Universities play a pivotal role in setting individuals up for success for the trajectory of their lives. However, education not only opens the doors for career advancement, but it also leads to the betterment of society. Research has shown that college graduates have healthier habits and are more likely to volunteer in their communities.
Today, June 6th, marks National Higher Education Day. The day is dedicated to advocating for the value of higher education. Today we’re putting a spotlight on the common obstacles many students face on the path to their degrees in order to help universities inspire and motivate their students to make it through to graduation,
Here are some proven ways that universities can better support their students and combat the challenges they face from orientation to graduation.
1. Provide outlets for student feedback
Make sure students have multiple methods and means to contribute their feedback – both on courses and on other elements of the campus experience. Whether through face-to-face open dialogue with students or anonymous surveys sent electronically, having outlets for students to provide their opinions and voice their needs and concerns is key. Universities are better equipped to support their students when they have a full picture from them in their own words of the challenges they’re facing or how improvements can be made. This exercise of garnering feedback is especially important during the initial adjustment period for new students. 30% of the dropout rate comes from freshmen leaving before their sophomore year.
In the classroom, distributing surveys can encourage critical and well-defined student feedback, as well as participation in learning design even if a course has already begun. Instructors at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education use anonymous surveys in Google Forms to provide a mechanism for student voice, iteration, and culture-building in a classroom. Surveys can be distributed through various channels like email or online learning platforms like Canvas or Blackboard. Faculty can then make adjustments, offer accommodations or pivot in real-time to secure their students.
Opportunities for student voices to be heard directly and anonymously is key, as students will differ in whether or not they want to disclose their thoughts or struggles in front of others.
2. Make it abundantly clear where to go for support
As students adjust to the realities of today’s often blended learning environments, 71% of them are having trouble staying focused on their coursework. New students may not even know where to turn or how to articulate what they specifically need. Making it clear from the get-go where students may receive support can help eliminate this issue. Even after orientation is over, it is beneficial to send students periodic updates about mental health support and tutoring options via email reminders and university social media accounts.
“It is inspiring to see faculty take up more onus with regard to the student experience,” says Adam Dark, Customer Success Manager at AST, who is working with universities and community colleges across the country. “I am seeing a shift in some institutions where faculty are anticipating accessibility needs, which takes the onus out of the student’s hand to request accommodation.”
Additionally, assigning individuals with disabilities a dedicated person within the disability services department or within another department of your university can eliminate these students from having to put themselves in the uncomfortable position of stepping forward themselves. Universities need to be proactive in making their courses and campus events inclusive or have places where students can anonymously report their needs.
Technologies initially designed to help students who may be struggling, such as those with learning disabilities, can also greatly benefit the entire student body. Studies have shown that captioning, a solution designed initially for learners who are Deaf of hard of hearing, can help all learners with information comprehension and retention. Captions do not just provide equity for students who are Deaf or hard of hearing or struggling with ADHD, but they are also beneficial for everyone.
Enlisting a partner who understands the needs of your diverse student body and can provide technologies that address retention issues, such as AST, can make a massive difference.
3. Make career readiness a higher priority
Unfortunately there is a skills gap that exists between higher education and their graduates. Only 34% of college students feel prepared to enter the workforce. However, when students feel like their schools are preparing them for the real world, they are more likely to remain to complete their degrees and have the confidence to take on future roles. Introducing work assignments, consultancy projects, internships and other initiatives associated with real life challenges enhance the acquisition of much-needed practical skills.
One university doing inspiring work in this arena is Arizona State University. ASU has implemented a program for work-based learning, which utilizes the platform Riipen to allow students to get out of the classrooms and tap into one million hours’ worth of experiential learning projects. The University of North Florida (UNF) has also launched a partnership with Optimum Healthcare IT that enables new and recent UNF graduates — many biology or life sciences graduates — to enter a 12-week apprenticeship. This program allows students to gain relevant skills while, as an added bonus, paying them the entire time as they learn on the job.
It’s becoming increasingly more important to not just provide students with an education and courses that reflect knowledge of their degree subject alone, but to offer them advice, resources and real-world skills that will help them succeed once they graduate. Education may be rooted in the classroom, but experiential learning is key to carrying on knowledge and applying it to build an exciting and successful career.
Honor today by setting up support systems to see students through to graduation
In honor of National Higher Education Day today, we encourage you to set up protocols and programs to encourage student feedback, provide support and prepare students to succeed in their careers.
“Through thick and thin, higher education institutions continue to put their students, faculty, staff and the broader community as a top priority,” says Bethany Stolz, Customer Success Manager at AST. “AST celebrates higher ed every day but on National Higher Education Day, we honor universities and colleges for their courage and persistence.”
AST can serve as an essential partner as universities continue to navigate this process by providing recommendations of solutions to implement for greater student success. We’re working with leading universities, including the University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Arizona to provide them with captioning, transcription and 24/7 guidance to foster greater access in the learning experience and provide enriching college experiences for students both inside and outside the classroom walls. Reach out to AST to learn more about ideas to foster more supportive and inclusive campuses.