What strategies exist for student engagement and retention?

How can you increase student engagement on your campus?

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 14 Mar 2023
Author Lawrie Jones
What strategies exist for student engagement and retention?

Student engagement can increase retention and enhance performance, but many academic organizations need help transforming words on a page into a practical action plan.

We’ve written before about some of the most successful student engagement tactics. However, these must be implemented as part of a broader student engagement strategy to deliver on promises and individual potential.

A strong strategy inspires action and delivers impact. This can increase student engagement and embed better ways of working. In addition, it establishes a culture of continual improvement in in-person, hybrid, and fully remote learning environments.


Define student engagements

Many so-called strategies for student engagement are diffuse. They’re full of positive words but few concrete plans for action. 

Defining student engagement is a challenge. “The seemingly universal acceptance of engagement has been attributed to a lack of conceptual clarity, resulting in an idea that can mean all things to all people,” acknowledge academics

Without a clear definition, strategy, and implementation plan, student retention can be challenging to track – particularly in a blended or remote environment. 

It’s vital to have a clear vision of what student engagement is. But institutions must go beyond bold words about harnessing student potential to provide practical solutions – and support – to deliver them.

To create a culture of change, organizations must clarify what student engagement is, the practical programs to deliver it, and the metrics to measure it.

A recent paper identified three core dimensions to successfully embedding student engagement within organizations:

  1. Promote student engagement as part of internal quality improvement 
  2. Perform external quality evaluation of student engagement
  3. Track feedback on student learning experiences to make students partners


Culture of change

Do you know for sure that your engagement strategy is working?

Student engagement can be measured in several ways, including academic achievement, absence rates, and understanding learner experiences through student surveys.

But just over half (57%) of institutions have metrics to measure student retention. How can you be serious about student engagement without effectively 

measuring it?

Every student engagement strategy should detail plans and processes. For each indicator, they should define how it will be measured, assessed, and analyzed. 

While student engagement strategies focus on the qualitative experience of individuals, quantitative data is critical in tracking progress and measuring impact. 

Over time, this can track engagement and impact – establishing the positive impact of programs on the student experience. In addition, this can help to embed a culture of change.


External assurance

The most effective student engagement strategies and plans include external assessment and validation. As well as providing external assurance that you're achieving your aims, it can offer a unique perspective and viewpoint on your programs.

This is particularly important in the current blended learning environment, where more and more tuition, learning, and assessment take place at arms-length. In recent years, as education has shifted online, there have been exciting developments in the use of technology to measure engagement.

Incorporating new technologies and external assessment partners can identify areas of high achievement and provide a valuable perspective that can shape your plans moving forward. 


Make student partners

Alongside tactics to keep students engaged, course leaders must review and refresh courses to enable students to become partners in the learning process.

Evidence shows that new approaches to course design and tuition prioritizing collaboration are more effective – particularly when communicating across technological barriers.

Adopting theoretical frameworks such as the Quality Teaching Model can help tutors, professors, and other professionals improve student engagement. 

But it’s critical that the fundamentals of the model (intellectual quality, quality learning environment, and significance) are refreshed to reflect the demands of the 2023 learning experience.

The engagement strategies for high school and college students that may have proved successful in person may not work today. Existing programs reviewed – and new approaches refined – in partnership with students.


Three pillar approach

Developing strategies to engage students in the classroom is critical, and we've already seen massive progress in this area. But the recent upheaval in tuition and the rapid transformation to a digital-first approach means the even best engagement strategies could benefit from being updated. 

Strong internal metrics and external assurance provide confidence that you're delivering. Making students partners ensures you deliver value in a challenging and ever-changing learning environment.


Find out more information

To learn more, watch our recent webinar, where we discussed the benefits of equipping students with the right tools to increase engagement.

In the webinar, you'll learn about the impact this can have on retention rates, and how these tactics could lead to an increase in graduation rates.

Check out the recording to find out more!

Watch the recording
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