Solutionpath and Wonkhe together hosted a roundtable event with several representatives of higher education leadership. The event discussed the common challenges and early engagement approaches needed as universities prepare for next academic year.
The upcoming academic year is forecast to be hugely different from the pre-Covid norm. Ongoing restrictions and a hybrid teaching and learning delivery model, combining online and offline methods, mean in-person lecture attendance in its previous capacity will be unlikely. A new student cohort (who may have very different expectations to previous years) and expectations of returning students (who have had a disrupted experience to date) will present greater engagement challenges for universities.
Though flexible learning is welcome, the roundtable recognised that this situation presents a challenge to student engagement and how universities respond. Common themes during the discussion related to workload, balancing teaching and research, and supporting students with a more complex range of needs. The group also discussed how teaching staff can keep track of students’ participation in their learning to gain an understanding of how they are doing, and feeling, in order to offer personal support.
It was agreed that early engagement and preparation for the new term would be key to helping students get off to a good start. In turn, this early engagement would give them the best chance of success under these new circumstances. During the session, we discussed the role of engagement monitoring, data and communication in supporting initiatives for the next academic year.
The early weeks of engagement have a huge impact on future success. It’s a proven strategy that was shared by Professor Helen E Higson from Aston University (a Solutionpath StREAM partner) during the roundtable. Helen revealed that learner analytics has significantly and positively contributed to change in the way student engagement is monitored at Aston University. Notably, findings were shared from the study which focussed on the relationship between early weeks engagement (up to weeks three or four of the academic term) and successful performance.
The study Measures of engagement in the first three weeks of higher education predict subsequent activity and attainment in first year undergraduate students: a UK case study also showed that students who were not engaged in the early weeks never quite caught up academically, even if engagement increased as time passed. This cements the need for a clear early engagement strategy from the outset.
The discussion group recommended that student engagement begins before the start of the academic year to make sure ongoing attainment rates are high. To do this, it is essential to use early engagement to create a sense of community, sharing values, showing where support can be accessed, if needed.
Building strong communication channels that outline expectations is considered integral to this early engagement. This communication provides advice and understands every student from the outset. It includes everything from their individual expectations to issues such as digital poverty, to create an inclusive environment that allows every student to feel engaged and supported from the start.
At Solutionpath, we’ve seen a significant increase in the use of engagement to measure progression over the past year. When students are not physically present on campus, engagement data has grown in importance as a tool that guides both on and offline learning. It supports students’ individual needs, making sure inclusion is always ensured and students feel connected, not under surveillance.
Early intervention will pinpoint which students are engaged and provide insights to begin conversations. Not only does this allow you to further student attainment before it becomes a problem, but it also helps identify any wellbeing concerns so you can provide the right support.
Educating students on what good engagement looks like, and the impact this has on their learning, is also important. Understanding their own data can change patterns of behaviour, help self-direct and reflect, and encourage positive outcomes. We believe that fostering a partnership approach with students from the outset is crucial to ensure good engagement and communication throughout the course.
Engagement analytics gives visibility of student actions and participation across all aspects of their academic learning. Feedback suggests understanding the data can be a stumbling block for staff and students who may not be able to make sense of it. Solutionpath’s StREAM platform provides you with an easy-to-understand engagement score based on the data you already have, creating more meaningful insight that is accessible and understandable for staff and students to action.
There are ongoing challenges to face concerning what engagement looks like and how to make it accessible to all students. Inclusion and accessibility are vital, as students with a lack of resources, equipment or quiet study space typically have lower attainment levels. Yet this further proves why early engagement is vital to make the early preparations, communications and connections that get every student off to the best possible start.
Solutionpath and Wonkhe together hosted a roundtable event with several representatives of higher education leadership. The event discussed the common challenges and early engagement approaches needed as universities prepare for next academic year. The upcoming academic year is forecast to be hugely different from the pre-Covid norm. Ongoing restrictions and a hybrid teaching and learning delivery model, combining online and offline methods, mean in-person lecture attendance in its […]
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