Student advocacy services: A strategy for success

Greg Kovich
May 05, 2023

A holistic approach to mental wellness on campus is essential to create a safer, healthier and more productive environment.

Student advocacy services blog

Over the last couple of blogs I’ve talked about how educational institutions need to start looking at new ways to help address today’s on-campus mental health crisis’, as well as how proactive technologies can provide the tools to enable better mental wellness. However, as I see it, the real measure of success will be in how institutions bring solutions to life, with advocacy services that students buy into, engage with, and turn to when the going gets tough.

Key to any technology implementation is understanding the end game. The focus shouldn’t be just about adding new technology and shiny new equipment. Rather, institutions need to ask, ‘how will this digital technology enable a higher level of wellbeing and success for students, faculty, staff and ultimately, the school itself’. A digitally transformed campus makes technology decisions based on academic and business goals and understands that students’ mental health and educational success are key to achieving the goals.

Connecting students, faculty and staff

Creating communities where students feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves is key. For many students, heading off to college or university may be the first time they’ve been away from home. So, whether it’s a social, academic, sports or other community, a platform that enables student-centred advocacy services that allows students to easily find groups and activities they’re interested in, can be immeasurable to their mental wellness. For example, developing friendships with other students who speak the same language, have the same interests, or are experiencing similar challenges; engaging in meaningful projects; and learning about programs that provide emotional, financial, housing, food and other support services can support students’ mental wellness and academic success. Additionally, student-centred services that address healthcare, mental wellness and other support resources, are a great way to help alleviate feelings of depression and isolation.

Studies confirm that students enjoy working with social learning tools  and are more likely to complete their courses  when these tools are available. The ability to easily connect with one another and collaborate on class projects and engage in interactive forums to exchange ideas and information creates a winning environment.

Faculty and staff can also use the platform to create online communities to share challenges and insights and support one another. These types of connections can also improve their own mental wellbeing so they can be more effective in their jobs and better understand how to support students, especially those who are struggling.

Sharing is caring

As mentioned above, as expansive and populated as a campus can be, it can still be a lonely, isolating place to be. Proactive communications using nudge technologies can provide a timely and gentle way to reach out to students through text messages, emails and alerts, and let them know they’re not alone.

Nudges can also be used to congratulate students for achievements in the classroom and in extracurricular activities, and even offer nominal rewards, such as a free coffee or juice at a campus café. They can be used to encourage student participation in classroom and activities, such as an upcoming field trip, guest lecture, or sports event where they’re likely to find enrichment and camaraderie. Nudges can also be used to let students know about critical support services such as food, clothing and financial aid.

Data analytics enabled by proactive technologies provide a tremendous tool for schools and universities to identify students who are at the highest risk of failing or dropping out. Timely and reassuring reminders about assignments that are coming due, exam dates and availability of study resources can be helpful for students, especially those who are overwhelmed and struggling to manage their time requirements.

Simply knowing that people care about their success, recognise the challenges they face, and are actively helping them succeed, can go a long way to reduce stress by making students feel supported and included and letting them know they don’t have to figure it out all on their own.

A safe environment alleviates anxiety

In today’s unpredictable environment, creating a student-centred community, where individuals feel safe and protected no matter where they are — in buildings, on a sports field, on walking paths, or in a remote parking lot, is not without challenges. However, there are a number of ways technology can help increase safety on campus, including:

• Mass notification systems that can accelerate awareness of potentially dangerous situations

• Automated alarm systems that can trigger students and authorities to immediately take protective actions and automatically alert emergency response teams

• Safety hotlines that offer everyone on campus a direct line to resources that can provide physical and mental wellness support services 

• Emergency call buttons located in buildings and on outdoor infrastructure

• Automated lighting systems that provide increased visibility and security, particularly in parking lots, along campus perimeters and in dark spaces between buildings

Advocacy in action

In 2022, Educause, a U.S. non-profit association, whose mission is to advance higher education with information technology, published a ‘Smart Growth: Student Success’ presentation that provided data on Alamo Colleges District, and their student advocacy efforts. The services include the following and are provided in partnership with local organisations: Case management, mental health consulting, emergency aid, food access, a clothes closet and a 360-wellness clinic.

Among these, emergency aid (24%), the health clinic (17%) and mental health counselling (13%) represent more than half of the calls for assistance. The data presented also indicates that full-time students who were part of the Advocacy Case-Managed cohort were approximately 6% more likely, year-over-year, to remain in school compared to those who were not case-managed. One student was cited as saying, “Knowing I have a support system in the Alamo Colleges gives me the confidence to persevere.”

Embracing proactive technologies to deliver holistic student-centred services that make wellness the heart of your institution is key. Schools and universities that prioritise student mental wellness will reap the benefits of student success, alumni support and overall good standing among the academic community.

Learn how ALE digital technology solutions can help you create a productive, healthy and safe learning environment for your students, faculty and staff.

Greg Kovich

Greg Kovich

Global Sales Lead, Education Vertical

Greg Kovich leads global sales for ALE’s Education vertical.  Greg has overseen or created several Education solutions including “The Fundamentals of Communications” – a vendor neutral course on digital network communications; “Safe Campus” – a solution uniting emergency alerts with first responder collaboration and mass notification; “Secure Campus” – a solution that allows instructors to limit student network access to determined sites; and “Pandemic Education Continuity” – a solution that enables classroom instruction in the event the institution is closed due to health or environmental crisis. 

He is a 1992 graduate of Indiana University with over 20 yrs experience in Information Technology.

About the author

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