Ginny Cottrill

Ginny Cottrill received an award for a session she presented at the Ohio Academic Advising Association’s annual conference. OHAAA will send Cottrill to present her session at the National Academic Advising Association’s Region 5 conference in April.

Photographer: Joe Bell

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eLearning employee receives best session award at OHAAA conference

Ginny Cottrill, retention coordinator and academic advisor in eLearning OHIO, received the 2014 Best of OHAAA award for a session she presented at the Ohio Academic Advising Association’s annual conference on June 20 in Columbus.

Cottrill was notified of the honor in July. OHAAA will send Cottrill to present her session again at the National Academic Advising Association’s Region 5 conference in Indianapolis in April 2015.

Cottrill’s session – titled “What Happens When They Leave?” – focused on a study she completed for her dissertation that examined what factors prompted first-generation, Appalachian students to drop out of college during or after the first year. Session attendees read through scenarios to predict if Cottrill’s study participants ever returned to college to complete a degree. After session attendees guessed at the outcomes, Cottrill revealed what really happened to the study participants.

On the session evaluation one participant wrote the most meaningful part of the session was “hearing about different students and the paths they took.” Another responder wrote, “It was fun guessing what happened next with the student.” Cottrill said participants enjoyed the retention content and guessing the study participants’ fates.

“It opened up a lot of ideas as to what can be done at individual institutions to reach out to former students and encourage them to complete their degrees,” Cottrill said of the session. “Sometimes those obstacles to completing their degree can be resolved, and they can return to college once they have their other priorities managed.”

Since receiving her doctorate in May from the Patton College of Education, Cottrill has been applying lessons she learned from her dissertation study to improving retention efforts with eCampus online and print-based students.

“It helps me understand a little bit more with our nontraditional students. Just because they stop out doesn’t mean they’re dropping out. We need to keep in touch with them and encourage them that when the time is right they can return to their studies,” she said.

Among other actions that encourage students to continue on or come back to the University, Cottrill has developed a newsletter for Correctional Education students. Since launching in April, the Correctional Education newsletter has been well-received by incarcerated students. Charles, one of those students, expressed the appeal of the newsletter in a letter to eLearning.

“This was a great idea as the incarcerated students are so greatly segregated. Because of this, we do not know much of what happens at the school or even what the school looks like,” he wrote. The newsletter includes current news, tips for student success, and photos of the campus. Similar content has been incorporated into a weekly e-mail newsletter for online degree completion students.

Carissa Anderson, assistant dean for Regional Higher Education and director of eLearning OHIO Student Services, said she was pleased with the student feedback.  

“I am encouraged by the positive response so far, and I hope this correlates to an increase in the number of students who continue on each semester,” Anderson said.