Case Study: Using the Campus Labs Platform to Encourage and Measure Student Engagement
The University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) first came to us for help with engaging more students. Their student body included many first-generation students, a large Latino population that struggled with language barriers, and only a few hundred students who actually lived on campus. Meanwhile, UTEP was undergoing a transformation, striving to become the first national research university in the United States with Hispanic students in the majority.
Catie McCorry-Andalis, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students, realized that her team needed to create clear pathways that encouraged and validated student engagement, and then track the impact of involvement on student success. She found an ideal solution in the web-based student involvement and assessment tools within the Campus Labs® platform. In fact, thanks in part to the Student Engagement solution, UTEP was even recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as one of the most engaged campuses in the United States—an exceptional achievement considering that only a few hundred students live on campus.
“We have an entire center for institutional research and planning. But we wanted to take it to the next level.”
Associate Vice President
and Dean of Students
“We were not going to take a cookie-cutter program and make it work here,” said McCorry-Andalis. The platform’s capabilities were flexible enough to meet the institution’s needs, were intuitive for users, and provided a robust solution for facilitating an effective co-curricular. UTEP could easily make adjustments by branding their campus involvement website as Mine Tracker. They added learning dimensions that tied into institutional learning outcomes, and established distinct levels of engagement within each learning dimension to help guide students. “We had to show students a pathway in order for them to be successful,” said McCorry-Andalis.
The first step was to implement the platform’s Student Engagement solution, which quickly helped UTEP achieve a “tremendous increase” in student involvement. The next phase was to enhance the efficacy of student assessments by adding the Institutional Effectiveness solution. “We have an entire center for institutional research and planning,” said McCorry-Andalis. “But we wanted to take it to the next level.”
The platform solutions work seamlessly together, which is one reason why McCorry-Andalis envisions “endless possibilities” for using them to improve the student experience. In the past, administrators may have had anecdotal evidence that students were learning from events—but they rarely had the data (or the sample sizes) to prove it. Now, McCorry-Andalis and her team are conducting pre- and post-assessments that show the true impact of each event, and are using their findings to improve student programming “across all the dimensions.” Student organizations can hold events, gather feedback, and provide evidence of achievement by connecting outcomes to institutional goals. UTEP is working with groups across campus to ensure that assessment is combined with engagement whenever possible.
Because Campus Labs is a web-based platform housed in one centralized location, student affairs and academic partners are finally all “working under the same umbrella,” said McCorry-Andalis. When everyone has access to information, they are able to gain more insight and make better-informed decisions—not to mention the fact that “staff members don’t need 10 different logins,” she added. Using iPods and iPads for assessment has also been a positive step.
UTEP’s Division of Student Affairs has discovered many additional benefits of using the Campus Labs solutions, including a key role during the critical accreditation process. The power of the platform is that it brings all the data together in one centralized location, providing invaluable information and insights that are easily accessible for the entire accreditation team. UTEP is coming up on their five-year check-in for accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and plans to use data gleaned from the Institutional Effectiveness solution not only to streamline the process, but also to provide clear evidence of student learning. Individual colleges at UTEP know that McCorry-Andalis and her team will be able to support SACS accreditation and the Quality Enhancement Plan with the robust functionality built into the Campus Labs platform. Beyond accreditation, when McCorry-Andalis was asked to rework a division’s vision and mission, her team went right to the Institutional Effectiveness and Student Engagement solutions, using the treasure trove of shared data to help determine what values were most important to students and administrators.
The Campus Labs platform gives UTEP the tools that administrators need to encourage a culture of engagement, prepare students for the working world, and show evidence of progress toward institutional goals. As McCorry-Andalis explained, choosing Campus Labs gave her much more than flexible tools and responsive support—it gave her a true partner in helping UTEP meet their goals. “Campus Labs professionals have an understanding of higher education and student affairs—that’s very hard to find.”