A challenge in diffusing innovation in engineering education includes scaling-up the practice to increase the number of students involved, including under-represented students, to broaden the impact of the innovation. Another challenge is to institutionalize the practice such that the innovation is not lost when the principal personnel move to another institution or retire. A final challenge is to sustain the practice, securing the resources needed to implement the activities that may involve reassignment of responsibilities within the institution. Placing first-year students in cohorts or learning communities is recognized by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) of Indiana University as one of six high-impact practices positively affecting student success and retention. Progressing through the first-year as a cohort allows students to make connection with peers, faculty and staff, and to form study groups, which are crucial to student success and retention. Cohorts also form a focal point through which student success services and information can be channeled. This paper will describe the details involved to place >95% of first-time first-year students who participate in summer orientation – about 400 students annually -- into cohorts, in which students take the same 3-to-5 courses together in fall semester and 2-to-4 courses together in spring semester. Students placed in cohorts are tracked using their university identification number. Each subsequent fall semester, the identification number by cohort year are ran against enrollment data kept by the Office of Institutional Research, to determine the students’ status of enrollment in engineering, enrollment at the institution but with a non-engineering major, or non-enrollment, to determine the retention rates. Student retention and graduation rates from 2005 to 2015 will be presented, and compared to the institution’s historical retention and graduate rates, and to data maintained by the Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange (CSRDE). Factors positively impacting institutionalizing and sustaining the cohorts, together with a year-round student success program, will be described. These best practices of scaling-up, institutionalizing and sustaining a student success program were developed as a result of a NSF STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) award. University XX is a state-assisted regional institution of higher learning, and it belongs to the CSRDE “Less Selectively” category. Therefore, engineering programs with similar student demographics can learn valuable lessons on how to build and scale-up a cohort program to support student success and retention from this project, and how to institutionalize and sustain the practice.
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