Involving and engaging commuter students on campus is a priority for schools. Generally, commuter student retention is lower than students living on-campus or in college owned housing. This could be the result of a number of factors: commuter students not feeling connected to the school brand (house proud), lack of social connectedness, increased distractions/ responsibilities from non-academic sources, lack of amenities on school grounds created for their complex lifestyle, etc.
StateUniversity.com claims, “Because commuter students spend limited time on campus and limited time creating relationships with other students, faculty, and staff, they have fewer opportunities to engage in quality interactions with these individuals. Therefore they are less likely to make a strong commitment to the university or its programs and are more likely to drop out of school than residential students.”
Fortunately, technology offers a conduit to increased connectivity. While technology alone will not be a campus cure-all for commuter retention, it can help support engagement, encourage group interactivity and provide conveniences to keep commuters on campus longer. Here are three areas where tech managers should turn their focus:
1. Technology Rich Lounges
Lounges located in central locations are good for commuter students who need a place to park in between classes. Dedicated areas with student-accessible TVs can promote student interaction. Sharing content on these displays, playing games, and customizing what they watch will make it more likely that they stay put. But make sure there is plenty of charging for their devices—ll that sharing can run down a battery pretty quickly.
2. Small Group Study Rooms
Commuter centers with small-group study rooms or huddle spaces outfitted with collaboration software or content sharing technology encourage collaboration and group academic work. And, as we know, group work enhances community, character, and team skills.
3. Active Spaces
Places where commuter students can maintain their active lifestyles shouldn’t be a bonus, it should be a given. Even a basic gym, yoga studio, or dance room is amped up when you allow students the technology to customize their music, take control of the TVs, or modify lighting to their preferences. Don't forget the health fast-food options along with digital signage menu boards!
Creating more inviting, customizable, defined, and comfortable spaces for commuter students will encourage increased interaction. Commuters find value in spaces that address their needs directly—not in spaces that can be shoe-horned to work for all.
Technology helps to create customizable environments to help commuter students stay on campus when they can, and to create a feeling of affinity toward a school that understands their requirements, is empathetic toward their challenging lifestyle, and addresses the multi-faceted demands on their time. After all, isn’t this what design-thinking is all about?