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How Can I Promote Enrollment and Retention in Challenging Courses that Motivate Instead of Frustrate?

Presenters: Lolita Paff, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Business and Economics, Penn State Berks

This course is worth 1 hour (0.1 CEU) of professional development. A certificate of completion can be printed once the program has been completed.


About this Course

Many students view gatekeeper courses—or introductory-level courses they must take to fulfill the requirements of their program—as “less important,” “fluff,” or “unnecessarily difficult.” This is often due to the fact that students’ expectations and experiences are not appropriately aligned with the intended learning outcomes of these courses.

There’s certainly a purpose to gatekeeper courses, but how can you convince students of this purpose and help ensure they’re engaged and successful?

In the How Can I Promote Enrollment and Retention in Challenging Courses that Motivate Instead of Frustrate? 20-Minute Mentor program, presented by Lolita Paff, PhD. You’ll explore gatekeeper courses, a commonplace source of mismatched expectations. You’ll examine the factors that impact student expectations and perceptions toward these courses, strategies for understanding why gaps in expectations hinder learning, and how to address these gaps.

Learning goals

Upon completion of this program, you’ll be able to:

  • - Address factors that shift students’ perception of a class from like to dislike
  • - Minimize the “blow off” class phenomenon
  • - Create student buy-in in gatekeeper courses
  • - Convey that you have students’ best interests at heart
  • - Implement strategies that minimize gaps in definitions of rigor in gatekeeper courses

Topics covered

  • Gatekeeper classes
  • The “blow off” class phenomenon
  • Student perceptions toward workload and the factors that influence them
  • Staffing gatekeeper courses
  • Involving students in content or course policy decisions
  • Managing the fine line between challenge and frustration
  • Strategies for coordinating and aligning definitions and expectations


This program will benefit faculty, deans, and program directors.