Disengagement and loneliness are more real than ever, and that’s been amplified in recent years. This has changed how schools, educators, and students are connecting with each other. Research shows that being from an underrepresented group, remote, shy, ESL, or having less access to campus, can affect connection and academic success. However, even for the most social students, current communication resources may not be readily available, organized, or as inclusive as they should be.
While it’s not the entire answer, technology certainly can have a big impact. Social media and the adoption of platforms across most careers has grown immensely in the last decade. Schools have implemented similar options and tools more specific to the educational space, but the question of whether it’s serving the unique needs of students, instructors, and staff still appears to be unclear. This may be driven by the adoption (or lack thereof) of these tools, the ever-evolving environment and solutions offered, support and time given to what’s implemented, or difficulty of measuring engagement.
Often times, schools are facing one of two scenarios. If a campus wide communication infrastructure exists at all, it may be static and not be meeting the actual social interaction goals for which it is intended. Otherwise, student-driven efforts to spread chat tools create exclusive silos, not allowing for "chatting in the open" to let communities form and bond with each other.
Student cohorts in and outside of classes are one of the top places to have a sense of belonging. More than that, a common digital place for conversation to exist throughout the college experience is so important. It really illustrates how that “chatter” is the one thing that ties the rest together. School isn’t only about what’s happening in class, but what’s around class — before, after, and beyond — as long as there's space for it. The earlier that happens, the more likely a student will find their place and be empowered to do that for others.