Drumroll please… What’s the number one thing holding your institution back from outcomes? It’s not having a Relationship Strategy.
In 2012, Linda Baer & John Campbell co-wrote a piece in Gamechangers that changed the game for a small group by establishing the term “Learning Relationship Management”. They anticipated several new disruptions in analytics, one they named Learning Relationship Management:
“The growth of CRM as a collection point. Traditionally the “customer relationship management” (CRM) system has been focused on the admissions process. One could imagine future analytical tools coming together in a “learning relationship management” (LRM) system that would be open to faculty and advisors. The system would not only provide a central point for analytics data, but would also provide a way of tracking interventions and related results. The LRM system would provide a comprehensive foundation for end-to-end student support.”
Thus, making learning more personal and relational for everyone. Thinking about the future with this analytics tool makes it almost imperative that institutions develop a Relationship Strategy.
But first, what is a Relationship Strategy anyway?
In 2013, the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment (NCHEA) issued a crisis in higher education stating that “every college and university president and chancellor to make retention and completion a critical campus priority”.
The importance of relationships to student success in all parts of the student lifecycle is backed not only by concrete research but also common sense.
A study done by Stanford in 2011 found that students who had coaches in school had 10-15% retention and completion increases over their uncoached peers. This sounds promising right? All we need to do is be more mindful of creating relationships with our students. Then, problem solved. But here’s the issue:
“Only 14% of students remember a professor who cared about them, made them excited to learn and encouraged them to follow their dreams”.
And we know that this not only leads to decreased success in college but also decreased success beyond school. Roughly 3/10 employees are actively engaged at work. Those that are engaged state that it’s critical relationships that push them to be more engaged.
What does this mean for the rest of us?
Now, more than ever, relationships matter and developing a relationship strategy matters. Here’s the bottom line:
“Coaching not only works, but it appears to be one of the more cost effective ways to produce better retention and graduation rates”.
Which means that we have a few critical questions to ask ourselves:
- Do our students have relationships with peers, mentors, staff members and alumni?
- Which students have which relationships?
- Of those that do, how did the relationship form?
- Of those that don’t, how do we give them access to these relationships?
- What tools exist that allow me to facilitate the connections between students, staff, peers and alumni?
In a small group setting, facilitating the connections that are necessary for a student to be successful is relatively easy, but the reality is most advisors and coaches are managing hundreds of students at a time. This type of scale for student management and personalization is extremely difficult to achieve without a concrete plan and more often than not, software or suites of tools.
A Relationship Strategy can be anything your institution comes up with, as long as it incorporates the critical pieces that students need to succeed, including relationships.
- Baer, Linda L., Duin, Ann Hill, “ Retain Your Students: The Analytics, Policies and Politics of Reinvention Strategies” Planning for Higher Education, April-June 2014,
- Baer, Linda L., Campbell, John, “Gamechangers”, https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/pub72034.pdf
- Bettinger, Eric, Baker, Rachel, “Stanford study shows college student coaching improves retention and graduation rates” March 2011, https://ed.stanford.edu/spotlight/stanford-study-shows-college-student-coaching-improves-retention-and-graduation-rates
- Flaherty, Colleen, “Going Through the Motions? The 2015 Survey of Faculty Workplace Engagement” October 23, 2015, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/going-through-motions-2015-survey-faculty-workplace-engagement