The transition to college is often a tumultuous time for students as many experience new cities, housing, friends, family dynamics, classes, and educational freedom. Because of these factors, and many unlisted, it is unfortunately common for students to leave their degree programs within the first year. At the authors’ institution, all engineering students are required to take a two-course sequence during their first-year engineering (FYE) program. There are traditionally low retention rates between the two courses with roughly 60% of students enrolling in the second course. The goal of this work-in-progress is to increase student retention between the two FYE courses by (1) introducing students to effective college study habits and (2) encouraging students to strengthen their investment in their campus through the participation in campus activities. The authors used a combination of assignments and guest presenters to incorporate these activities within the first FYE course including the following activities:
• Student Success Resources: Through the usage of two administrative guest speakers, students were introduced to study resources available on campus such as professor office hours and campus tutoring. Speakers discussed the correct amount of time needed to study outside of class and the importance of time management. To supplement the presentations, students completed a time budgeting survey assignment and an assignment that asked students to attend either office hours or campus tutoring. The goals of these lessons were to encourage awareness of scheduling difficulties and to help students overcome the initial awkwardness often felt when asking an instructor or tutor for help.
• Campus Activity Participation: Students were introduced to many student organizations on campus related to engineering throughout the course. Students were assigned to attend two campus activities and then write about their experiences. The goal of this activity was to help students develop an investment in the campus community. Per existing research, participation in campus activities not only develops a better student portfolio, but has also been shown to increase student persistence.
These activities were specifically designed to incentivize students to use existing student success resources previously underutilized. As this project is ongoing, these particular activities have only been incorporated and data collected for one semester. However, coordinators of the course have included various student success lessons within previous semesters. Initial results presented will include tutoring attendance rates, retention rates, assignment completion percentage, and student opinions about the assignments. The results will include data from the fall semesters of 2015-2017. Initial analysis indicates a noticeable increase in retention after the implementation of these assignments, an increase in tutoring attendance, and positive student feedback.
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