Student Success Beyond COVID

Student Success Beyond COVID

Reflecting on their learning through the pandemic, many students feel unimpressed by their education this year. Here’s what they need from colleges as many prepare to return to the post-COVID campus.

 

What supports college students need to succeed in the fall and beyond

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Kicker: 
Only 7% of students would rate the value of education received this past year as excellent.

Three ways campus leaders and educators can help college students get back on track after the challenges of learning within the confines of the pandemic (part two of a two-part article).

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What worked and what didn’t for college students learning through COVID-19

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Kicker: 
52% of students say they learned less this year compared to pre-COVID years.

Many students think the pandemic impeded their learning and academic progress, but the experience likely taught them some lessons about higher education and themselves.

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What students say about success in college (infographic)

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Success in college is about much more than getting a diploma. Our survey captured how students currently define success.

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Helping students recover from what they missed during COVID learning (opinion)

Most people who had a virtual birthday party or did virtual dating in the last year can attest that some things just weren’t the same during the pandemic. That was true in higher education -- and often for many of the same reasons. The eye contact and handshakes that are a regular part of teaching and learning in a face-to-face classroom were lost, which made the climb to the summit more challenging for many students. As a consequence of those losses, we may have even suppressed one of the most exciting and energizing parts of learning -- the entry into “flow state.” In the wake of this crisis, we may be able to give those lost benefits back to our students -- and in a variety of ways that foster learning.

To be clear, I am a strong advocate for the flexibility and accessibility of online education; I do not believe that higher education should be limited to the face-to-face environment. Indeed, research has shown that many people we serve with online education often wouldn’t have access to education at all if they couldn’t take advantage of the benefits that online education offers. Still, we are learning a great deal about what we and our students missed in this often-remote COVID year, along with hints of how we might do things differently.

Loss of Learning in Online

A remarkable 52 percent of students surveyed by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, with support from Kaplan, say that they learned less in academic year (AY) 2020-21 than they did in the pre-COVID years. If students learned less -- which we will be able to better assess this coming year as they move forward academically -- we must attempt to understand what that means for all of our curricula and what factors negatively (and positively) impacted their learning.

Compounding this, the disruption of both high school and college education during the spring when the pandemic began left only 6 percent of first-year students describing themselves as “very prepared” for AY 2020-21. The unexpected move to online, alongside the loss of face-to-face and hands-on experiences, may have left them feeling underprepared.

Complicating this issue is the fact that students who were online last year likely did not choose that environment; they were forced into it by the pandemic. Ninety-six percent of all students in the survey, most of whom had actively chosen face-to-face environments as their learning modality, were in a fully or partially online environment. That disruption may have made both the academic and the emotional components related to it harder for students who hadn’t planned on or chosen that flexibility, like those in a traditional online program. These students actually lost the face-to-face experience for which they had hoped.

Role of Interpersonal Contact

Perhaps related to the loss of that interpersonal contact (an interesting area for additional research), some of the struggle with learning in AY 2020-21 may be attributable to the higher levels of depression we saw in the traditional college-aged population during this time.

In the Student Voice survey, top concerns about performing well academically in the coming year were “difficulty concentrating” (58 percent) and “feeling unmotivated” (65 percent) -- both of which can be markers of depression. Half of students noted “mental health concerns” as a worry. Students fear that the stressors that plagued them this past year will follow them into the next and continue to impact them.

Flow State

A component of the struggle that we have not captured in most of our studies of this challenging period may grant us keener insight into why face-to-face environments have some advantages. Indeed, what struck me the most forcefully in the Student Voice research was the fact that over 80 percent of students surveyed said that concentrating during remote lectures was “extremely” or “somewhat” difficult. In addition, nearly half of the students surveyed said that their work took more time than it had in the past.

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I read this as, in part, being about a loss of flow state. Flow state, which was called an “ideal state of work performance” in the April 2021 issue of the journal IEEJ Transactions on Electrical & Electronic Engineering, is generated by meaningful challenge and can be accelerated by group energy. We can experience it solo, often in the wake of productive engagement with others, and in well-functioning groups. Unplanned/unchosen isolation can lead to depression, frustration and loss of motivation. In turn, the loss of engagement -- eye contact, handshakes and dialogue, all of which are fundamental features of the community in a college classroom -- may have also undermined the acceleration of learning that occurs as we foster and experience flow state.

Research during this disrupted academic year showed that “during online learning, feelings of disconnection, social isolation, distractions, boredom and lack of control exert a detrimental effect on the ability to reach the state of flow, the feeling of presence, the feeling of social involvement,” according to an April 2021 Behavioral Sciences article. The authors argue that, in a fully online environment, strong feelings of presence, engagement of the body and mind, can be created with tools like virtual reality.

