Conquering student engagement presents two great challenges: successfully connecting with students to increase their sense of belonging and measuring how they are engaged.
According to EdGlossary…
“Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.”
We summarized a few definitions from George Kuh, a student development and involvement theorist:
“Student engagement represents the time and effort students devote to activities that are empirically linked to desired outcomes of college and what institutions do to induce students to participate in these activities.”
In fact, you could be reaching many more students with two of your campuses most untapped resources: your students and your institutional or departmental data. It’s time to use student networks and campus partners to get the word out about events and gain feedback. Here are four ways you can spring clean your student engagement strategy to get more students involved.
1. Recruit Social Media Influencers
Student leaders are a good starting point. They have the “in” or the first-hand perspective about how to market and approach your various student audiences effectively. They’re most likely on social media – research shows 96% of first-year students have an online presence.
Even if marketing isn’t their chosen degree, you can ask specific questions and host a brainstorming session to really give your engagement strategy the deep clean it needs. Student peers are some of the best ‘tools’ to connect with students who aren’t engaged. Sometimes you just need to ask!
Student influencers are more likely to share via word-of-mouth. As students have more options of what type of events to attend, they can get lost and end up not attending any events.
Not all student leaders are student influencers (or positive influencers, unfortunately). How do you determine if a student worker, leader, or involved student is an online influencer?
Use a website like Klout to understand and measure how they engage with others, what topics they are passionate about, and encourage them to expand their network if it’s low. This incentive could also be a trade off in showing them how to connect using social media with future employers. Developing skills that influence online can help them now and use those skills to land a job post graduation.
2. Recycle Your Email Campaign
Students check their email. It’s not a thing of the past – yet. But it doesn’t mean they check every e-mail.
A recent study at Bowling Green State University surveyed students on social media, email, and texting habits. 85% of students said they check their university email every day, and if they find a message from a faculty member, they are highly likely to read it. Students were most likely to treat emails from student organizations as spam, with 72% of respondents saying they avoid those messages.
Evaluate your student campus culture. If you’re really stuck on utilizing email to connect with students (and pairing them with other online campaigns like Facebook) it may work.
Experiment using a platform like MailChimp to create reports of how many times students actually open an email and what links they click. Using a software platform to give you hard data about what’s working and what’s not working will help you make decisions surrounding engagement.
Remember posting too many social media messages can be a problem too! You don’t want to come off as pushy or students will unfollow or unsubscribe from your methods of communication. You want to come off as friendly, fun, and helpful. Use a few tried and true methods that work with your students and stick to ’em!
3. Assess Engagement with New Metrics
Anyone who’s ever scuffled with keeping track of student involvement on campus has an idea of how an engagement platform is a valuable tool for institutions: particularly those who are looking to move away from archaic processes and make informed decisions through data.
Why do you need to clean up the data you collect? It’s important you’re collecting and analyzing the right data to make important decisions about student life. This way, you can assess engagement through data and incorporate it into your monthly or yearly strategic engagement plan. On-board a student engagement software platform and make collecting data seamless and easier to digest.
Who is and isn’t attending your events? When a student swipes into an event use software to break down attendee information like: first-time attendees, a specific major, class year, or demographic data your department would like to track.
How have you collected data in the past? Student affairs professionals have relied on head counts and have struggled to decipher handwritten student names emails on paper sign-in sheets to track student data on campus. That creates a lot of work on your end: inputting student information and manually pairing it with other data. By adapting a student involvement card-swipe technology system, you can collect all of the data you need and allow a software to update charts and graphs in real-time for you.
4. Invite Students to Take Ownership of Engagement
Trust your students!
Students who feel like they truly own the process of engaging more students, marketing events and creating a lasting impact on campus will exude more effort. Teams who are high-performing and put out the best work often exhibit a strong culture of ownership of their work, high trust with others, and feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
When was the last time you let students completely take the reign on a project? If you don’t feel comfortable granting a student full access, consider how you can set up a system where they take more ownership over a project.
If you don’t always agree with students, that’s okay too. Just because a project isn’t completed your way, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong way. There’s a great article published by Forbes by Amy Rees Anderson called Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To about why you should let your staff make mistakes.
You hire student staff and student workers because of their expertise or the potential you see in them. Unless you have data or something compelling from a recent experience, let them fly solo for a while.
Listening to Students
Students trust students, and they also build trust with professionals when they actively listen to them and observe engagement patterns.
Student engagement does not happen by chance. Dedicated professionals and students make engagement happen with strategies, metrics, and a vision.
Design a new student engagement strategy that communicates your investment in the student life experience and articulates your knowledge of current student interests.
How are you re-designing or ‘cleaning’ your student engagement strategy this spring?
Tweet us your thoughts and ideas @CheckImHere! Thanks for reading!