Measuring student engagement in higher education: what to look out for

The key to measuring student engagement in higher education is by conducting surveys. There’s no better measure of how your students are feeling than asking them to describe it in their own words! While this seems simple enough to do, one of the many struggles universities face is to get students to fill them out. To gain positive student satisfaction and increase engagement, it’s important to innovate, especially in these current times when you’ve lost a lot of face to face contact with them.

Although the UK leads the way with a retention rate of 71%, many students will still be unhappy and their concerns will be left unheard. Thankfully, there are a variety of ways you can improve student engagement while also gaining their trust. Here’s how:

How to get more student engagement for surveys

Think outside of the inbox. Although emails are a great way to send out surveys to groups of students, it may be more effective to attract students through a different method. As the average inbox is filled with 50% of spam emails - and the percentage is even higher for students - only 20% of emails are opened.

So, to get a response, universities need to be creative in how they encourage responses rather than running the risk of students not seeing your surveys.

To avoid your survey getting lost in the inbox void, try posting a web link to surveys directly in your student central hub. Make sure it's in a place where they’d usually find course content and announcements - somewhere students regularly have to check and won't miss.

SMS surveys are also a great way to make sure your surveys are seen. Studies show 90% of people read a text within the first three minutes of receiving it, providing a more immediate response. There was even a study that found people are more likely to disclose sensitive information over text, which is perfect for receiving honest student feedback.

If you do choose to send the survey over email, make sure your students know it’s coming from your institution and is both safe to open and is confidential. Over 90% of students say they're more likely to open an email from an organisation they belong to, so it’s very important to be clear so your survey isn't mistaken for spam.

Whichever platform you choose to conduct a survey, remember to send text reminders. It's been proven that 66% of students are more likely to complete a survey if they receive a reminder prompting them to complete it. 

How to build trust with students

Research carried out by Revolt Sexual Assault found that only one in 10 students who experienced sexual violence at university reported it. What’s even more concerning is only 2% felt they could report it to their university and were satisfied with the reporting process. 

One of the reasons these incidents go unreported is due to a lack of trust between students and their institutions. However, there are a variety of things institutions can do to ensure no student goes without the help they need. 

Streamline your reporting process

After experiencing trauma on campus, it can then be daunting to report it, especially if the process isn’t straightforward. By streamlining your process to make it less time-consuming, the student won’t face any additional problems caused by the institution.

If the process is complicated or outdated, a student’s report may fall through the cracks, meaning they'll be left unheard and feel the institution is untrustworthy. Manual processes filled with paperwork can be long-winded and lack anonymity which is especially important with incidents concerning assault or harassment.

These kinds of barriers can be discouraging to victim-survivors and stop them from reporting their experience. 

Luckily, there are a variety of support platforms available to streamline your process. These powerful platforms work alongside the processes you already have in place and are especially effective when dealing with students who don’t have the confidence to report incidents face-to-face.

Implementing visible, accessible reporting procedures and appropriately trained staff is key to ensuring students feel like they can report an incident. 

Update your policies and make them accessible

Developing effective complaint handling processes is key to engaging with students who may otherwise feel they have nowhere to turn to. Ideally, you should review these policies every three years at a minimum and student-facing staff need to know what they are. 

It’s also important for students to know these policies too, but the difficulty is ensuring they have a chance to view them. Thankfully, there are many ways you can do this including handbooks, student forums and central student hubs. Infographics are another great way to share these policies, as long as they can be reduced enough while maintaining clarity to fit all the information. 

Repetition is key. To ensure students know they have somewhere to report an incident; somewhere they know they will find someone who will listen and won’t judge, it’s vital to broadcast these policies across multiple communication channels. 

Fight the stigma

For many victim-survivors, they may choose to not report an incident because of the stigma attached. It’s essential that they're listened to, believed and appropriately supported. Otherwise, they may feel traumatised further by disclosing. The good news is there's so much that can be done to break down these barriers.

Education should be readily available for any individual that needs to learn more and a clear pathway to get support should be provided. By educating staff and students, the stigma will be reduced and trust will increase. In turn, more students should feel like they can report incidents, providing institutions with a true reflection of any processes they need to improve to deliver preventive measures.

This can be done through training staff, hiring specialist professionals and investing in online reporting tools that are easily accessible. To move away from outdated processes and improve student engagement in higher education, you need to be the catalyst for change and implement more innovative processes within your institution

Encourage engagement and gain trust with more efficient processes

Cultivating an environment that drives student engagement and gains trust can be difficult without the right processes and tools in place. Our guide helps you accommodate student needs and pinpoint any outdated processes you may have. 

We’ve addressed barriers, how you can improve efficiency and effectiveness in your student services and much more. Download the guide below.

How to drive efficiency and effectiveness in student services download button

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