Benefits of Technology

This is a valuable lesson, not just for a crisis, but as we teach our students across multiple learning modalities in the years to come. We can also use hybrid models of education delivery to foster in-person connection alongside the remote. Discerning new ways to create connection and community will help us help our students increase their academic success.

It’s not just about adding in more interpersonal contact. Over 30 percent of respondents to the Student Voice survey found chat boards, reminders/nudges and online discussions valuable adjutants to other kinds of support.

Strikingly, Hispanic and Latino students rated the value of interventions such as these a full 10 percentage points higher than other students. The Postsecondary National Policy Institute notes that 61 percent of Latinx students are first-generation college students, which suggests that they are already transcending other hurdles, like all first-generation students. This data suggests that these interventions, technologically or face-to-face, may make a real difference for our Latinx students and perhaps other demographics of students.

While it is unclear how much the absence of face-to-face engagement contributed to the challenges students experienced this year, we know that it was at least correlated. Given the array of concerns students identify in this study, we must strive to learn what we can about what was lost in this year, so we can better support student success in the future, not just understand their struggles in the past. We must create new models of both interpersonal and electronic support structures that attend to the needs of our students and help them be successful, whether we are in a crisis situation or not.

Author/s: 
Marlene Tromp
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Marlene Tromp has been president of Boise State University since 2019.

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Helping students deal with the culture shock of returning to campus in the fall (opinion)

The pandemic has affected just about every aspect of college operation, but its impact on education abroad has been most palpable. When COVID-19 hit early in 2020, international travel halted and national borders closed, campuses emptied and study abroad programs were called off.

Now, as vaccines have become available and nations are increasingly preparing for reopening their borders, massive and voluminous international travels loom imminently. But even before then, while our students may not be returning from abroad, they’re coming back to an unfamiliar place -- their own campus.

COVID-19 has kept many, if not most, of our students off our campuses for more than a year. We must use this downtime to prepare responses to reverse culture shock -- the unsettled feeling many people experience when they return to their home culture after time spent in another, this time with fresh eyes.

Reverse culture shock has been, traditionally and too conveniently, regarded as a bad, negative impact on a student -- a disorienting and unhappy experience of returning to campus after a semester or year away while studying overseas. Each year tens of thousands of students from American colleges and universities travel to other countries and learn about other cultures. So reverse culture shock is no small matter, nor does it occur on a small scale.

The U.S. Department of State website addresses reverse culture shock seriously, as it advises travelers on treatment of “the psychological, emotional and cultural aspects of reentry”-- a topic almost exclusively relating to students’ experiences of returning from study abroad. Coaches and advisers helping students “reorient” themselves encourage students to adapt and reintegrate, because these students, during study away, may have fallen behind their peers in pop culture, lost their connections and even misidentified themselves with foreign values and individuals.

Such an approach to diagnosing and “treating” reverse culture shock completely misses the value of study abroad. Much of the purpose of study abroad is to experience the shifts of perspectives that come from new cultural as well as academic environments for learning, to establish broader global connections and to have the opportunity to better understand one’s own identity. To some extent, by exploring the unknown, students are supposed to get “disoriented” and feel out of their usual comfort zones.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be valuable to refer to reverse culture shock in terms of how we prepare for students’ move back after more than a year’s absence from our campuses, where classes will place actually in the classroom instead of in bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms that have functioned as temporary teaching and learning venues. We must consider how the pandemic and political shifts have affected students personally and academically, as well as what the future of college life looks like and the challenges students should expect.

Reshaping the Intellectual Vistas of the Institution

At Goucher College, where we’ve sent all -- 100 percent -- of our students abroad since 2006, the value of study abroad and reverse culture shock is something we spend a lot of time talking about and planning for. Institutions like ours have benefited from the rich cultures and plethora of perspectives students and faculty members bring back to campus after they return from a semester-long study overseas or short-term Intensive Courses Abroad (ICAs). The so-called reverse culture shock upon return from study abroad is an enabler of this process and has been regarded with a positive point of view. Students, faculty, staff and, oftentimes, alumni bring to campus varying perspectives that constantly shape and reshape the intellectual vistas of the institution.

We’re now planning for a reverse culture shock of a different kind to help students transition to our residential campus later this year. And we’re preparing for such conversations about what students have learned about themselves, their family, community, college and the greater world while they were away from campus. For the fall semester, while Goucher continues with traditional programs to introduce and connect students to the campus with a new student orientation and welcome week, we have also designed intentional events and activities to foster the sense of the Goucher community.

