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Best Practice: Increase Student Retention

The Five Pillars of Online Learning Effectiveness help develop and sustain online learning programs. The five pillars were created by J. C. Moore of The Sloan Consortium and include faculty satisfaction, student satisfaction, learning effectiveness, scale, and access.

Researchers J. C. Moore and M. J. Fetzner mapped online retention best practices to each of the five pillars. They compiled a list of common practices shared by institutions with high online course completion rates. These best practices for the learning effectiveness and student satisfaction pillars come from their research. You can use them to support students in successfully completing your courses. To read about best practices for all five of the pillars, see the full article2.

Learning effectiveness pillar

Featured best practice: Emphasize intensive faculty-student and student-student interactivity.

  1. As you welcome students and introduce yourself to the class, include a photo. Model the type of information you want your students to put in their introductions.
  2. Use student names in one-to-one personal communications and in public discussion posts. This personalization encourages students to respond to your posts.
  3. In your announcements and discussions, use phrases such as “our class” instead of “the class.” And, “we’ve had a great week” instead of “it’s been a good week.” The one-to-many posts will seem more personal to each student.
  4. Plan to create at least three announcements or discussion posts each week. Establish your online presence and show students that you monitor the course regularly.
  5. For group work, assign student leaders to facilitate discussions and post their final answers to group assignments. Then, you can review the work and discussions by group, rather than by each individual.

Student satisfaction pillar

Featured best practice: Identify online learning obstacles and eliminate them for students.

  1. If your institution offers an orientation to online learning, encourage or require students to take it. Or, you can create an initial unit in your course that outlines your expectations and offers time management tips. You can also let students practice with online tools such as tests and assignments in a non-graded situation.
  2. For collaborative tools such as discussions, blogs, journals, and wikis, let students take the lead. Prepare them for the types of online communication they will encounter in the workforce.
  3. Use Blackboard’s Retention Center to identify students who are struggling. Contact each student to find out how you can help and put a plan together.
  4. Ask for student input with course surveys and regular, informal “temperature checks.” Find out what works for them and what doesn't. Demonstrate that their opinions matters.
  5. Provide links to campus resources such as advising, disability services, scheduling, registration, and technical support.


1Moore, J. C. (2002). The Sloan-C Pillar Reference Manual Quick Guide. The Sloan Consortium.

2Moore, J. C., and Fetzner, M. J. (2009). The road to retention: A closer look at institutions that achieve high course completion rates. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN) 13(3), 15-17.


Marie Fetzner, Ed. D. | Monroe Community College | Rochester, NY