The why, where, when and what on retention and engagement

Friday, 8th July, 2016

The introduction of higher tuition fees for students in 2012 were aimed to use student choices as a major driver for further shaping the FE and HE landscape, putting the student experience centre stage.

Why has this affected retention and engagement? 
Students now have a greater pool of information about universities, including data on retention, completion of courses and employment outcomes. By increasing tuition fees, universities have upped student’s expectations and made them more consumer like. And it’s these consumer based expectations that have had an effect on how students engage with their university of choice, their study programme and the wider university experience. And when these higher expectations are not met, dissatisfaction sets in; students don’t engage and sometimes don’t stay the course.

Where can you see these issues with retention and engagement?
Research has shown that a student who doesn’t feel connected to a student group or to their college or university in general tends to not perform as well as students that do. These less engaged students may assume everyone else is doing much better than they are (academically and socially) and become disenfranchised.  They are likely to put less effort into attendance and assignments and become at high risk of dropping out. This is the last thing universities want, so it is important that they have good engagement and retention strategies to identify at risk students and offer support early.

When does student retention and engagement become an issue?
At the end of a student’s first semester or first year are the most likely times for a student to leave... It can be their early experiences of failure or misunderstandings that kick start their dissatisfaction and quickly moves on to leaving or ‘dropping out’. It’s probably their first time away from home so if they can’t settle into university life and don’t have a sense of belonging it’s possible they will start thinking of alternative option’s to further their career and start to see university or college as ‘not for them.’

Who and how can you tackle this?
All academic staff, course tutors and the wider university staff have their part to play. An important way that academic staff and administrators can spot issues early on is attendance patterns. If student’s performance or attendance drops suddenly it’s important you can easily establish this and tackle it as soon as it is spotted.

What can you do to tackle student attendance and engagement?
By using an attendance and engagement solution… A basic attendance and engagement monitoring solution will allow time management, data collection and tracking but a more sophisticated solution will offer a lot more by bringing together a range of information in one dashboard.

  • Record attendance with real time alerts
  • Meets Tier 4 criteria for overseas students
  • Record contact
  • Offer a mobile app for student/organisation communication
  • Provide powerful management dashboards from which quick action can be taken if certain criteria is not met

It provides detailed reporting that can drill down and provide insights to inform an early invention plan to ensure that the student does not drop out and that the right support is provided for the student.

A good solution also includes curriculum planning, timetabling and also includes schedule management tools which can all be integrated into third party applications.

To reduce administrator and lecturer workloads. Moving from the traditional paper-based registers to an automated system ensures registers are taken quickly, accurately and with minimum disruption. There is no more uploading and analysing spreadsheets, as the data is available in easy to use reports.

Students have a better overall experience by using a mobile app for registrations and to receive notifications of room changes and other student communications.

AIT’s cloud based attendance and engagement monitoring solution offers an easy to use but powerful system for educational institutions. It’s a management tool that can drive and improve student retention. If you would like to learn more AIT’s attendance and engagement solution click here or call on 0113 273 0300 or email