Blackboard’s Retention Center: A Fast and Easy Way to Monitor At-Risk Students

“The quality of faculty-student interaction and the student’s integration into the school are central factors in student attrition,” according the University of Chicago’s article Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition (Tinto, 1987.)  Early intervention and dynamic interaction can make a difference in student success.  There are many factors that contribute to a student being at-risk and it is a complex subject.  However, things just became a little easier in identifying students who would benefit from early action.

The Blackboard Learn Retention Center is a remarkable improvement to the Early Warning System and it was part of the New Features upgrade from June, 2013.  The Retention Center provides easy-to-use data visualization and pre-configured rules for identifying at-risk student in a course.  This tool requires no set up and automatically notifies the instructor of students who may need attention, making it easy to respond to risk factors quickly.  Blackboard has four alert categories Missed Deadlines, Grade Alerts, Activity Alerts, and Access Alerts.


  • It all starts with the At-Risk table, which is a snapshot view of students who have triggered alerts which indicate they may be at risk of falling behind in the course.  The At-Risk table is accessible through your courses or the My Blackboard’s Global Navigation
  • The Retention Center allows you to act on alerts as concerns arise. You can monitor and notify students quickly and easily directly from the Retention Center
  • The Retention Center’s At-Risk table has default rules already set up for you.  However, you can customize by creating your own alerts or rules with criteria that meets your needs


Retention Center

What is a rule?

You determine which rule alerts appear in the risk table.  Rules define the criteria which will trigger an alert.  For instance, course missed deadline rules are based on whether the student has missed a deadline in the course.  The default is 1 missed assignment. All the students who have missed 1 deadline will trigger an alert and will be designated in the At-Risk table.   Missed deadline may be an indicator that the student is not exhibiting good time management skills.  Alert rules can be created and customized to fit your criteria.  Perhaps changing the criteria for the missed deadline rule to 2 missed deadlines is more reasonable for your course.  Simply create a new rule, specify the criteria to be 2, and you have customized your Retention Center.  Any of the other 3 categories (Grades, Activity and Access) can be customized the same way.

Learn More

The Blackboard Learn Retention Center is already part of your courses at Northern Illinois University, as part of the New Features upgrade that happened in June, 2013.  To learn more, watch the Blackboard tutorial demonstrating this new feature, or go to the Retention Center page on the the Teaching with Blackboard site.


Tinto, Vincent. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.  Retrieved August 16, 2013 from


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