We hear a lot of about “engagement” today—whether it is engaging students in school or engaging employees in the workplace. One of the most important common threads relating to engagement, regardless of the setting is the power of communication. When, how often, and why you would communicate can differ across all environments, but I think we can all agree that communicating is a good thing. For the purpose of this paper, I’ll focus on communication as a vehicle for engaging students in an online environment.

One would think that it is just good sense to be proactive with communication in this setting because those touch points help to bridge the miles gap between the institution and its students. This activity is often left up to faculty (and more recently, supportive Student Success teams who mostly work with students at-risk). Still, there are numerous untapped opportunities for bringing students closer to your campus, especially for the institutions’ online learners. At the heart of the matter is the concept of social integration.

The publication of Vincent Tinto’s (1975) landmark student integration model paved the way for numerous studies on undergraduate retention. He theorized that the more a student socially integrates or interacts with the campus community, the more likely he or she is to commit or persist toward graduation. Higher education has come a long way since Vincent Tinto’s (1975) seminal work and the ways that students socially integrate have changed too, mostly due to technological advances.

What if there was a way to leverage the technology in your LMS to deliver personalized communication to segmented groups of your population? dialogEDU’s next generation LMS has a unique feature called, “targeting,” which permits administrators (think Admissions, Program Directors, Chairs, Deans, Student Services etc.) to share regular and purposeful communications with students to create the feeling of a campus community.

I’d like to offer an example: As a former online administrator, I would pull grade data from my LMS, to quickly learn which students received their first “F” grade in their respective programs. I also reviewed the grade data on students who earned their first “A” grade. Each set of students received communication from me, either congratulating them or encouraging them not to give up. Those students who earned an F grade in their first class were the most vulnerable and outreach from caring school personnel was important at that critical moment, while some of them may have been contemplating dropping out.

What if I could efficiently manage my proactive personalized communications by using the LMS to deliver the message? Just like customer relationship management (CRM) software tools, the targeting feature in dialogEDU can track sent emails, opens, bounce backs etc. Not only can I be efficient with my targeted communication, but I can get important data back from my efforts.

If like Tinto proposed, social integration impacts engagement, then you can configure your LMS’s landing page to emulate a student union. You can draw your students closer to the virtual campus community by using social engagement tools such as linkages to social media, public forums (think clubs), events and webinars, guest speakers and other like activities. Here, targeting can be employed in selecting which groups can see specific content on the homepage and/or in a special area personalized for each student called, “My Locker.” For example, if you have an event lined up for Nursing students, you can post a video, flyer, or a webinar announcement that only Nursing students will see on their homepage.

Because dialogEDU is LTI compliant, tools that you may already be using to engage students will seamlessly integrate with this platform. There are a host of wonderful products available that work effectively to “nudge” students and help them stay organized for success. Nudging is a concept shared recently in another LinkedIn post by Mel Roberts from Connected Campus.

Institutions that are thoughtful about creating opportunities for social integration and who leverage technology to do so, can positively impact student engagement and therefore, student persistence. Not only do students win by meeting their academic and career goals, but leveraging your technology for efficiency and scalability also benefit your institution.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research Review of Educational Research 45.89-125.

About the Author:
Dr. Kramer is the Vice President of Client and Academic Services. She and her team provide faculty and administrators the tools to successfully implement their online initiatives with dialogEDU’s state of the art Learning Management System (LMS). She designs and delivers customized training for dialogEDU’s clients and educational partners. Dr. Kramer brings her extensive years of online teaching and learning expertise to eLearners and administrators as she helps them to assimilate and creatively utilize the platform’s unique capabilities.

About dialogEDU:
dialogEDU is a Learning Management System platform that specializes in healthcare training, higher education, and global training. dialogEDU is a unique technology that provides digital learning and personalized education in an online classroom. With features that include simulation tools, targeting, virtual student locker and segmentation all facilitate online learning and provide the tools necessary to measure learning outcomes.

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