How to Intervene with Struggling Learners to Boost Completion Rates

May 18, 2022

Not all students are created equal. While some students may find your learning program’s built-in resources and class sessions sufficient to master the content, others may need a little extra support - especially if they’re juggling personal and professional responsibilities on top of your course. 

That’s why student interventions can be so essential when it comes to getting a pulse on your student experience and helping those at risk of churn get back on track. 

But what are student interventions? And what’s the best way to implement them at your learning program to have the biggest impact? 

Below we dive deep into all things student interventions, including best practices from across some of the biggest live online bootcamps. 

What are student interventions?

Student interventions involve check-ins with learners over the course of your learning program. They’re often most effective when done with learners that may be falling behind or at risk of churn. 

Student interventions can take place across any of your program’s communication channels - whether email, community platform, or a quick call. The goal is to understand what might be going on with that learner and what specific support they may need. 

Why are they important?

While interventions can help get learners back on track, they have other important benefits as well. 

First, interventions help learners feel seen and like your program cares about their progress. They know your program is paying attention to them and wants to support them in their learning journey. 

Second, interventions give learners the opportunity to receive extra support without having to ask for it (since asking for help can be hard!). 

Finally, interventions offer learning programs a deeper understanding of their program’s flaws and how they can improve, whether it’s program structure, confusing tech, or anything else. 

Learn how reduced dropout rates by 50% by leveraging student interventions here

What are intervention best practices?

Interventions are most effective when they keep these best practices in mind:

Timing - It’s important to reach out to learners at early signs of struggle, otherwise, you risk getting to them too late and possibly missing an essential window of opportunity to provide support. That’s why it can be absolutely game-changing to identify early warning signs in your program and establish processes to intervene as soon as learners meet early warning sign criteria. 

Personalization - One of the reasons interventions can be so effective is because they make learners feel like your program cares about their progress and is there to support them. If interventions sound like they’re coming from a robot, they’re a lot easier to ignore. That’s why personalizing your interventions can have such a big effect (and yes, there are definitely ways to automate personalization, as long as follow up is conducted by our next best practice…)

Real Human Support - For interventions to work, a real human ultimately needs to be available to respond, evaluate a learner’s situation, and provide appropriate next steps. While initial outreach can be automated, assigning a real human to take responsibility for a learner’s post-intervention journey is key. 

How many interventions are necessary? 

Intervention practices vary by program, but the overall consensus is that multiple interventions across different channels is key. 

It’s important to build out a progressive intervention flow that takes into consideration whether or not a learner is responsive. For example:

  • When a learner exhibits early warning signs, reach out via Slack to check in and get a sense of what that learner is experiencing. 
  • If the learner responds, use the information provided to determine next steps, such as offering a call or providing extra resources. 
  • If the learner doesn’t respond for a day or two, try reaching out via email or on your LMS. 
  • If no response still after a set period of time, try calling them directly.

How can you know if your learners will succeed in your program? Here are the 2 essential questions to ask them to find out.

How can your team build an effective intervention system?

There are a few ways you can put this system into place at your organization. 


Manually track signals important to your program (attendance data, assignment submissions, etc.) in a spreadsheet. Designate a member of your team to review this data daily and reach out to students who meet your specified criteria (miss two classes in a row, miss two assignments, etc.). 

Build a student CRM with No-Code Tools: 

Use Airtable and Zapier to build your own student CRM. Set up Zaps to auto-pull data into your student CRM Airtable, such as community engagement data from Slack, assessment data from your LMS, RSVP data from Google Calendar, and attendance data from Virtually. 

Learn how to create your own student CRM (and access a free starter template!) here

Use Virtually’s Student Relationship Manager (coming soon) 

Virtually’s Student Relationship Manager (SRM) offers a fully automated option to keep tabs on your learners and intervene to prevent churn. 

The SRM automates data collection from across all of your different tools - attendance, feedback, community engagement, etc. -  flags at risk students based on custom triggers you create, and automatically reaches out to flagged learners to check in and offer support. 

Curious to learn more? Sign up for the waitlist here

Read Next: How to Use Data to Create Better Learning Experiences

Laura Marks

Laura Marks is Head of Customer Experience at Virtually