In the face of pressure on tuition fees universities compete for students, yet securing enrolments is only half the picture. Once students are on board, the challenge is to drive student success to ensure they successfully complete their courses with some UK universities coming under fire for high drop-out rates. Central to student retention is student engagement but this can be an intangible goal to strive for and, in traditional courses, particularly tricky to measure.
A strong place to start is by matching student expectations of what study should look and feel like. As today’s students are particularly familiar with online as a primary source of information, and comfortable interacting with friends, family and others through social media, expectations are – not surprisingly – that learning will make use of digital tools, and that it will be accessible at all times from a range of devices.
Today’s courses should combine the best that online learning can offer with proven face-to-face and other teaching models. Content needs to be accessible, capable of adapting to meet diverse learning needs, and engaging.
A range of digital tools
The modern learning platform, in the shape of the virtual learning environment (VLE), provides a range of tools to help meet this set of requirements.
Among them are built-in video capabilities, which provide a dynamic alternative to text-based content. What’s more, they are ideally suited to help students build certain skills, such as delivering presentations, and to keep records of such achievements.
In fact, the VLE is ideally placed to enable learning experiences that suit all learning types. It can support the creation of tailored learning paths to meet diverse learning needs, and it can help keep students success through techniques that include automated ‘nudges’.
Learner engagement can also be boosted through interaction with peers and tutors through the platform and recognition of achievements throughout the course to keep students motivated. It’s important that students can see the rate of their own progress, that they have goals to aim for and sight of when they’ve achieved them. Supporting this, the VLE provides insight into progress through dashboards, clear sight of grades achieved and the ability for tutors to provide rapid and personalised feedback, enabling students to act on this through their course for continual improvement.
Optimising content and measuring student success
If student progress isn’t to be hampered, content should be responsive to devices in use, with optimised look and feel and navigation. This is particularly important as so many students choose smart phones and other devices to look-up content, check on course requirements and generally keep abreast of what’s expected of them.
While measuring student engagement may sound like a challenging endeavour, it’s essential if students are to be kept on-track and if the institution is to take learning from the student and tutor experience, with a view to continual improvement. Here, learning analytics afforded by the digital platform helps.
They enable tutors and administrators to spot signs that students are falling behind, or that they could potentially fall behind, and to take action. It’s a vital capability as early intervention can avert a student from going too far down the path of disconnecting with their studies. It could be that more, or more regular, tutorials would help matters, or that some additional content, designed to fill knowledge gaps, could help the student reach their goals.
The way learners learn is changing and nowhere is this more apparent than in higher education. Institutions that adapt to evolving learning models and the needs of diverse student groups can aim to meet the challenges of attracting and retaining students, whilst delivering successful learning outcomes. The digital learning platform supports tutors and other educational stakeholders in achieving educational aims through tools that support engaging learning experiences to achieve student success.