Exploring the Importance of Early Alert Programs in Improving Learning in Selected Public Universities in South Africa
AbstractWhile many student retention and support programs are already in place in higher education, the unrelenting challenge of high student drop out in the first year of study requires scrutiny of the perceived promising high impact programs through empirical research. This paper which is part of a larger project on the implementation of student retention programs, explored the implementation of one promising retention program called “early warning or alert” in two conveniently selected public universities. A mixed method approach was used whereby qualitative data and quantitative data were corroborated at data collection and analysis stages. Data were gathered from four purposively selected student retention institutional leaders. These leaders responded to in-depth interviews. The research also heavily sought institutional documents for document analysis. The findings were analysed inductively and presented thematically. The study found that early alert programs were an important national strategy for improving students’ performance and retention. The alert program improved decision making, planning and allocation of resources. However, program marketing, lack of professional capacity to handle all the required processes and negative students’ attitudes towards the program were found to beset the programme success. The study recommends that public universities increase individuals providing alert and intervention processes, and to orient students about the program.
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