Fostering Student Engagement in a Digitally Mediated Environment: Attitudes and Experiences of Student Advisers
Attitudes and Experiences of Student Advisors
Students’ healthy engagement with higher education (HE) can make vital contributions to their psychosocial development, educational attainment and future employability. Therefore, it is important to take account of recent evolutions in how engagement is enabled, experienced, and assessed within Higher Education Institutes (HEIs). This shift is evidenced in the growing interconnectivity between HEIs’ interpersonal and digital engagement resources. Alongside this shift, staff and students’ reliance on digital mediation, wherein digital technologies are used to facilitate and sustain student communications, has grown exponentially in the wake of COVID-19. In light of the growing demand for digital mediation, evidenced across academic, advisory, and administrative domains, our research undertakes a qualitative exploration of Student Advisers’ (SAs) experiences interfacing between interpersonal and digital engagement resources. We examine SAs’ recent experiences of and attitudes towards student engagement, their insights into the proliferation of digital communications and the challenges and opportunities this entails, and how they have sought to ensure service continuity amid rapid transformations. By deconstructing the dichotomy between digital and interpersonal supports and recontextualising them within SAs’ lived experience, we aim to re-evaluate the nature and role of student engagement against the needs currently facing the HE sector. Here, we develop a conceptual matrix detailing student engagement’s core components and characteristics within a contemporary digitally-influenced context. Through this framework, we critique digital mediation’s role within and impact on HEIs, arguing that digital supports and resources constitute an increasingly critical component of interpersonal encounters between students and staff, rather than a substitute for them.
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