By mid-October, most new photonics students have experienced their first six weeks of college, and many of them are struggling to keep up. Photonics faculty are also “struggling” to prevent these new students from dropping out or changing majors. Student retention in photonics technician programs is not easy, but it can be achieved if new students are given a vision of the rewarding careers they are preparing for, integrated into the photonics student community, welcomed and encouraged by the faculty, challenged to work hard, and provided effective support to overcome their academic challenges.
Student retention is the major focus of this OPEN issue. Articles by Frank Reed and Chrys Panayiotou describe successful practices that these experienced faculty use to prevent student dropout. The OP-TEC monograph, Best Practices to Improve Retention of Photonics Students, contains advice, strategies and resources for student retention, from seven other experienced faculty. OP-TEC has also developed audio/video tutorials for learning difficult math, science and technology concepts in the course Fundamentals of Light and Lasers. Struggling faculty can benefit greatly from the advice and resources in these four articles. Faculty can also benefit from networking with each other through the LinkedIn Group of the Optics and Photonics College Network (OPCN).