Retention Made Easier with CourseKey

Retention Made Easier with CourseKey



Does your career school track student attendance and skills using pen and paper? If so, you may be experiencing delayed and inaccurate data, resulting in late R2T4 calculations, tedious backtracking to verify student data, and students dropping out unexpectedly.

With CourseKey’s revolutionary mobile attendance solution, you can instantly collect student attendance in any environment, whether on-ground, online, or off-site, and view the data in real-time through simple dashboards. CourseKey also integrates with your SIS and LMS to eliminate updating records by hand and let your instructors and admins focus on what matters most: your students. Visit to learn why over 200 career college campuses trust CourseKey to increase their retention, compliance, and efficiency.


CourseKey’s Suite of Applications



Secure Attendance Tracking for Any Learning Environment

The simplest and most accurate way for your organization to automate collection of student attendance, whether credit or clock hour, or synchronous or asynchronous.

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Vocational-Focused Engagement Tools

Enable instructors to digitally evaluate students, push out activities, surveys, quizzes, and tests, or track required student activities via their own device.

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Real-Time Dashboards and Reports

CourseKey Retain makes it easier than ever for your organization to identify at-risk students and execute proactive retention strategies via data visualizations.

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Audit-Ready Record Keeping

CourseKey Comply takes the stress out of audits by automating reports that can be easily shared with regulators.

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San Diego, California 92110


Founder and CEO of CourseKey.



