New Coaching Initiative at National University Lifts Student Success for Working Adult and Online Learners

In collaboration with national nonprofit InsideTrack, National University scales support for academically at-risk students through virtual success coaching

LA JOLLA, CALIF. (September 27, 2021) — National University, a private nonprofit university that serves more than 30,000 working adult learners, online students, educators, and members of the military community, today announced initial results from a pilot initiative designed to provide student success coaching for learners at risk of academic failure. Through a collaboration with InsideTrack, a national nonprofit organization focused on student success, the initiative has to date reached more than 800 students who are academically at risk, pairing them with one-one-one success coaches who help them navigate the complex demands of college, work, and family responsibilities.

“For most students today, the lines between academics, work, family and community are increasingly blurry and difficult to manage. What appears to be academic challenges are in fact a sign that students may need additional support that extends beyond the classroom,” said Dr. Thomas Stewart, vice chancellor for Social Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (S-JEDI) at the nonprofit National University System. “As a system that prides itself on meeting the diverse learning needs of every student regardless of background or professional status, we have a profound responsibility to introduce new and more personalized forms of support to address barriers to persistence and success to ensure every student can thrive.”

The innovative coaching initiative is part of National University’s effort to serve a highly diverse population of students with demographics that reflect the increase in adult, part-time, and parent learners who represent the emerging majority of today’s higher education students. Approximately 70 percent of its students take the majority of their classes online. More than 25 percent identify as Hispanic, and 10 percent identify as Black. More than 80 percent of undergraduates are transfer students. The average age of its students is 33. And about 1 in 4 students are active-duty servicemembers or Veterans.

To increase student support for this demographically diverse population of learners, National University engaged InsideTrack to deploy its evidence-based student model for students who have either received an academic warning or probation—with promising results to date. To date, InsideTrack and National University initiated outreach to nearly 1,200 at-risk students and saw a 70 percent contact rate. Approximately half of the students the university connected with agreed to schedule a meeting, and a third of students who attended a meeting followed up for continued support and guidance.

Over InsideTrack’s 20-year history, empirical research has established the organization’s methodology as a proven approach for improving student persistence and completion. Today, InsideTrack coaching remains one of the only higher education interventions that has satisfied the rigorous standards of evidence established by the U.S. Department of Education for inclusion in the What Works Clearinghouse.

“An institution’s policies and investments are a statement of values—and priorities— in terms of the students they serve and how they serve them. National University has consistently distinguished itself as a university of choice for students with an incredibly diverse range of needs,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “The insights generated through this partnership will help inform a more caring and holistic approach to supporting student success, ensuring that more students overcome barriers from beyond the classroom to achieve their career and educational aspirations.”

In addition to direct student coaching, InsideTrack provided training to the university’s faculty and staff to build internal capacity for effectively using evidence-based coaching practices. Building on the pilot’s success, National University is pioneering a new program called Programmatic Holistic Student Support, which will embed additional services into academic programs and provide timely outreach and support.

The initiative is part of National University’s broader effort to provide learners with a highly personalized, flexible and affordable education experience. In recent years, the university has tapped into innovative technologies to boost adult learner success, including deploying behaviorally-intelligent chatbots available 24/7 to respond to students, using blockchain credentials to make student transcripts more accessible and redesigning its approach to onboarding to award students credit for prior learning

About National University

National University, a Veteran-founded nonprofit, has been dedicated to meeting the needs of hard-working adults by providing accessible, affordable, achievable higher education opportunities since 1971. As San Diego’s largest private nonprofit university, NU offers over 75 online and on-campus programs and flexible four-week courses designed to help students reach their goals while balancing busy lives. Since its founding, the NU community has grown to over 30,000 students and 185,000 alumni around the globe, many of whom serve in helping industries such as business, education, health care, cybersecurity, and law and criminal justice.

About Inside Track

InsideTrack is passionate about student success. We partner with institutions and organizations to improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our student support methodology uncovers first hand feedback about student goals and challenges. Through strategic guidance, staff training and student coaching, we help institutions turn this feedback into actionable insights that drive better student outcomes. As a nonprofit member of Strada Education Network, we offer partners access to a comprehensive range of student success solutions as well as the latest research and insights on student success. We’ve supported more than 2.5 million students since 2001 and currently serve over 4,000 programs.

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