Building social communities at a community college

Two weeks ago, I discussed why Terra State cares about student engagement and cited our most recent CCSSE scores. To read this entry, click here. While the College saw improvement in all five benchmark area scores, there are still areas like Support for Learners that are below the national average. Rather than filing the results away and patting ourselves on the back, the faculty and staff at Terra State are digging deeper to see what changes we can make in the future to improve student engagement.

One of the survey questions asks students to rate how much Terra State puts an emphasis on providing the support they need to thrive socially on a one-to-four scale. In 2013, 66.7 percent of students surveyed answered very little or some. In 2016, this went down (which is a good thing) to 61.5 percent of students surveyed answering very little or some.

Another question asked students how much Terra State puts an emphasis on helping them cope with their non-academic responsibilities such as work and family. In 2013, 74.6 percent answered very little of some and in 2016, the amount was 70.5 percent answering the same way.

At Terra State, we understand that in order for our students to feel socially connected, we must try something new while continuing to promote our student activities on campus.

Our Be Social campaign focuses on creating social communities for our students in the digital arena and is being implemented by our marketing department. Their team has a strategic and comprehensive social media plan that involves adding networks like Snapchat to our existing accounts and creating a safe, digital environment for all of our students to interact. “We want to create a fun and open forum for students to engage with us without fear or having to physically be on campus”, says Manager of Marketing, Amanda Pochatko.

Jill Fick, Public Relations Specialist, said, “Last week, we met students at the Involvement Fair and had a blast getting their feedback on our Snapchat filter and account. It’s just one more way for us to reach students and help them feel comfortable while at Terra State.”

So will having an online presence make students more engaged? “We think so,” says Amanda. “Our posts from the first week of school and the Involvement Fair have had significant reach and engagement on our social media channels and we are looking forward to building relationships with the students who are active on this medium.”

Terra State is also looking into ways to use social media to help in the classroom. Physical Therapist Assistant Chair and Director of Clinical Education, Bruce Wassung recently started a Facebook group for his students. According to Bruce, “This group was created to provide a common forum in which Terra State’s PTA students and PTA alumni can collaborate on projects, provide mentorship and guidance to each other, and discuss current issues in physical therapy practice and education.” Posts range from job opportunities to people looking for advice about their career paths with the overarching theme of connecting people.

Whether you join one of our groups or like one of our pages, Terra State is making a concerted effort to engage students outside of the classroom because we know that an engaged student is more likely to be successful!