Lee Doubleday: Hi. Welcome to another episode of Career College Central Radio. Our guest on today’s podcast is Luke Sophinos. Luke is the founder and CEO of CourseKey. And for those of you who don’t know, CourseKey helps career colleges boost retention, maintain compliance, and deliver exceptional learning outcomes through their industry-leading career college management software. With CourseKey’s revolutionary mobile attendance solution, you can instantly collect student attendance in any environment—whether that’s on-ground, online, or off-site, as many of us are now these days—and view the data in real-time through simple dashboards. CourseKey also integrates with your SIS and LMS systems to eliminate updating records by hand and let your instructors and admins focus on what matters most: your students. Today we want to talk about retention. As an industry-leading provider of software that helps schools with retention, we couldn’t think of anybody better to speak to than Luke Sophinos with CourseKey. Welcome to the show, Luke.
Luke Sophinos: Hey, thanks for having me. Good to be here.
Lee: Yeah. And most of our audience is very familiar with what retention is, and keeping students from their first day to the day that they graduate is vitally important. But can you briefly explain what it—or why this is so important for our schools to be thinking about their retention strategy, and maybe some obstacles that they typically face when dealing with retention?
Luke: Yeah, absolutely. So, when we look at retention, we really look at it as the lifeblood of career colleges and of our businesses, right? It’s so important to make sure that a student—after they enroll, that we get them through graduation, and we get them into a job. And it’s this really interesting virtuous cycle because if they do that, they typically tell their friends [inaudible] the enrollment side. So, it’s just so important to do everything that we can as institutions and as leaders at these schools to continuously drive up those rates. In terms of what I see schools kind of struggle with today is just a vast amount of different applications that they’re leveraging and trying to make sense of all that data to really tell a retention story. When you’re using a CRM and an SIS and an LMS and an app for this, an app for that—it becomes incredibly time-consuming to just even understand where you’re at from a retention standpoint. And, so, we’ll talk a little bit about that today. But that’s our goal of CourseKey is to really aggregate the data from any application that you’re using and give you that retention story in real-time.
Lee: Yeah, to make things a little bit more clear. To your point, you’re running a bunch of different apps, and it can be really confusing and time-consuming to pull out that data. But what are some of the impacts of not addressing this retention issue?
Luke: Yeah, I mean, not addressing it can be incredibly problematic or at a minimum standpoint, it can lead to findings if we start having too much attrition that are in a little bit of trouble with our accreditation body. And it can also lead all the way up to a school getting shut down if that rate gets too low. But the thing I don’t think we think about enough is how retention impacts enrollment, right, and the number one driver of new students that I constantly hear from CEOs in the space is referrals—students telling other students. So, if we have strong retention, we probably have strong enrollment. And, so, it’s this cycle that’s just deeply important.
Lee: Strong retention, strong referrals, strong enrollments.
Luke: Yes.
Lee: Got it. Okay. Now, I’m sure schools are doing a lot to try to address this retention issue. And as someone who comes in and helps schools address that issue, I’m sure you’ve seen a number of ineffective ways that schools are trying to address retention. Can you kind of talk a little bit about some of the things that you’ve seen, being that schools may have good intentions in trying to adjust retention that just aren’t as effective?
Luke: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I think every school has good intentions, right? Everyone wants to do better. Everybody wants to make sure that the students that enroll ultimately graduate and ultimately get a great job. Our sector has been really phenomenal in having this focus, which is night and day from a traditional institution. They don’t really care. And so that’s the beautiful thing, I think, about our sector. Now, what we typically see institutions doing is just trying to pull all this data out of all of their systems. As technology has advanced, I think one of the challenges is we’ve all entered app overload. When I look at my phone there’s about 96 different applications. I think I use half of them, and I probably pay for more than half of those. So, the same thing has happened at our career colleges and at our schools. And when you’re in app overload, it just becomes so hard to aggregate the data. And, so, we see all of our schools who are trying to work on student retention of pulling out spreadsheets and pulling out reports from the SIS and from the LMS and from our attendance tool and from this and from that. And manually trying to understand the data and tell a story for their CEO, who says, “Hey, what’s our retention at? I want to see it this week.” So it just becomes really challenging. And it’s not proactive. It’s really reactive because by the time you find out, something bad has happened.
Lee: Yeah. That’s a really great point. So let’s talk a little bit about CourseKey. How is CourseKey helping combat issues like this?
Luke: Yeah. So, what we do is we’ve built a retention product, really in partnership with all the large career colleges in the space, or at least quite a few of them. And what it does is it aggregates data from every single application that you’re using. And we started with the SIS and the LMS, and then, of course, the attendance products. And what it does is it basically pulls in all that information into one place, and then it enables you to create risk scores. So, risk score is similar to like a FICO score for education. So, we think that low attendance creates retention risk, which it probably does. We think that any grade below an 80% creates retention risk, which it probably does. We think that students who show up late over 5% of the time creates retention risk. We think folks that haven’t been in the learning management system for X amount of days creates retention risk. And we’ve enabled you to basically create risk buckets based on all these different characteristics that your school deems important. And then we’re going to surface all those students into your email inbox every single day about who you need to focus on.
