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  • Writer's pictureDonna Milgram

Fix this one thing and watch your IT retention rates skyrocket


Improve Retention in Your STEM Classes Right Away


Last week I conducted a WomenTech Bootcamp Retention Training for a 2-year College in the IT Career Pathway. There were four teams --  Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, IT and Programming.


One of the things I recommend colleges do during the first week of class is survey all their students to see if 1) they need help with classwork and 2) if they need help with anything else that’s preventing them from fully participating in classes. Many schools do have “early” warning systems, but they often kick in too late to help the student.


During the training itself, the teams filled out the WomenTech Retention Plan Template. This particular one was Strategy 9:  “Identifying and Connecting Students Who Need Help with Support.”


What came up was huge. Many IT students get behind because they have old computers that don’t have enough space to handle the software needed for the class, or they don’t have admin rights or product keys to their computers and they don’t know how to overcome this. Also, some students can’t afford to purchase the online textbook, and drop out after the two weeks of free access has ended.  


The solution: The solution is to require all students to answer a survey on their computer capacity (with screenshots) before the class begins. This ensures they have the equipment and the access needed. Students without the proper equipment can be connected to laptops they can borrow so they don’t get behind. They can also be made aware of on-campus computers. An IT Coordinator who assists with registration as well as an Advisor helps push out the survey and connect students with the resources needed. 


One of the instructors in the training took it on himself to do this with his 30 students. He also got them free textbook access. Guess what? His retention and pass rates went from very low to nearly 100%.


Most automotive programs require students to purchase tools – or have tools available to lend during the class. IT programs must similarly ensure their students have the computer tools needed to successfully complete their courses.


I can help your college identify similar issues in your programs – and solutions that can be implemented next semester. It is possible to improve retention rates in a year or less. Talk with me about including the WomenTech Training in your NSF or Carl Perkins grant proposal.

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