Increasing student engagement is a priority for all colleges that aspire to academic success. Before the widespread implementation of Internet-based tools, the strategies available were straightforward, allowing the staff to focus on administrative and scholarly matters.
But today, in the heavily-digitized society we are living in, simplicity seems to be no longer available to us. Multiple ongoing streams of information don’t only boggle down the staff but also consume the students’ attention in ways that are not necessarily beneficial.
As student engagement evolves as a complex challenge, colleges are creatively using digital tools to find success. It is on the same digital front where the solutions to engagement can be found and utilized. Colleges now must use digital mediums in their favor, catching students’ attention at the right place and time.
At KlassApps, we have been developing and distributing digital tools that help colleges and universities to succeed. In the following lines, we will explore what it takes to increase student engagement during these busy times.
Attention in the Era of Distraction
A recent study by researchers at Baylor University in Texas found that college students spend between 8 and 10 hours a day using their smartphones. This remarkably high number is just a footnote to what we already know: smartphones are a fundamental part of our daily lives.
For higher education students, smartphones represent an invaluable tool for communication and research. No student seems to be able to complete an assignment without the assistance of a few Google searches. When a desktop computer or laptop isn’t at hand, the smartphone is often enough.
For institutions, the challenge is significant. On those smartphones, multiple streams of information are battling for the user’s attention. It is a fight against social media, news outlets, flashy ads, video games, and nonstop flows of messages from friends and family. The amount of attention that students have left is quite reduced, if not non-existent.
Increasing student engagement is virtually impossible if the college doesn’t implement the techniques and tools necessary to hold some of that available attention. We should be expecting distracted students.
Mobile Devices as the Main Avenue of Communication
As academic life slowly yet surely transitions toward a digital plane, mobile devices have become the main avenue of communication over in-person meetings, emails, and video conferences.
The smartphone and its connectivity features must be the centerpiece of our student engagement strategy. This is the current communication lifeline between students and institutions.
Real-time or instant messaging transformed the nature of Internet-based technologies and provided a highly convenient medium for us to communicate with others. Since its early implementation more than two decades ago, instant messaging became the first choice for many and college students have yet to be the exception to this.
Institutions of all kinds have been using instant messaging more and more to connect with their stakeholders. In the case of colleges and universities, the convenience of this medium is indisputable, as students favor this technology.
SMS is a valid, widely-used medium that colleges use nowadays. There is nothing wrong with this rather established channel. However, digital tools expand communication capabilities, making the connection between the staff and the student body richer and more productive.
A good example of a digital tool that makes the most of this medium is Edular, which offers both college staff and students a way to communicate instantly, in real-time, through live chat. This reduces friction, making communication easy and convenient. Colleges that are choosing to communicate with students this way can improve their chances of greater student engagement as regular communication barriers are taken down.
Reducing Friction with Simplified and Automated Workflows
Students are being bombarded with information on a daily basis. Therefore, give them a complex process to go through and your institution will find itself swimming against the current.
In the battle for increased student engagement, we need to make processes very simple and leverage available automation technologies.
For example, students can engage further with their learning commitments when they enjoy easy access to up-to-date grades and academic progress. This is a difficult benefit to provide when the college staff is responsible for manually processing this data. Safely storing grade information on the SIS and then figuring out a way to present this data to the students is a process that can be simplified and automated with digital tools. This translates into a better student experience and therefore, higher engagement.
Today, the workflow described above and many others related to admissions, financial aid, attendance, grading, and more can be automated, which releases the staff from thousands of hours of valuable work and grants faster, easier access for students to review their academic data.
Academic engagement benefits when relevant data is at the service of the students. To make this effort worthwhile, nowadays we can reduce the friction by streamlining and automating processes.
Colleges all around the world are in the process of reviewing their workflows, both internal and the ones involving student action, to optimize for greater convenience and efficiency.
Smartphones have a big role in this. Powerful apps such as Edular connect the student-facing app to the institution’s platform, eliminating human intermediaries. By creating straightforward processes, also with the help of Edular, students can simply use their mobile devices to go through the process they need, logging in, submitting information, uploading documentation, and reviewing relevant data.
The Bottom Line
Increasing student engagement in 2023 is only possible by leveraging the digital tools at our disposal. With endless streams of information assaulting students at every step, colleges must step up with creativity and convenience.
As suggested before, the smartphone is at the core of this challenge. Instead of seeing the widespread use of mobile devices as an issue related to students’ attention, institutions can see it as an opportunity to provide better student experiences and stay connected with them.
At the end of the day, students want to succeed and graduate. Thriving institutions work to facilitate this. Student engagement is at the heart of this much-desired academic success, one that isn’t possible if the digital tools aren’t playing in the student’s favor.