What Star Wars Teaches Us About Student Engagement

A long time ago in a galaxy far away…

Okay, so not that long ago (about three years), and actually, in this galaxy (not too far away) an alliance called Presence was created to build the greatest student engagement platform to exist in the higher ed tech realm.

This team of engagement Jedis was determined to help student affairs professionals and the field higher education manage, track, assess, and engage college students by providing the most up-to-date engagement technology.

On Star Wars Day, we realize creating an awesome engagement plan with programs, marketing, and assessment alike can isn’t all that different from creating a classic movie.

It’s all about creating the best strategy. When Princess Leia overthrew the Empire with help from the Rebel Alliance — that was a pretty kickass strategy. She didn’t just hop into a starship and start shooting at stormtroopers. Leia created a plan, was prepared with a well-developed strategy, and ready to change that plan if it came to it.

Whether you’re looking to enhance your student engagement strategy or work to create a better community on campus, we’re providing some of the top lessons we’ve watched and listened to from one of our favorite films:

Star Wars.

“Do or do not, there is no try.”

This is one piece of information we think you should ignore from Yoda when it comes to student engagement. Higher education professionals should be constantly experimenting and trying new things to see what sticks and what can be discarded into the Sarlacc.

The higher education industry has been criticized in the past for not adapting to new technology or trying new ways to engage students. Sometimes holding on to the tried and true practices may work (like campus traditions) yet it’s important to understand the changing face of higher ed, which often goes untapped.

Student engagement is changing with each new incoming class and it takes an intrapreneurial mindset to explore the best ways to connect with the modern college student. Succeed you will.

Stay out of the dark when it comes to data

As Luke says to Yoda, “I don’t, I don’t believe it,” to which Yoda states, “That is why you fail.” If institutions don’t push themselves to find the path to utilizing data to understanding student experiences, it closes doors of optimizing student engagement.

Stay away from the dark side. Know — don’t guess! — know what types of student engagement is working at your institution. This is the time when professionals who work directly with college students need a deeper understanding of their students’ behaviors.

What programs resonate most with students?

What types of events do they prefer?

Students are not clones. Repeat, students are not clones. By taking advantage of in-depth data segmenting you can craft more meaningful experiences that work for more specific, niche, individual audiences or student personas on campus.

Understanding what students want and need on a granular level provides you with the ability to target specific student demographics on and off campus. It’s similar to how Luke was able to destroy the Death Star with one shot – with the right weapon (in this case, a software platform) and shot his target perfectly (the Force helped too).

Institutions need to listen to student stories (qualitative data) and compare it with hard quantifiable data which can be broken down into digestible, granular information.

It’s time to convince “non-believers” with data to find untapped resources and what is critical to increasing college student retention on your campus-starship sensor arrays optional.

Embrace your inner Chewbacca

Don’t take yourself too seriously when it comes to student engagement. Some of the best leaders like supervisors, advisors, and divisional leaders don’t take themselves too seriously either. Take some tips from Chewie.

Students appreciate when we host social programs and creative programs that are different or push them outside their comfort zones when it comes to meeting new people. Take programming ideas from Pinterest or one of our favorite websites, Soul Pancake. When employees and students are focused on having fun, it boosts student engagement and often makes students feel more comfortable and increases their commitment to being part of the community.

When you look at Jedi masters, you have to remember that they were once a young Padawan. Similar to increasing student engagement, it takes time, patience, and practice — all things an engagement Jedi has mastered.

Information on a complete student engagement platform is available now – not in a galaxy far, far away. Expand your Jedi engagement skills and boost your assessment practices with a free demo from a Jedi Master Engagement Specialist from Presence.

We have some other student engagement lessons under our belt, like providing challenge and support opportunities (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Luke SkyWalker), having students feel like they have an increased sense of belonging (the Rebel Alliance), and leveraging technology to your advantage (using the power of the Force)…

How have you used Star Wars to improve your student engagement practices?

Do you have any favorite lessons from above?

Tweet us @hellopresence! Thanks for reading.

Kayley Robsham

About the author: Kayley Robsham (she/hers) is a former Community Engagement Manager at Modern Campus Presence, the complete student engagement platform. Learn how we can help get your students involved.