:Mindset / Success and goal setting

How to define student engagement for your school

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Student engagement is a principal concern for educational organizations and online schools alike. But defining student engagement can be tricky, particularly because engagement can be measured in a number of ways. We’re going to break down how you can define and improve student engagement in your course by considering objectives and examining key course metrics.

What is student engagement?

Student engagement can vary from school to school and even from course to course. For one, you might define student engagement as how active students are in completing assigned work or taking part in course discussions. For another, you may measure it by the number of online class completions recorded.

So, to define student engagement, first you should try note what “success” for your school or course really means.

Define student engagement for yourself

To better understand and ensure high levels of student engagement in your courses and community, you first need to figure out how you’ll measure success with your students.

Your success objectives might include:

  • Getting a certain number of students to sign up for or complete your course
  • Tracking engagement with the course material
  • Asking students to complete a task within your course and tracking their success

Take a look at your long-term objectives to determine the right success metrics for your students. For example, are you primarily an educational business where you sell online courses to students? Is there a test or certification for students to earn by the end of a course? If so, you’ve got a built-in measure of engagement and success right there.

More traditional educational organizations like colleges might have different measures of engagement. It could look more like proper attendance, participation in group projects, and completing tests or assignments.

Bottom line: Look at your educational organization and its goals to learn how you can define student engagement for your courses.

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Key metrics to consider

Once you’ve identified your goals for student success, you can then consider metrics. Then later on you can move on to revamping engagement copy, changing your class setup, and taking other steps.

Interaction levels

One metric you might choose to consider is interaction levels. Interaction is primarily useful for online educational organizations. Usually, online courses platforms have tools that allow you to see how well students engage with the provided materials.

This can be valuable because you can determine:

  • Whether certain subjects or courses are more engaging than others
  • If the material or the design of the course (i.e. the buttons, required exercises, etc.) is driving more productivity and engagement
  • Which formats for information drive more student interaction and engagement than others. For example, are students more likely to engage and interact with modules that include short videos compared to classes that are primarily written lessons?

Interaction levels can be important for online teachers for traditional educational organizations as well. If you’re building an online college course, for example, measuring interaction levels will help you ensure that most of your students respond well to your class materials.

Time spent on materials

You may also wish to measure the time your students spend on course materials to measure engagement. Be careful when considering student engagement by time because a long time spent on materials can mean:

  • That students are engaged with the course materials OR
  • That students are finding the course materials too difficult to progress through at a reasonable rate

So take a look at the time spent on materials while also examining other key metrics. Context may provide you with further information you need to define whether students are engaged via time spent on course materials.

Student success and completion rate

Naturally, you can also look at the student success or class completion rate for a given course or program. The more students that complete a course, the better the odds are that those students were at least relatively engaged. Unless the course material was far too easy and students are breezing through it.

You can also look at student success or class completion rates as information about how popular the subject or materials are. For example, if you run an online business selling classes, you might find that the completion rate of certain classes is higher than the completion rate of others.

This could help you determine which classes you should create in the future to drive profits and also provide students with what they want.

Reviews and ratings

Don’t forget to check the reviews and ratings for your online courses. Additionally, you can survey your students at the end of the course. You can check student reviews on social media or on online review sites.

Reviews and ratings can tell you:

  • Whether students found the material engaging or entertaining
  • How many students had a hard time progressing through the course, if any

This information can help you develop better course materials and improve student engagement. For example, if one class has a certain layout with interactive modules and another is a slideshow presentation, you may not be surprised when the former class has higher ratings than the latter.

Attendance rates

Attendance rates are another great measurement of engagement. They may indicate whether students feel compelled to show up if you offer live courses.

If a student feels that they don’t need to attend a course to get the relevant information, they might not. You can easily measure attendance rates through your course platform. And you should be able to get a general idea of how good attendance is during each live class.

Program completion

Lastly, don’t forget to examine the program completion rate when determining student engagement at your educational organization. The more programs are completed, the greater the likelihood that your students are positively engaged with your school or business. After all, program completion means that students found your materials interesting or engaging enough to get all the way through several classes without dropping out! 

Full picture success

As you can see, there are lots of ways you can define student engagement and improve it at your educational organization. The key thing to remember is to check each of these metrics and define student engagement uniquely based on your organization’s goals or business needs.



Author: Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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