Tips for Recruitment and Retention of Online Students

Head Start professionals and parents pursuing their college education will benefit from a strong student support system. This tip sheet--developed for students, faculty, and Head Start managers--includes recommendations considered essential to student success: online student orientation information; academic and registration advice; coursework support as well as a comprehensive website for prospective students.

The following tip sheet is provided courtesy of the Bilingual Bridge Program at the University of Cincinnati Early Childhood Learning Community.

Because of the online program, I am now closing in on a bachelor's degree, after graduating with my associate's degree online a few years ago. Previously, my duties at my work place and at home had prevented me from pursuing a degree at all. Through distance learning, I am able to balance every aspect of my life without feeling guilty of being away from home. The university's support from my first course in 2000 to graduation to making the decision to continue in a bachelor's program, has helped me to succeed in ways I never thought possible.
-Angie, a student in an online program

Helpful Tips Examples
Make accessible and helpful information available prior to enrollment
  • Web site with accreditations, tuition rates, technology needed, how distance education works, (i.e., self-paced, on a semester schedule, what type of student-student and student-instructor interaction), whether the program is focused on professionals working in a child care settings, application procedures and process, a toll-free number to call with questions, what type of orientation to the program is provided before the first course begins, if a campus visit is necessary.
  • Customer-service-oriented, knowledgeable person answering phone calls. Ability to sooth anxious students a plus!
Offer support, not pressure, while the prospective student is making a decision whether to enroll
  • Representatives easily accessible via phone and email to convey program information with compassion and understanding.
  • No sales pitch! Application to any university is a decision that requires careful deliberation on a student's part. When students hear a high pressure approach, they perceive the institution is not committed to providing a long-lasting, high quality educational experience.
Give an online orientation, before the beginning of online coursework
  • Opportunity to learn the technology, without the student's grade being dependent upon his or her developing technology skills.
  • Availability of someone to provide quick response via email or phone for any problems or questions that arise.
Offer academic advising support, while the student is enrolled in classes
  • An academic map of accurate assessment of transfer credit, which courses remain, and a schedule of when to enroll in them, so pre-requisites are met.
  • Consistent and continual communication between advisor and student to ensure each student's educational goal is met as efficiently and as quickly as desired.
  • Flexible course scheduling, so students who drop out a term or two can return without waiting a year to continue their studies.
Provide in-course support
  • Developmental coursework based on placement test results.
  • Online tutoring for writing in EVERY course, not just English courses.
  • Opportunities for student-student interaction as well as instructor-to-student.
Make bilingual support available for Spanish-speakers
  • If coursework is available in Spanish, then availability of all supports also in Spanish.


Tips for Recruitment and Retention of Online Students was developed by the Bilingual Bridge Program at the University of Cincinnati Early Childhood Learning Community under the Innovation and Improvement Project grant from the Office of Head Start, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tips for Recruitment and Retention of Online Students.  Bilingual Bridge Program at the University of Cincinnati Early Childhood Learning Community HHS/ACF/OHS. 2008. English.

Last Reviewed: May 2012

Last Updated: March 23, 2016