Student Engagement In Higher Education
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Higher Educational Engagement

Higher education institutions, since the beginning of implementation, whether for-profit or non-profit, are considered big businesses. Every business has a plan, purpose, and goal. Higher education institutions' customers are its students. Students pay for a service, which is education. In return, students receive the best possible education the institution of their choice can provide. With that in mind, not every institution provides the same quality service. The consumers must research these institutions individually to find an institution that fits each student’s particular needs. Statistics show 56% of students enrolling at traditional universities in America today graduate within a six-year time span. For Hispanic students that number is 49%, and for African American students, it is 42%. Within the community college system, less than 30% of candidates who start as full-time students graduate with an associate degree in a three-year time span.

With these rates reaching an all-time high yearly, institutions are searching for student engagement methods to help retain students and lead them to graduation. One of the many theories in place that universities are using to combat the drop-out rate is Tinto’s original student engagement theory. U.S. data shows college graduates earn substantially more than high school graduates. Part of this differential can be attributed to student selection, high school graduates with accelerated abilities or proven educational devotion are more likely to graduate from a four-year university program.

Student engagement can be defined as 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. High school is a pivotal point in a young adult's life. It is a time that you form life-time friends, you start to form life opinions, and you begin to understand who you are and what is important to you. Before students even begin the process of transitioning to a higher education institution, they are making decisions that will affect their desired outcomes in their college careers.

When a student moves from home to college, that student faces many challenges in transitioning to adulthood. Many factors can lead to a university not being able to retain a student or the student is not successful. One of the most common factors of student engagement revolves around activities related to student needs. Student engagement, through which the student is involved in the higher education (HE) experience as deeply as possible, though a more recent concern, represents an obvious positive response to the problem of student retention.

Higher education institutions since the beginning of implementation whether for-profit or non-profit, are considered big businesses. If they are for-profit, the university has a responsibility to shareholders to retain students and make profitable goals. Non-profit universities have a responsibility to government statutes to keep funding. When the public university loses resources due to student retention the university suffers.

How Is Student Engagement Created?

Student engagement has taken many forms since its inception. Most known are the typical student orientation and student counselors. As studies are being done on students who have withdrawn from school, researchers are discovering that these tactics on their own are not enough. Student engagement as being the result of the students’ teaching and learning experiences but also, crucially, their integration. By integration, he means Tinto’s concept of social and academic integration; that is, a student’s sense that they belong—an emotional connection. By building emotional bonds with student’s universities hope to fill voids in a student’s life. By engaging them in activities and building social and mental bonds student attrition and development can be fostered.

National data surveys have continuously shown that students who are fully engaged in a liberal arts campus have higher retention rates and graduate at higher rates than students who do not take advantage of engagement opportunities. High-engagement activities ranging from service learning to undergraduate research and study abroad programs provide students with experiences that engage their intellect, grow communication skills, build self-discipline, and promote confidence that helps mode the students mentally.

Non-Organic Engagement As Effective As Organic

Certain programs offered to students in a required or non-organic fashion can be as effective in engaging students if the programs are embraced by faculty and all members involved. Major course curriculum redesign can be achieved through buy-in commitment by faculty members. An institution should consult former and current students to raise a more impactful course curriculum. Students will embrace the changes to the course as they realize the restructuring and the resulting beneficial increase in workload were necessary to raise the relevance of the course to their future professional goals. Programs that involve redirection from current or past students are more successful in integration as they can incorporate the current student's emotional state and understanding. Research was conducted on a pharmacist’s program that redesigned its student engagement program. The research concluded, utilizing the perspective of former students, who are now professionals in their field, was recognized as the key to understanding how to make the course more applicable to real-world situations and relevant for the current students.

Engagement Fostered In The Online Educational Environment

Online learning, also known as distance learning, has evolved over the past decade due to the influence of technology throughout the world. Online learning has become very popular amongst non-traditional students. These online programs allow for the working adult a way to gain education without ever stepping into a classroom. Online learning is an appealing educational option because it offers flexibility and convenience to students. However, a leading concern amongst scholars prevails in how to keep students motivated and engaged in the online setting.

Engagement is a key factor in online learning where student retention rates are lower than in the traditional face-to-face environment. If a program allows for multiple ways to contact the instructor and the instructor is easily accessible, the program can become successful in fostering student engagement. An online program must not only focus on the educational aspect of the student, but the instructor must also be committed to building a relationship with their students.

Innovative, “Outside The Box” Methods

Educational research indicates that the longer a university can retain a student on campus and in an academic environment the greater their chance for academic growth and success. Retention should be a key strategy for success, higher education institutions must consider design solutions that offer a welcoming environment for students outside the classroom. Modern students face many distractions, and when they commute to a college those distractions can be magnified.

By introducing an area that can connect students to the campus can improve student retention. One step in this remodel is to offer spaces with various seating options for students. These student options should accommodate individuals and groups alike. There should also be recommendations made for noise control due to echoes and technology. This out-of-the-box thinking idea can boost student engagement by helping build relationships through communication.

References: 

  • Bolliger, D. U., & Martin, F. (2018). Instructor and student perceptions of online student engagement strategies. Distance Education, 39(4), 568-583. doi:10.1080/01587919.2018.1520041
  • Brown, R. E. (2019;2001;). the process of community-building in distance learning classes. Online Learning, 5(2), 18. doi:10.24059/olj.v5i2.1876
  • Coupet, J. (2018). Exploring the link between government funding and efficiency in nonprofit colleges. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 29(1), 65-81. doi:10.1002/nml.21309
  • Groccia, J. E. (2018). What is student engagement? New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2018(154), 11-20. doi:10.1002/tl.20287
  • Hendricks, L., & Leukhina, O. (2018). the return to college: Selection and dropout risk. International Economic Review, 59(3), 1077-1102. doi:10.1111/iere.12297
  • Krigman, E. (2010). How to reverse higher ed's dropout crisis?(college completion rates). Nationaljournal.Com
  • Leavitt, B. AIA, LEED,A.P. (2017). Student center(ed): Is the student union the key to retention? Building Design & Construction, Retrieved from <http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-c com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1927195649?accountid=12085>
  • Nunez, E. M. (2013). Collaborative leadership on a liberal arts campus: Supporting student engagement. Peer Review, 15(1), 17.
  • Payne, L. (2019). Student engagement: Three models for its investigation. Journal of further and Higher Education, 43(5), 641-657. doi:10.1080/0309877X.2017.1391186
  • Perepelkin, J. (2012). Redesign of a required undergraduate pharmacy management course to improve student engagement and concept retention. American Journal of Pharmaceutical  Education, 76(10), 201. doi:10.5688/ajpe7610201
  • Tight, M. (2019). Student retention and engagement in higher education. Journal of further and  Higher Education, , 1-16. doi:10.1080/0309877X.2019.1576860
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