Students enter college with a lot of expectations. Expectations about their classes, what they’ll learn, their social lives, the challenges they’ll face, and how they’ll succeed. All these expectations have one thing in common: they are grounded in students’ unique lived experiences and day-to-day – even moment-to-moment – interactions.
For decades, colleges and universities have strived to foster environments that understand and improve student engagement, and many do this by using research models and tools. While this mission-driven work has always been difficult, the last few years have brought these difficulties to unprecedented heights as engagement levels head in a downward trend. Enrollment numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate, and many students are struggling mentally, emotionally, and socially. Institutions need a new approach – one that goes beyond identifying what is happening to uncover why it’s happening.
That’s where an experience management strategy with advanced analytics comes in. Using such tools, the higher education community can work to reshape the definition of student success and the next frontier of student engagement.
What the Research Says: How Student Engagement and Satisfaction Have Evolved
Since the education philosopher and reformer John Dewey championed “learning by doing” in the late 1800s, educators have sought ways to measure the levels and effectiveness of students’ involvement in their own education. Today, this is called “student engagement,” which has been defined in a variety of ways over the years.
In the 1990s, Vince Tinto’s Leaving College concluded that the more students are involved socially and intellectually, and the more frequently they connect with faculty and other students, the more they are likely to learn. More recently, a 2006 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report which provides the most commonly-cited definition of student engagement, shared that it’s “the investment of time and effort in educationally purposeful activities.”
Student engagement – which is ultimately a measurement of behavior – has been studied for decades, but there is another important element that helps to paint the full picture: student satisfaction. Student satisfaction focuses on the student’s perceptions and opinions about the quality of institutional services, facilities, and amenities. As student research frameworks evolved, it became increasingly apparent that capturing both engagement and satisfaction levels lead to the most comprehensive and accurate findings.
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