What Outreach Style Fits Me?
There are many ways to approach academic probation outreach. You and your department have many options to choose from when alerting and supporting students who have fallen out of good academic standing. Your preferred outreach style will be dependent on many factors:
Constraints on your time. How quick and efficient do you need to be? Can large chunks of time be carved out of your calendar, or will you need to find ways to condense the outreach? Will the outreach be electronic or face-to-face? One-on-one or in a group setting? A single contact, or reoccurring interactions?
Size of your probation population. The number of students you need to reach will determine if an individual personalized or all-encompassing mass outreach effort is a better choice. The type of support a student needs is certainly not one-size-fits all, but some circumstances might justify a one-size-fits-most approach. Weigh the pros and cons of each option.
Available budget. Outreach can be as simple and zero-cost as an email, or it can be as complex as a multi-week workshop with related expenses. Think about if your preferred method of outreach will require any special supplies: such as food, retreat space, assigned texts, software, or general study materials.
Time of year. The type of outreach you do will be impacted by the seasonality of the academic year. Consider how a Fall/Spring outreach plan might be different from a Summer plan. Many support programs, such as tutoring services, are not available in the summer. And lots of students can find themselves far from campus, out of the state or the country. Outreach efforts should be sensitive to these fluctuations.
Department Culture and Tone: Students’ response rates and level of involvement in your outreach efforts can vary widely. Some will gladly accept your offer for help, while others will refuse it. So ask yourself, will the outreach be voluntary or required? Can students opt in and out as they wish? Will the outreach be accompanied by a system of rewards and/or consequences? Consider what sort of philosophy will be embraced by your unit.
Academic probation outreach falls into one of three categories.
Pros: can be done very quickly and last minute, require little advanced planning, can address large student populations in one fellow sweep, no special costs associated, practically free!
Cons: surface-level outreach, may seem like generic solution from the student perspective, heavily dependent on referrals to other campus resources, few follow-up opportunities, puts a great amount of responsibility on student to follow through
Pros: Provides several opportunities for face-to-face contact with students, personalized and more meaningful conversations, results in high quality advisor-student rapport, routine check-ins results in greater student accountability and follow-through likelihood, extremely impactful with great success rates
Cons: requires extensive amounts of advanced planning and facilitation time, typically requires access to a budget/funding, works best with smaller student cohorts, can be subject to time conflicts impeding student participation.
A lovely little mix of the low investment and high investment outreach options. The best of both worlds!