Engaging students in their first year of college is critical to student retention, and sets the tone for the remainder of their educational career at that institution. A central component to student retention is social engagement. This is why a student’s first year at a higher ed institution is so critical. The connections and affiliations that a student makes during their first year will help set their course for the years to come.
Student engagement is a concept that describes a student’s academic, peer, and extra-curricular involvement. An engaged student is more likely to stay in school, succeed academically and have less stress.
The predominance of smartphone use by students has led many institutions to adopt mobile technology as a means of increasing student retention and engagement. Many school mobile apps help students connect with other classmates through private messages, sharing class schedules, and posting on a campus wall. Many also provide easy access to extra-curricular campus activities and club information. This is useful for facilitating student involvement outside of class. Furthermore, offering mobile academic tools can help students prepare themselves for a successful academic experience by organizing their course schedule, helping them study and setting important reminders.
While many technologies have the potential to be distracting in educational settings, it is up to us to engage students with these tools in ways that are beneficial to both the student and the institution. We see already that using mobile phones for first-year students can connect them to their campus before they even start school. This means students are more likely to have a better campus experience, and schools are more likely to retain students throughout their higher education.
If we can embrace the popularity of mobile use among college students in a way that creates positive educational outcomes, we can find new ways of connecting with students and providing meaningful educational experiences.