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StraighterLine's Burck Smith Shares Best Practices at Online Student Success Symposium, OS3

StraighterLine’s CEO and Founder Burck Smith participated in the Online Student Success Symposium (OS3), hosted by BYU-Pathway Worldwide and sponsored by Strada Education Network. OS3 gathered a small group of leaders and professionals from universities offering online learning programs and organizations that provide student support services.

Participants included individuals from the following educational organizations and service providers:



StraighterLine provided insight on how it became a pioneer in using alternative pathways to help colleges grow enrollment, increase yield and persistence. StraighterLine also highlighted different use cases and data from its highly successful “Refer & Return” pathway programs, including how the company:

  • Increases yields for pre-enrollment students
  • Increases persistence for at-risk students
  • Bridges back stop-out students


StraighterLine provided insight on how it became a pioneer in using alternative pathways to help colleges grow enrollment, increase yield and persistence.

Insight from a diverse group of online learning practitioners 

StraighterLine partner college Western Governors University (WGU), one of the country’s largest, online, non-profit universities, looked deep into their experience of delivering a competency-based student centric academic model. In the report, Sarah DeMark, VP of Academic Programs at WGU, shared how they use a program-focused team to support students along personalized pathways. She also discussed how WGU’s Programs and curriculum are built using a modular approach, which provides a scalable solution that has more flexibility for reuse, updating, and continuous improvement.

Service provider ReUp Education, an organization that focuses exclusively on helping universities engage and re-enroll students who have stopped out, discussed key insights based on their work with adult learners and the science of reentry. In the report, ReUp shared how they support stopout learners by defining re-entry as a distinctly different “science.”

StraighterLine partner college Purdue Global, a fully online university tailored for working adults, presented insight into their “Competency Report.” Their Competency Report is powered by a learning model which provides students with the option to take a whole course, or a single outcome of that course, within a term structure. All students earn standard transcripts and a “Competency Report” depicting their outcome-level performance in “real world” competencies that are needed by employers.

InsideTrack, an adaptive and technology-enabled student coaching program service provider, gave insight into how coaching and mentoring tools can work together to increase student equity and social mobility. Pete Wheelan, Ellen Leher, Melanye Thompson, and Mo McKenna from InsideTrack presented examples of how these tools can increase equity and improve outcomes of coaching and mentoring programs, without breaking the budget.

Key takeaways

Participants in OS3 reached consensus on the five key takeaways organizations need “to promote success in the online learning environment.” These include:

  1. Understand current and future student populations.
  2. Design online programs and courses to deliver personalized learning.
  3. Leverage new technologies to optimize the impact of human coaching and mentoring.
  4. Explore multiple models for building community.
  5. Build a data-driven culture of innovation and accountability.

StraighterLine is pleased to continue our commitment to student success through involvement in OS3 and to share data and best practices with institutions of higher ed and related service providers.