In the era of remote and digital learning, fostering a sense of belonging in college communities has become a more complex challenge for higher education practitioners.
Tyton Partners’ latest report titled “Listening to Learners 2023” addresses this issue by offering insights into how institutions and their stakeholders can strengthen students’ sense of belonging, ultimately enhancing persistence, retention, and overall student success.
The report is based on a comprehensive assessment of the student experience in overcoming obstacles to persistence and success, as perceived by faculty members, advisers, and administrators.
The findings of the report highlight four key strategies that institutions can employ to promote a sense of belonging among students, both inside and outside the classroom, particularly for those who already exhibit a strong sense of belonging:
- Enhance Evidence-Based Teaching Practices: Increasing the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices, such as active learning, among professors can help students develop a stronger connection with their institutions.
- Leverage Digital Tools: Incorporating digital tools and platforms for creating community and facilitating collaboration can enhance students‘ engagement and sense of belonging.
- Raise Awareness and Utilization of Support Services: Ensuring that students are aware of and effectively use a wide range of support services, such as academic advising, financial aid, and mental health services, can significantly contribute to their sense of belonging.
- Promote Engagement with Key Services: Encouraging students to actively engage with academic advising, financial aid, and mental health service staff can further bolster their sense of belonging.
The study involved surveys conducted with 2,056 students, 1,748 instructors, 1,493 front-line support staff, and over 500 administrators at various two- and four-year institutions, both public and private, during March 2023.
Additionally, the report emphasizes the importance of students’ preferences for digital course materials, with 75 percent favoring digital formats like e-texts and courseware.
However, there is a notable discrepancy between students‘ and faculty members’ preferences in this regard.
While the report provides valuable insights into strategies for enhancing student belonging, it also underscores the challenges some students face, such as unstable internet access and limited device availability, which can impact their online learning experiences.