In the past decade we have spent significant effort in registering student attendance in face to face sessions. Though the initial impetus for engagement management was partially driven by the Home Office requirement to record points of contact for Tier 4 International students attending classes, increasingly we have seen the requirement shift to meet the demand for all students to have greater individual attention and proactive support. This driver has proven mutually supportive of the increased focus on the improvement of retention rates as a strategic imperative. Where these objectives have been prioritised, we have seen improved student support and enhanced retention rates in our clients’ institutions.
These days Generation Z, and some late millennials, are confronted with increased pressure to achieve results, whilst also incurring increased debts through student ¹) loans. Consequently, stress is high and mental wellbeing issues have an increasing impact on drop-out rates. We are serving a generation that has grown up with the internet and social media as the norm, they are used to integrated applications and multi-strand online communication. They are already used to blended learning and are now confronted with an increase in online delivery at their universities.
Covid-19 is a new disruptive phenomenon impacting our students’ study. For the past nine months students have experienced few or no face to face lessons and once again in the new academic year, we are seeing more institutions forced to switch to online delivery. First year students have entered a new environment in which there are (necessary) barriers to developing friendships and peer support. Lack of social contact can make them vulnerable and further increase stress. The percentages of students facing mental wellbeing issues has already shown significant increases. As a result, the need for proactive student support and pastoral care is growing rapidly. We believe that with improved student support processes universities can make a real difference in deploying the excellent support expertise they already have.
Knowing who is at risk is the basic key question. If you want to further invest in this approach, Student Engagement is a valuable indicator. This insight is available through sound data garnered through accurate and reliable engagement capture.
This starts with measuring engagement with scheduled learning activities, be they in person or online. A solution is needed that receives all of these different sources of engagement and contact. Beyond this, other educational points of physical and digital contact can be added; Virtual learning environments, such as Moodle and Canvas, project contacts, MS Teams sessions, tutorials, sports events, library visits and, of course, coursework submission and outcomes.
Outside of physical attendance data capture, we are working with our customers to implement MS Teams data integrations to ensure proactive student support can continue to be delivered in these uncertain times.
We are committed to supporting institutions by identifying at-risk students that need support to continue studying and to achieve success. We are always open to discussion with the sector to explore these and related issues. If our observations resonate with your experiences, we would love to hear about your challenges and priorities, and how we can contribute to your success.
We know that systems are ‘only tooling'. However, as we have to handle vast numbers of students, good tooling is essential to cope with the large volumes of multi-source data required to identify those at risk. This challenge has never been greater when we are unable to deliver the same volume of personal contact that we could previously. Our tooling can help you to spot students needing support and enables you to plan and follow-up actions. We are here to listen to the sector and share our experiences and philosophy of proactive student support and informed intervention.
The Simac IDS Team, Manchester (UK) and Veldhoven (NL)
Har Heuberger Msc RC
21 January 202