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How to do student engagement right: 5 tips

March 28, 2019

In an increasingly regulated and competitive education market, student engagement is a simple and economical way to differentiate your RTO from the rest.

Here are five ways to nurture your students’ learning and maximise student engagement.

Allow reflection

Studies have shown that on average human beings can concentrate for a maximum of twenty minutes at a time. So, while a two-hour training modules — without a break — might be a good way to get through all your course material, they’re unlikely to effectively communicate information to your students. Instead, schedule periodic breaks within your training. Encourage students to communicate with each other during breaks and talk about what they have learned, and what they still might be having trouble with. If you’re feeling especially bold, try the 10:2 method — for every 10 minutes of teaching, allow the student 2 minutes to absorb and reflect upon the teaching material.

Involve students in the outcomes

Most training curriculums can be delivered by prescribing a textbook, ordering the material, and undertaking an assessment of your students. But there are other ways to get key information across that can be more effective. Experiment with involving your students in practical training modules. Develop roleplays whereby students can simulate not only the vocation or skill for which they are training, but also simulate customers, patients, clients or other key stakeholders in the industry in which your RTO operates. You may even want to develop interactive games involving leader boards and badges to encourage student participation. Remember, role-playing and game-experimentation are key methods to develop empathy and understanding in your students, and can play a central role in maximising student engagement.

Communicate the why

There are two kinds of motivation; intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is your student’s innate desire to learn for learning’s sake. It is the reason your student feels proud they are proficient at a task, whether it be wiring a switchboard, or delivering first aid. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is developed by demonstrating how obtaining a qualification will lead to tangible, lucrative opportunities. For example, an electrician can use his qualification to develop a strong client-base and therefore improve their overall finances. It is crucial that your RTO develops an internal marketing strategy to encompass both kinds of motivation. Make your students feel proud to be receiving superior training from your first-rate trainers and take steps to communicate the career pathways open to your students once they achieve their qualification.

Adapt to your student’s experience

RTOs and educators now have unprecedented access to their students’ thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes regarding the training experience. Social media sites such as Facebook and career sites like LinkedIn provide insights into what students are enjoying, and what can be tweaked to maximise student success. Periodic surveying of students can result in valuable data that allows RTOs to pursue optimal educative strategies going forward. As American author and management expert Ken Blanchard argues, ‘feedback is the breakfast of champions.’ Make sure your RTO is always up-to-date with your students’ feedback, and be prepared and flexible to change the manner, mode and delivery of your training curriculum wherever possible. Student management systems feature data analytic tools that can help to target key gaps in your curriculum delivery, identify and provide support to ‘at risk’ students, and conduct internal and external audits for the purposes of assessing your overall compliance.

Care about the individual

Just like running any complex organisation, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. But it’s vital to student engagement that individuals are interacted with, encouraged, assessed and rewarded for their contributions. Students are the foundation of the education industry. They need to feel welcomed and accepted in your training course. Provide channels of communication between those at the top — CEOs, course coordinators — and your students, via online mechanisms such as email, and notice boards. Similarly, make sure your trainers feel valued. Incentivise trainers to deliver on key training commitments by rewarding the very best. Institute ‘trainer of the month’ awards in order to spread awareness of successful training methodologies. Student engagement is only as strong as your weakest links, so encourage improvement across your whole organisation by caring about individuals.