Engagement is one of the top factors in determining whether a student is likely to succeed in their higher education journey. This includes engagement with the institution, engagement with fellow students, and engagement with their course of study. Colleges and universities have many options when it comes to helping to influence a student’s engagement at multiple levels. Here are a few top strategies, along with ideas for how to get started with them.
This strategy is one that many professors and instructors already abide by. The old lecture format may work for some subjects and some specific courses, but for the most part, classes that encourage participation are more likely to engage students and help them succeed.
While this seems like a no-brainer for many instructors, it’s not always easy to spot opportunities to encourage student participation, and there are a few pitfalls to consider. For example, there are bound to be some students eager to voice their opinions or get involved in conversations, and that can make it all the more difficult for shy students to speak up.
Or those students may not see the value in doing so, especially if this kind of participation isn’t explicitly tied to a grade. Students who want to participate shouldn’t be discouraged from doing so, but it can be good to ask to move on to other viewpoints once theirs have been established. Likewise, while a more reluctant student shouldn’t be forced into a needlessly uncomfortable situation, instructors should look for ways to encourage them to participate that will work more naturally for the student.
Many resources exist for helping instructors come up with meaningful participation ideas, and these ideas vary greatly depending on the subject matter, the course level, and the unique student population, so we won’t dive into those ideas here.
However, an institution needs to consider whether they’re doing everything they can to empower instructors to empower their students to participate. Encouraging faculty is one thing, but making sure they have the tools, resources, and backing to bring thought-provoking ideas and conversations into the classroom is another.
Aside from encouraging conversations during class time, instructors can also use active learning, which involves hands-on, interactive experiences that require students to apply their knowledge. This strategy can also extend to different services available at your institution, such as tutoring.
According to the University of Minnesota, active learning strategies are shown through evidence to improve student outcomes, both in their likeliness to succeed and in their opinions of their instructors and the institution as a whole.
Obviously, the first step in successfully implementing these strategies is to select activities that are meaningful and align with the desired learning outcomes for students, but simply implementing these strategies isn’t enough to improve student engagement. This should also involve explaining the purpose of these assignments or activities to students so that they aren’t kept in the dark about their purpose, addressing challenges as they arise for individual students and the group as a whole, and gathering feedback in order to improve on these strategies in the future.
Social media is a large beast but a powerful tool not only for recruiting students but also for keeping them engaged once they enroll. It’s not enough for a college or university to have a Facebook or X account; posts there are essentially useless if they’re not meeting students where they are. Just like in the classroom, institutions need to understand their unique populations, which includes which platforms they’re using and how they’re using them. This doesn’t mean staying on top of broad trends like the latest TikTok dances, either; schools that do things like that will likely find themselves seeming out of date or pandering and losing engagement quickly.
It can be very useful to hire a consultant who is an expert in social media or do focus groups with students to see what sort of social media posts they would respond well to and where they would be most likely to see those posts. Consider encouraging engagement with contests, rewards, and other incentives.
One pitfall of social media is that it can be extremely hard to moderate, especially given that to reach the highest number of students, accounts should be made public. Private groups can ensure that only students have access to posts, but it can also be difficult to make sure as many students as possible are aware of them and to verify membership.
This is where a program like AccuCampus can come in handy. AccuCampus is only accessible by verified members of your institution, and interactions between students and each other or students and staff members can be monitored and restricted according to your needs.
Just as you should make engagement with your institution easy for students, you should also make it very easy for them to communicate their needs and get responses from the right people. To continue with the topic of social media, for example, different platforms provide ways for students to message the institution’s social media account directly, so it’s important to make sure that whoever controls the accounts is also aware of how to check messages and know how to respond appropriately to concerns, both in substance and in speediness.
A clear line of communication should be established for questions the social media account manager doesn’t know how to answer so that the student can be referred to the right person quickly, with as little additional effort on their part as possible.
Outside of social media, there are many ways to make communication with various departments easy. Emails, phone numbers, and other communication methods should be readily available to students through the institution’s website and any other spots where students are likely to see it, and staff and faculty should be encouraged to respond to requests as quickly and professionally as possible.
Sometimes, however, even with all this framework, students aren’t quite sure where to go for help with a particular problem. Use a tool like the AccuCampus Campus Compass to anticipate common questions students might ask and direct them to appropriate resources or offer a generalized help desk staffed by people who are knowledgeable in the various services your school offers. Assume that if a student doesn’t know who can answer their question, they’ll either contact the first person or number they see or if it’s too complicated, they may not reach out at all.
The most effective institutions know where their students are and what they’re doing. This doesn’t mean using fancy or particularly expensive equipment; it simply means that each instructor should be aware of their student’s progress in order to provide personalized feedback, and each office should know who’s visiting and what they’re coming in for.
AccuCampus makes it easy to track student progress across both quantitative and qualitative data, such as GPA, academic standing, and use of resources. You can set up sign-in stations for each of your institution’s resources and track students according to the centers’ unique needs. This can be compared with the instructors’ notes and data about each student to get a clear idea of where students are at and provide personalized support accordingly.
For example, students who are excelling can be referred to potential scholarship or internship opportunities or recommended for peer tutoring positions, which can help keep them engaged as they move through their degree program. Students who are struggling can be referred to resources that can assist them, such as tutoring or other related labs.
These kinds of reachouts are much easier to do when you have a full picture of the student’s activity on campus, and it’s much easier to get that picture when you have the right tools. AccuCampus also includes predictive analytics based on historical data, which can give you a clearer picture of who needs to reach out to for different reasons.
Finally, one thing your institution may not be tracking, but definitely should, is student feedback. There are many tools, including AccuCampus, that make it easy to create and send surveys to students, but the key is asking for the feedback you need at the right time.
This will help ensure that you don’t overwhelm students and that you are also requesting feedback in a timely manner. For example, instead of sending out a survey to students who attend tutoring at the end of the term when students may no longer remember their experience or after each session, which may be overwhelming, you can set a survey to only request feedback after every three sessions, or whatever number makes sense for you.
Whether it’s in-classroom strategies or ways institutions can help students feel connected to their fellow students and the services available to them, there are lots of ways to help students feel engaged in their school and, in turn, increase their likelihood of success, both in their degree program and beyond graduation.
Students who feel connected to their school will also be more likely to recommend it to others and to support the institution after graduation, so there really is no downside to implementing thoughtful engagement strategies.
But no matter what strategy you employ, it’s likely that you’ll need software to make it happen. AccuCampus is a great tool that can assist with many of these methods, and we’d love to talk to you more about how it can help your school. Get in touch with us today for a complimentary consultation.