Lee: Yeah. That’s awesome. So, it’s basically a living, breathing—to your point, kind of a credit score of the student saying, hey, maybe it starts at low risk, and then eventually it’s moving in a direction or staying, hopefully, low risk the entire time. Now, when you say access, do you mean access course materials? So, the teacher kind of knows, “Hey, this student obviously is not doing the homework that I’m assigning them.” So those systems all have to speak to each other. Does CourseKey integrate with a lot of systems, or do you offer the whole thing as something that you offer? Talk to them about—
Luke: Yeah. Integration is really where we spend most of our time. Our focus is on pulling all of the data out of every system that you’re using and being able to leverage that data for different things—in this case, retention. And so, your point about tied to content? Yeah, what we do is—you can almost think we’ve got it like a magic robot.
Lee: Yeah.
Luke: It’s scanning, learning new management system, and basically seeing who’s accessing, and who’s completing activities. And who’s not. And then that magic robot is doing the same thing in the SIS, in other applications that you’re using. And so, and then that magic robot is sending you an email with who’s actually at risk.
Lee: Yeah, so this is a lot more than just attendance. I mean, I think a lot of people think of attendance as, like, roll call—when you’re in school, you know? But this is so much deeper than that. If you’re kind of constantly keeping your finger to the pulse of the students that are at your school, and then when flags are raised addressing them, it’s a lot more proactive than just reactive, trying to pull this from a bunch of different apps, like we had mentioned earlier. I think this is fantastic. This is big. So, what have you seen as result of implementing CourseKey software at some of the schools that you work with?
Luke: Yeah, so we see—in terms of, specifically, this retention product—we see a multiple-percentage-point increase. In retention. And so, you look at your school, with 500 students, or 1,000 students. Couple percentage points can be 30, 40, 50 students that would’ve otherwise dropped out. And so, we’re seeing really strong early data, we’re really excited about it. And yeah, again, it’s way more than attendance. I think CourseKey is known for attendance, but CourseKey—we’ve now raised almost $30 million in capital, we’ve gone on to do a lot more than just attendance data.
Lee: Wow, that’s fantastic. So okay, let’s say that I’m a student that comes up as high-risk. What are some of the ways that schools would deal with that situation?
Luke: Yeah. So, basically, what we do is we—after you’ve set these parameters around what equates to risk?
Lee: Okay.
Luke: You’re going to get an email in your inbox every day. And who that email goes to is completely customizable.
Lee: Okay.
Luke: So, if you are the program director for nursing, you’re going to get a batch every day of who the nursing students that are at risk—and they’re at-risk based on attendance, academics, you know. Their activity in the LMS, how many times they’ve been late in the past couple of weeks, whatever. And then, when you get that email, you’re going to have the ability to reach out directly to them via text, via phone call, via email. And we’re working on actually even automating the reach-out part as well.
Lee: That was going to be my next question, yeah. So, you guys are doing—okay. So you provide this system that says, “Lee Doubleday is at high-risk.” And the system that the individual—the nursing director in this case—can log in to and message the student about, “Hey, I see you didn’t access the homework.” Or, “I didn’t see you in class today, what’s going on?” That kind of thing.
Luke: Yes, exactly. Exactly. And then, coming soon will be—that’ll be automated. But the piece that we didn’t touch on—and I think it’s also really interesting—is you also have a dashboard. And in that dashboard, you can actually see all of your risk trends over time. So, I can see my severe risk students on—you almost think about it like a line graph, right? And I can see that over time, I’ve greatly decreased my severe risk students because I’m doing automated outreach. Because I’m getting data in real-time for the first time ever.
Lee: Right.
Luke: And so now, you have a whole retention story on dashboards. And you can see, literally, the dollar impact that—
Lee: Oh, yeah.
Luke: —that you’re having. And how much money you’re saving as a result of this.
Lee: Yeah, easy, easy. So let’s say that I’m the president of a school. I can have a certain level of access on the dashboard that can see where students are, and then the nursing director—or whoever’s in charge of the nursing students—will be the one who receives the emails that says, “Hey,” about their particular students. But if I have an automotive department and an automotive teacher, they could get the same thing, but for their students, right?
Luke: Exactly. Yep. 100% on the money. And it just gets you away from how 99% of the schools that we see operating today where they have a weekly leadership meeting or a weekly staff meeting. And one of the key topics that they cover is retention. And what I think a lot of presidents don’t necessarily realize is, the time that it’s taking for them to aggregate that, to present that in that weekly meeting, and then we’re presenting it typically on a spreadsheet or something that we probably don’t know has a lot of data integrity. And so now you’re going to have a dashboard, you can pull it up on your iPhone from the beach at any point in time and understand exactly what’s happening from the venture standpoint.
Lee: Yeah. And to your point on that meeting, they’re probably dealing with the results of having not known what they should know in real-time. You know? At that meeting, they’re talking about why is the retention not good, you know? Or “OK, how do we improve this?” As opposed to, “Hey, I see what’s going on. It looks like this is our average at-risk student, and how do we address this?” And it sounds like CourseKey would do a great job at helping them do that.
Luke: Yeah. And instead of sitting in that meeting in—spending the week before to aggregate who’s at risk. And then we sit in that meeting and figure out what you’re going to do about it. Instead, we need to spend all that time we spent aggregating that information and collecting it. And I call it A-Task or C-Task. We spend it on A-Task now, which is saving students, and supporting students, and getting them back on the right track. As opposed to collecting data from eight different places and figuring out where we even are.
Lee: Right, yeah. Awesome. Now, if I listen to this podcast, and I’d like some more information on CourseKey, where should I go?
Luke: Yeah, absolutely. So, There’s a demo request form that you can fill out if—and we’re offering 90 days free on this retention product. So, you can literally try it at no risk. And if you want to do that, you can head over to our website and check it out.
Lee: Awesome. Okay. Well, Luke, it’s been awesome having you on the podcast today and thank you for joining us.
Luke: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me, Lee. Really appreciate it.

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