Defining Student Engagement for Your Institution

How Higher Ed Leaders Define Student Engagement

The first step in improving student engagement is understanding how your institution defines it. When we asked our survey respondents how they would define student engagement, the most common answer was “students being active participants in their own learning experience.” Other popular responses included “students taking ownership of their education” and “students feeling a sense of belonging at their school.” These answers make it clear that student engagement means different things to different people, but there are some common themes. In general, most higher ed leaders seem to agree that student engagement is about more than just attending class or logging into an online course portal. It’s about students taking an active role in their education and feeling like they are part of a community.

What Factors Do Higher Ed Leaders Consider When Measuring Student Engagement?

Now that we know how higher ed leaders define student engagement, let’s take a look at the factors they consider when trying to measure it. The most popular response by far was “time spent engaged in coursework or other academic activities,” followed by “student feedback/opinions on surveys or other forms of assessment.” Other popular responses included “attendance rates,” “participation rates in extracurricular activities,” and “grades/GPA.”

Most leaders in higher education agree that improving student engagement is essential to driving positive outcomes for both their school and their students. When it comes to defining and measuring student engagement, though, there are often more questions than answers. That’s understandable, because student engagement can look very different from one institution to the next. This one-size-doesn’t-fit-all approach to engagement is actually a good thing! The way you define student engagement likely depends on the demographics and backgrounds of your student population, your unique success objectives, and a diverse array of factors specific to your institution.

We wanted to further explore the various perspectives on student engagement, so Mainstay surveyed 50 of our higher education partners about how they define student engagement and what factors they consider when measuring it.

Here’s what we found:

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