Student Retention, Affinity and Persistence Initiative Wins Award for Excellence

WW lab - 5
In Embry-Riddle's virtual crash lab, students examine wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

A high-tech effort to help students feel connected with Embry-Riddle and persist with their studies this week earned a top award for excellence in higher education.

The Embry-Riddle Worldwide Retention, Affinity and Persistence initiative was honored by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Cooperative for Educational Technologies – known as WCET.

The WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) award is given to colleges, universities and organizations that implement exceptionally creative, technology-based solutions to challenges in higher education. Embry-Riddle was one of only five institutions nationwide to receive a 2018 WOW Award for solutions intended to improve student success.

Since the Embry-Riddle Worldwide Retention, Affinity and Persistence (WRAP) initiative was launched in 2017, student persistence rates have increased by 17%, said Embry-Riddle Worldwide Chancellor Dr. John R. Watret.

The strategic direction for the initiative emerged from intensive group-think that took place during last year’s Worldwide Conference. It encompasses an array of innovative, tech-centric solutions that keep students engaged with faculty, advisors and with each other – from virtual labs and individual academic advisor web pages, to a virtual student readiness and resource course and more.

“We leverage technology to the fullest to ensure that Embry-Riddle Worldwide students can complete virtual lab experiences and interact and collaborate with peer students and faculty wherever they are,” Watret explained. “Our support network is always available so students can succeed with their studies, graduate on time and get good jobs.”

The WRAP initiative reflects Embry-Riddle President Dr. Barry Butler’s strategic direction related to student engagement, Watret noted.

Earlier this year, Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s virtual crash lab and aerial robotics virtual lab received a CIO 100 award for innovative and transformative digital educational technology.

More on the WRAP Initiative

Embry-Riddle Worldwide provides instruction using online and face-to-face delivery methods. A drastic increase in virtual enrollments – from 9% to 90% in 13 years – created a need for a transformation of the institution’s student support services.

“Our focus to provide an innovative, cutting-edge learning experience for our students is at the forefront of our program design, instruction and delivery” said Dr. Jason M. Ruckert, Vice Chancellor and Chief Digital Learning Officer. “We recognize and fully embrace the impact technology has on our world, and we are committed to providing learning platforms that will enhance our students’ skill-sets and prepare them to excel in the workforce.”

To address this need, the university implemented several technology-based solutions and an enhanced support structure for students. The WRAP initiative is comprised of immersive solutions which include the incorporation of virtual labs into courses through a centralized virtual hub, the creation of individual academic advisor webpages, a new student orientation, a virtual student readiness and resource course, personalized degree maps, virtual new student on-boarding, virtual career services, and a virtual campus community.

Technology-based solutions were created to prepare students to be successful distance learners from the onset of their educational journey and to provide on-demand technology assistance. Students now have an “advisor for life” and a personalized plan to ensure they make progress toward earning a degree. Each student is equipped with cutting-edge technology and resources to create a unique educational experience.

Students have increased traffic to their advisor web pages, new student matriculation rates have increased by more than 10% and persistence rates have increased by 17% since the WRAP initiative was first implemented. Overall, individual course registrations have increased by 24%.

This year’s WOW award winners were:

  • Embry-Riddle: Worldwide Retention, Affinity and Persistence (WRAP) initiative.
  • Colorado State University: You@CSU.
  • Colorado Technical University, CTU Faculty App.
  • Open SUNY, The Open SUNY Course Quality Review (OSCQR) Rubric, Dashboard and Resources.
  • University of Montana: EdReady Montana: Scaling a Low-Cost College Readiness Initiative Statewide.

Tiffani Jett contributed information for this article.