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Keys to rebuilding student engagement in higher education - AptoNow insights

In this article, Tom O’Connor discusses the key challenge of low student engagement in higher education and how universities can regain student satisfaction to pre-pandemic levels and higher.


Our Australian clients have stressed that student engagement is a key strategic priority going into the 2023 academic year. Many have identified student experience as a major leverage point for change. We believe that driving improvements in three key areas will improve experience and engagement: (1) personalised learning, (2) predictive analytics, and (3) student feedback.


The challenge: National survey data indicate a significant drop in student satisfaction through the pandemic. For undergraduate students, overall satisfaction dropped from 78.5% in 2019 to 73% in 2021, with some measures like ‘Learner engagement’ dropping much further, from 63% in 2019 to 48% in 2021. Further, key decision-makers often lack visibility into the key problem areas with student experience, as their data on ‘lead indicators’ of student satisfaction is often piecemeal and anecdotal.


Keys drivers for improved student engagement: Our research and experience highlight three ways to take action toward improving student engagement and experience.


1. Personalised learning

Prior to the rapid expansion of higher education in the 20th century, smaller learning groups and more time with professors was the norm, not the exception. Today, while learning media may be different, personalised learning has again become more feasible with the use of technology. By using data analytics, universities can gain a deep understanding of students' learning behaviors and preferences, and tailor teaching methods and resources accordingly. More personalised interactions facilitated by technology can lead to increased engagement, motivation and better student outcomes. The implementation of such technologies, though, remains just as important as their advertised capabilities. AptoNow specialises in not only developing smart education technologies but ensuring implementation matching unique institutional contexts.


2. Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics can help universities identify at-risk students and intervene early to prevent dropouts. By analysing data on student demographics, academic performance, engagement and other behaviours, universities can identify patterns and trends that indicate a student is at risk of dropping out. This information can then be used to provide targeted support and resources to these students, reducing the risk of dropout and increasing student satisfaction.


3. Student Feedback

Student feedback is a powerful tool for improving student satisfaction. By using data tools to seek and understand student feedback, universities can gain efficient insight on student experience and identify areas where improvements are needed. This can include anything from the quality of teaching to the availability of resources and support services. And especially when making decisions on administrative and "back-of-the-house" systems and software, the student perspective if often left out because they are considered to be downstream stakeholders, rather than direct users. At AptoNow we believe that any major decision or expense should be made with students in mind, and we provide tools and opportunities to weigh those considerations accordingly.


In conclusion, improved student engagement and experience cannot likely be achieved without systematic and strategic efforts. But there has never been greater opportunities to leverage technology and data analytics to delivery powerful results for Australian universities.


Whether it is overhauling core systems or helping to add insight for a key strategic objective, our team look forward to being part of your journey to elevate student learning, engagement and experience. Contact us today to get started.


Articles referenced:

  • Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching (QILT) survey results 2019-2021; "Student engagement and satisfaction: A study of Australian universities" by Johnson, L., & Adams, T. (2015).

  • Journal of Further and Higher Education, 39(4), 437-460.; "The impact of personalised feedback on student satisfaction and engagement" by Rienties, B., Tempelaar, D., & Gijselaers, W. (2015).

  • Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 31(1), 1-13.; "Using data analytics to improve student success: Evidence from developmental education" by Bettinger, E., Long, B., Oreopoulos, P., & Sanbonmatsu, L. (2013).

  • Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 35(2), 131-152.; "The impact of student support services on student satisfaction and retention" by Tinto, V. (2012). Research in Higher Education, 53(1), 1-23.


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