Engaging and retaining students, especially those studying remotely, is high on the agenda for any education provider. Student engagement and retention is a complex issue with a large body of literature available, but a key factor is the service and support available to students and the ease with which they can access all the information they need online.
The student lounge for the School of Counselling was first developed in 2010 with a few big goals to accomplish. It was designed to create a space for the students as a community, where they could interact with staff and each other, and quickly retrieve relevant information about their studies. Sections in this lounge included resources like ‘School News’, ‘Your Staff Contacts’, ‘Lunchtime Seminars’, ‘Student Forums and Feedback’ and a space to ‘Ask a question or give feedback’.
By 2016, after years of incremental improvements, it was time to review the layout and information in the student lounge and give it a complete refresher, along with a user-friendly look and contemporary visuals.
In addition to having helpful resources, the online student lounge should be a place that students want to visit and enjoy using. To this end, I carefully chose contemporary and engaging visuals to make sure the lounge was visually appealing and not solely text-driven.
So what does it look like?
(Use the slider to explore Before & After. If your browser doesn’t like sliders, there’s a screenshot at the end too!)
What else changed?
Over the years, my team and I have gathered a lot of experience about the types of questions our students usually ask and what kind of information is really important to them. It was important to use this knowledge to re-create the content of the student lounge in order to allow students to get answers quickly, and relieve staff who continue to answer the same questions over and over.
With this in mind, four new sections were created:
- A section that covers all relevant policies and processes in a ‘one-stop shop’ as opposed to information scattered across different places such as the website, the portal, the online classroom etc. For example how to access learning support, how to apply for an extension or links to the complaints procedure.
- A section specifically for new students covering everything they need to know (and may struggle with) in order to succeed in their first trimester. This area includes orientation, ordering textbooks, wellbeing and advice from other students, as well as understanding how to prepare, belong, learn and succeed.
- A careers section where students can find out what they can do with their degree, how to study further with ACAP, how to become members of professional organisations, how to network and information about volunteering. This kind of information is probably the most important to our students and is asked for often.
- The Blended and Online Delivery team created a section with video tutorials, including ‘getting to know your class space’, ‘web conferencing etiquette’ and ‘get organised for study’.
What do our students think about it?
The Moodle activity report shows that after launching the revised space, there were hundreds of views from students. While further analysis is needed to keep the lounge aligned with student needs, we’ve received some positive unsolicited feedback from our students: “Well done.” “I really like the new look, it is so easy to find things now.”
Ready to start your own student lounge?
Ensure your lounge reflects its purpose through the activities and resources you include, but don’t lose sight of the need to design it as an enjoyable, comfortable space with visuals, videos and places for students to interact and share.
Tell us about how you create spaces that support your student community – we’d love to share more great examples like this one!