Last Update, March 2017
A common strategy used by marketers to make sales is the word of mouth. The education sector also relies strongly on this strategy to cement their establishments. Students are very vocal and will always communicate their thoughts, feelings and general experiences about an institution. What they communicate can either lead to an increase or drop in enrollment rates of educational institutions.
We have used the case of Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) to highlight tips on gaining positive student experience. MMU won the Student Experience Award at the Guardian Higher Education Awards. This is a big deal as it says a lot about their services. EQAL (Enhancing the Quality of Assessment for Learning), a curriculum transformation project funded by Jisc is what made them get the trophy. We analyzed this work and came up with the following top pointers that any educational institution should follow to help enhance student learning experiences https://edservices.wiley.com/unique-approach.
1. Examine student satisfaction and dissatisfaction avenues
Operations in educational institutions are interdependent. Therefore, it can be challenging to intervene to bring more satisfaction.
However, you can use data collection tools to highlight student activity. Further, you can join these data with satisfaction datasets to build statistical models of what is working and what isn’t. After you have enough findings, create focus groups where you can have activities aimed at validating and exploring the findings.
The EQAL project at MMU used this project, and a statistical analysis of the National Student Survey revealed what the students felt about the organization. Focus groups that dived deeper into the findings, shed light on inconsistencies rising from assessments and module delivery and scheduled assignment timetables and up-to-date class were created.
The project reveled that most problems arose from unwieldy undergraduate curriculum. This was seen to be more complex and as a result, implementing consistent improvements for all students became difficult. The solution arrived at was to completely re-write the undergraduate curriculum to make it simple and therefore improve students experience.
2. Embrace Technology
Student needs evolve with technology. Today’s student wants accurate and personalized information about assignment deadlines, timetables, recommended reading, etc. A great learning experience aims at bringing consistency to information students want. EQAL used web services to gather this information, presented it on the CampusM mobile app and their new Moodle virtual learning environment. The result was quartile improvements in learning resources, course organization and overall satisfaction scores (2011 and 2012 National Student Survey).
To understand more about technology use in the case study or how to use technology is your context, refer to Jisc infoNet’s advice on the strategic use of ICT.
3. Listen to your students.
A good student’s survey will go a long way in showing the areas that require improvement and the evolution of your students’ needs. Handle the survey findings with the seriousness that it deserves.
MMU has a refined internal students’ satisfaction survey that’s personalized and tailored to a student’s studies. There are closed questions which prompt open questions that directly focus on the students’ best and worst experience. The questions asked are mostly based on areas that the National Student Survey found most significant to students.
When you have your survey findings, (alias students voice), integrate those with programmed committee meetings, student union’s termly reports and student journey mapping. This will allow you to discuss the triangulated findings with central services, programmed teams and student reps to ensure you take the best steps to meet the needs of the students. As you see, it’s not just a matter of merely listening to your students; you must also implement the changes so that they know you listen.
4. Highlight the roles of engagement
There are a lot of opportunities for students to maximize their experience at the learning center. However, for them to be engaged, there’s need for effective communication. Debate has been going round as to whether students should be viewed as clients, customers, partners or all of these. The conclusion to this lies in feedback channels. There are aspects of student life that can be simply improved through effective customer feedback. This will call for some students’ to act as course reps, stand for student union posts or contribute to partnership projects to keep an eye on the other students.
These four pointers are not recipe for success. However, they will help you build your way towards improving and maintaining student experience.