Universities want to keep, as well as attract, students. This can be hard, as a recent rise in the drop-out rate from universities in England tells us. It went up from 6.6 per cent in 2011-12 to 7.4 per cent in 2014-15, indicating that more can be done to give all students that start a course, the best chance of completing it. Here, we take a look at practical methods of student support as well as the ways in which technology can improve student engagement to take action against drop-out rates.
Three Student Support Tips
Universities commit to each and every student to help them succeed; three practical ways of providing support are:
- Creating student success plans and including student well-being (physical, emotional and social) in them–well-being shouldn’t be neglected as it’s important to the likelihood of students maintaining their studies.
- Encouraging students to draw on their own experiences and knowledge–people are more engaged when they feel understood, so it’s worth being mindful of the varying backgrounds and life stages that students come from.
- Developing and encouraging learning communities where students can collaborate and support each other.
How Technology can Help
Understanding, support and encouragement have a big part to play in determining if students will see their studies through, but the whole learning experience needs to be engaging for them to stick at it. Engaging and relevant content that can be accessed by students when and where they want it is a must for today’s courses.
Digital learning can help by:
- including new and exciting formats such as video, interactive platforms and content developed using gamification techniques
- personalising learning so that it ‘speaks’ to students as individuals and adapts to their needs
- providing structured learning pathways with clearly mapped stages
- motivating students to achieve their goals by awarding badges and certificates
- enabling students to document their learning through an eportfolio. This is a great tool to help students think about their employability beyond education and to align their study goals with their future ambitions.
Flexible Mobile-enabled Content
Students may struggle to stay at university for a whole range of reasons, not just academic ones. They may have problems getting to and from lectures if they live in a remote location or they might have loads going on in their personal lives. They may have a better chance of succeeding if they have flexible learning options. In this way, mobile-enabled content can be ideal as it gives students access to course content and updates wherever they are, as well as when they regularly switch devices at university and at home.
Analytics that Flag Issues
For administrators and tutors, technology doesn’t just help with course delivery but also tracking and monitoring to keep everything on track. Performance measurements can show up areas of concern while predictive analytics can help identify at-risk students and enable early intervention. While the personal approach is everything when it comes to supporting students–especially when they’re struggling and might be considering dropping out–insights from data can be the stimulus to having those conversations.
Universities are under pressure to maximise course take-up and completion. They want student life and course content to be vibrant, stimulating and intellectually rewarding. They understand that it takes a lot more than academic capability to graduate and want to work with students to ensure that courses are engaging and flexible. A range of support initiatives, backed up by digital tools can help.
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