According to the Glossary of Education Reform, Student Engagement defines as ‘the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education.’ It certainly sums it up quite neatly but it begs the question, is it enough in today’s post secondary world.

I often wonder if students today possess the same degree of ability to be ‘engaged’ with faculty and staff as they do with each other. Whether we are teaching in a traditional classroom, facilitating through online content or sitting across from a student in a meeting, are there more creative ways to generate the engagement we are requiring to get our learning goals delivered? So I dove deeper and discovered that there is certainly a great deal of information on student engagement.

Based on the articles and reports I have read, everyone seems to have the ‘answer’ or a solution to the challenges many of us face on a daily basis. One of the markers that stood out for me was the impact that behaviours and habits learned in high school seniors have on 1st and even 2nd year post secondary students. It seems that high school seniors tend to ‘stick together’ and use each other as the means to extract information around post secondary choices, academic requirements and even funding options. Peer driven knowledge mining is a behaviour that begins when teenagers are starting to make their own decisions and thus they rely heavily on each other to obtain the information they are looking for. They trust each other and spend much of their time using social media to communicate with each other, so it makes sense that they would revert to sharing information among themselves.

How often have we met with a student who informs us of a ‘rule’ around coop placements that they heard from one of their peers but was actually incorrect? Alternatively, when we send out posts and emails about upcoming workshops and students claim that they knew nothing about it? Do we need to put more of a lens on the precollege experiences of our students? If peer driven information is valued, why are we not exploring solutions that facilitate student engagement in a different way?

We all recognize the power of peers and alumni in communicating the value of internships and coop placements. Having past students that have successfully completed work terms speak to students who are embarking on that journey is common practise among post secondary students. Why are we not doing more to create that same type of peer driven support at the onset of a new student’s foray into college or university? Yes, there are post secondary institutions that have ‘Buddy Systems’ in place, but why is it not a more common practise?

Student Engagement is becoming more about students engaging and interacting with each other. Are the faculty and support staff losing ground on effectively connecting with our students? Post secondary institutions spend millions of dollars every year on marketing and informational campaigns targeting students about everything from programs, campus amenities, for many of us, coop and career services. Is this the right solution? Something to think about…Stay tuned for my next exploration into Student Engagement, where I will be looking at ways that we can be more creative in our marketing to students.

By Jeanine Reemst (Camosun College)