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Types of Institutional Engagement

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Student engagement is determined beyond the individual level. The culture, characteristic and structure of the post-secondary institution can also play a role in how students are engaged within campus. According to education researchers, Pike and Kuh (2005), there are seven types of institutional engagement based on characteristics of technology use, diversity, connectedness, academic activity and technology.

Diverse but interpersonally disconnected

  • Students within these institutions may be exposed to diversity but tend not to view their institution as supportive of their academic or social needs, nor do students view their peers as encouraging or helpful.
    • Ex. Toxic competitiveness among peers and lack of support from faculty within academics.
      This can look like constant comparisons as well as pushing others down for their own gain.
  • This would generally be considered a negative environment.

Homogenous and interpersonally connected

  • These institutions may be less diverse, but students tend to view their peers as supportive.
    • Ex. Students within equity deserving groups may not find many peers who relate to their unique circumstances but are generally among supportive members of campus.

Intellectually stimulating

  • These institutions offer a variety of academic activities with which students engage and provide a large amount of interaction with faculty.
    • Ex. Final year thesis project with a professor who invests time and energy to educate students.

Interpersonally supportive

  • Students at these institutions tend to be exposed to lots of diversity and view both their peers and their campus as supportive.
  • Learners may also have a good amount of contact with faculty.
    • Ex. Events that bridge faculty/staff and student connections are consistently held and are well
      attended due to accessible locations and times.

Academically challenging and supportive

  • Faculty at these institutions set high expectations and emphasize conventional learning approaches. Students support one another and view their campus as supportive.
    • Ex. Challenging coursework has accompanying practice test materials offered by faculty as well as opportunities for students to get help from upper year students.


  • Students support one another and often leverage technology such as online discussion forums, quizzes, and virtual office hours to support their learning. There is less exposure to diversity, but a reasonable amount of contact with faculty – who are viewed as supportive.
    • Ex. Faculty hold virtual office hours or flexible windows for contact so that concerns can be addressed together.

High tech, low touch

  • An overuse of technology at these schools may encroach on other types of interactions, creating little collaboration, little academic challenge, and an interpersonal environment that is not considered very important.
    • Ex. A completely online training that entails completing a module and an open book quiz for
      completion. There are no opportunities to collaborate or discuss material with peers.


Some of these institutional engagement methods are encouraged, some can be improved, and others can be a barrier to student engagement. It is important to recognize where your institution lies within
these categories and see whether these methods are benefiting all students.

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