There’s been solid evidence for decades that frequent faculty-student interactions can have a powerful, beneficial effect on student persistence. Studies have consistently found that the frequency and clarity of communication between students and faculty can predict student success better, in some cases, than characteristics like socioeconomic status or prior educational attainment. (If you’re looking for a good summary of some of this research, this paper by scholars at Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research offers a nice overview in its introductory section.)
One small but important implication of these findings is that frequent communication–especially if it is topical and related in some way to the intellectual matters of a course–is an excellent way to promote student persistence. This follows common sense as well, since it’s not surprising that when students see their instructor takes the time to send messages, post announcements, or contribute to online course discussions they’re more likely to feel that instructor is invested in their success. Small actions can have a big impact. Something as simple as a weekly announcement previewing what’s coming in the week ahead or providing some context for a new topic or assignment may be all that’s needed.