Royall & Company. GradesFirst enables EAB to track student point-of-sale and engagement data to personalize interventions. Royall & Company’s strength is targeting students at the right time with the right message to deliver more effective retention support. For EAB, students are both an input to their predictive modeling and an output (or opportunity for throughput) to make their advisors more effective by teaching students how to effectively solve their own retention challenges. Eduventures’ Take: EAB’s combination of technology, consulting, and research provides a compelling student-centered data asset that aims to produce a single student record from recruitment to post-graduation.

Full Measure Education

We interviewed Chuck Brodsky, Executive Vice President of Full Measure Education, who shared with us that the company’s primary focus is creating a compelling student experience. Built on the fundamental belief that Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook provide the consumer experience that today’s students expect, Full Measure Education offers a mobile student experience management platform that begins with recruitment and extends across the student lifecycle. Full Measure seeks to provide a communications strategy, an innovative technology platform, and a workforce optimization tool to solve the retention challenge. Eduventures’ Take: Full Measure Education provides a unique consumer-grade student experience with a single, aggregated mobile platform. This includes a Tinder-style swiping survey tool, which provides a compelling gamified approach to lower the bar for student engagement.

Learning House

Learning House provides an end-to-end bundle of services that combines marketing, enrollment, and retention services with course design and course development. We spoke to Cindy Sadler, VP of Strategic Operations, and Howell Williams, VP of Client Management. Based on an online program management relationship, Learning House has a vested interest in marketing to the right student, enrolling the best-fit candidates, and supporting student success through a combination of analytics, relationship building, and a custom CRM system. Success coaches and advisors place students into 10 different categories with five attrition-risk segments in order to deliver appropriate interventions to students. Eduventures’ Take: Learning House provides a powerful student experience because their advisors and success coaches must develop a broad understanding of the policies and procedures in place across departments at an institution to effectively support retention as a one-stop shop.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz

Mari Normyle, AVP for Retention Solutions, and Tim Culver, VP of Consulting Services, shared Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s (RNL) student success relationship management theoretical framework. This framework is driven by Retention Management System Plus, a suite of assessment tools and surveys that students complete at key points across the student lifecycle and that determine motivational and non-cognitive variables for the likelihood of student success. These core assessments provide historical data to predict future retention and include the College Student Inventory (CSI), the Mid-Year Student Assessment (MYSA), and the Second-Year Student Assessment (SYSA). These assessments seek to identify students who are at risk and already asking for help to determine how receptive they are to receiving assistance. Eduventures’ Take: RNL enables the appropriate party on campus to take ownership of retention. This  includes the students, who, through participation in assessments, are better informed about the challenges they may be facing as they progress through the student lifecycle.


Sean Sullivan, General Manager, and Sherry Woosley, Director of Analytics, explained that Skyfactor’s (formerly EBI MAP-works) newly redesigned user experience and platform offers a student-focused approach to retention. It leverages information from an initial student survey to understand students’ goals, motivations, and non-cognitive factors, which is consistently augmented through continued engagement with each student. Skyfactor enables students to get personalized feedback and track their progress to impact their own retention. They then combine this information with the data from campus systems to create an evolving risk model that continues to collect information from students to develop more robust predictive modeling. Eduventures’ Take: Skyfactor’s platform enables students to get personalized feedback and track their progress. By evolving as students enter more information related to non-cognitive factors, Skyfactor supports students as they progress through the student lifecycle. Stay tuned for our series of reports on retention. It will serve as a reference guide for institutional leaders seeking to navigate the myriad solutions in the market to support retention in order to understand the key decisions for implementing them and strategies for considering a more horizontal integration of data across the student lifecycle in support of retention.

On the Horizon

We have been busy over the past few weeks! We have met with executives from Six Red MarblesZSpaceWowza Media SystemsQubed EducationSmart SparrowPiwikQuadWrangleUnigo GroupMUV InteractiveKoruStudyModeFullbridge Education, APass Education, Visual ClassroomsuAspireLinkedInSASDecision Desk, and Salesforce.    

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