There are thousands of students pursuing higher education in the US. Unfortunately, a considerable percentage of them drop out (as many as 40% at the undergrad level). Many factors lead to low student retention, such as financial issues, being unwell, harassment, and facing academic challenges. An institution has to ensure quality education is available for those who want it and that everyone has the same holistic experience regardless of their background.
If you think your educational institution lacks in some areas and you’re unsure how to improve the student experience, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some things you can do to ensure your institution becomes the perfect place for students from all walks of life.
Make space for diversity
Student bodies aren’t usually made up of one group. And diversity isn’t limited to ethnicity. You have to consider gender, financial background, etc. For example, if your institution offers financial aid, there will be students who come on a tight budget. It would feel very exclusive if campus facilities were exorbitantly high. Similarly, some groups will encounter problems that the majority won’t. And that’s why you should ensure your services and support systems allow diversity in higher education and give most students the same experience.
Try thinking about what hurdles such groups encounter. There’s ample data and research on such topics, so refer to it when creating policies. 3.2% of Asian students and 12.6% of Native American students reported being threatened or attacked in educational institutes in 2019 alone. It would be best to create a safe space for minorities where they can speak up about harassment and crime without fearing being gaslit. You can set up offices dedicated to students from multicultural backgrounds, be inclusive when celebrating different cultures, and take surveys to understand the student body’s sense of inclusivity.
Encourage alumni involvement
Students often think about dropping out of their classes when burdened with financial responsibilities, loneliness, and the usefulness of their courses. Students often come across moments during their studies when they question whether what they’re studying will help them prosper in life, and that’s where alumni come into play.
Speaking to alumni answers many questions like what sort of job opportunities are available. Can those job opportunities sustain a comfortable living standard? Educational institutions should provide a platform where students can connect with relevant alumni and communicate with each other to clear up all their questions. Students can focus more on their studies when they have their doubts erased. On top of that, alumni can guide students so they don’t make the same mistakes and have a more holistic and well-rounded educational journey.
Create online discussion forums
There are several reasons why a student isn’t able to use their voice in a classroom- there’s limited time in lectures, or they don’t feel comfortable drawing attention to themselves. Online discussion forums are the perfect solution to cater to students who don’t engage much during class. Students who feel more comfortable asking questions behind the security of their screens are given the same opportunities as their more outspoken peers. A study has shown that students’ learning improves when a combination of technology and classroom teaching is used in their classes because it allows for content to be discussed in various manners. An instructor’s same statement may be incomprehensible for some, but the same statement could make complete sense if reiterated differently by a user on the forum.
There are many uses for online forums, and they don’t have to be used strictly for course-related topics. You can use this space to discuss institutional policies and reforms, voice your opinions on any event in your institution, report crimes, etc.
Work on the feedback you’re given
All institutions should take regular feedback from students because student feedback is imperative to check if an institution’s services suit students’ needs. Technology is at your disposal. You can send online surveys to the student body and run analytic tools on the results to figure out what’s up. You can ask for feedback on various issues, like how instructors teach and course evaluations, which provide students with a space to raise questions on anything at all.
So you’ve done the first part, which is taking feedback from students. Now you need to follow through with working on said feedback. If there are concerns regarding a teacher’s teaching style, meet with the said teacher to reform their ways. Suppose students are unhappy with how assessments are conducted in a particular course and nothing happens even after talking to their instructor, given that students’ grievances are valid. In that case, the institution must take note and step in. Acting on feedback creates trust in the institution that it’s dedicated to curating the perfect student experience.
Provide support services
Health is paramount and precedes everything. If a student is unwell, you can’t expect them to function to their full ability. In addition to education support from peer tutors and teacher’s assistants, it would be best to invest in mental health clinics and counselors. Education isn’t the only problem people face. It could be something going on at home or on campus.
Promote these services by keeping wellness events and activities, and spread the word via email or posters. Do whatever you can to assure students they can avail such services free of fear and judgment.
Revise the curriculum
You can’t imagine teaching students today a curriculum from a hundred years ago, right? Our curriculum must adapt and improve constantly. However, changes won’t be as substantial if it’s solely your effort alone. It would be best if you took student input as well.
Student feedback on assessments, course content, etc., will tell you what you need to change. You can fix the problem only when you know where a course went wrong, how it can be improved, if students would like certain content to be appended, etc.
Keep regular staff training sessions
Training teaching staff goes hand in hand with revising policies and creating an inclusive space. There’s more to being a great teacher than imparting knowledge. It would be best to train teachers on increasing class engagement, how to spot a student in distress, and how they can improve their students’ classroom experience.
The student experience is paramount to student retention. You can take many steps to ensure all students can make the most of their life at your institution. Create a space to connect alumni and present students so they can talk about career prospects relevant to their studies. Make online forums and provide educational and wellness support to struggling students, actively work on student feedback, and you’ll find your institution becoming an ideal place for students.