For instance, the new student programs will also be offering programming specifically for sophomore support and reacclimation to the campus community. In so doing, we will allow students to come to campus a day early to take part in an orientation-style program, and we will implement programs throughout the semester specifically geared toward sophomores for questions around study abroad, career exploration, majors and the like.

Traditionally, upon return to campus from abroad, Goucher students write and present about their semester abroad. They discuss with peers what aspects of their host cultures were most surprising and how they adjusted and what they’ve learned about their individual identity as well as their national identity. These activities have resulted in their skills to navigate environments and crises with better chances to find solutions for themselves and for others.

For this fall’s return to campus, our office of student engagement will offer social programming to help students connect and build new relationships, as well as maintain established relationships. We will also support student organizations and clubs on campus in creating activities tailored to fit the particular needs of given student groups. These social programs, through student clubs or groups, aim to introduce and (re-)connect students to the campus. For instance, our New Student Portal is a well-crafted and intentional program designed to give first-year students -- including transfer students -- opportunities to actively engage in and explore the college, its resources and the people who make up the community.

Many of the similar events and circumstances associated with the college experience will create unfamiliarity when students adapt to a new “normal” campus environment -- something of a shock after the unexpected lengthy interruption from COVID-19. Immediately upon their return to campus, students will commiserate and share their pandemic experiences; many will lament the lost opportunities to build friendships with classmates, to connect to the campus community, to study abroad during college.

Yet all these regrets may be leveraged instead as powerful opportunities for reflection, resilience, determination and replanning. We can turn this reverse culture shock into something positive and meaningful if we get creative with our post-pandemic programs.

Luchen Li is associate vice president for global education at Goucher College.

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How faculty can support college students’ mental health this fall (opinion)

“As you return home,
your home, think of others.
Don’t forget those who live in tents.”
-- Mahmoud Darwish

“Numb” is the most appropriate adjective I wanted to use this past year when someone would ask me, “How are you?” Starting last summer, I noticed that I felt powerless to feel.

By September, I found myself searching online: “Why can’t I cry?” The pandemic triggered strong flashbacks, if not also nightmares, to when I was middle school age in Baghdad in 1991. When Operation Desert Storm launched, schools across the country shut down abruptly. We did not have the internet nor the ability to attend school virtually. Landlines were disconnected, and we lost electricity immediately when the bombing started. My father had a tiny battery-operated radio that we listened to in the morning after a night of bombing. We tuned in to the BBC to learn about which areas were targeted the night before, and then my father and uncle predicted how bad the next night’s bombing would be. One morning I heard my parents whispering about the bombing of the Amiriyah shelter, which was primarily occupied by women and children. I was terrified that my friends and schoolmates were in there.

The bombing lasted from Jan. 17 until Feb. 28. Shortly after the bombing ended, we went back to school. We came back expecting that some of our classmates and teachers would not come back. We’d heard on the news that people died. I’d heard rumors about students who were in the shelter the night it was bombed. The first class I attended was composition. I sat in the second-to-last row next to a wall. I was a serious student with few friends, but I knew everyone in my class. I immediately noticed that the first row was missing one of my classmates. I remember wondering if I would ever see her again. I passed notes to my classmates, asking them if they knew what happened. Then I raised my hand and, with tears in my eyes, asked to talk about the shelter bombing.

The war weakened the infrastructure of the country and caused it to regress from a thriving and developed country to one that barely had electricity. We lived under sanctions that caused tremendous amounts of stress and made basic life necessities hard to obtain. So, how did I, and my classmates, move forward and continue to learn? We did not have therapists or mindfulness training. We had teachers who told stories about their own methods for processing and moving forward. Our teachers allowed us to feel, to grieve, to goof off, to be vulnerable and to be human. Slowly but surely, we began to feel excited about learning and imagining our future.

A recent Student Voice survey from Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, with support from Kaplan, examined how students feel about their level of success this year and what they predict their success will be in fall 2021. Fifty percent of students who participated in the survey (total 1,411) chose “mental health” as a source of concern regarding their ability to “complete coursework and get good grades.” These mental health concerns among students were documented previously by the JED Foundation’s and Active Minds 2020 survey of college student mental health. For months I have been reflecting on how we will welcome our students back to our institutions and classrooms this fall.

What can we, as faculty and educators, possibly do to help attend to our students’ mental health and ameliorate their anxiety, depression and loneliness?

In answering that question, I recognize that first, we do not need to be therapists or have any formal training in counseling. Our job is not to diagnose or fix. Parker Palmer, founder of the South Carolina-based Center for Courage & Renewal, reminds us, “The human soul does not want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed -- to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” Second, and related to my first point, we each bring remarkable and rich assets and experiences that enable us to create the space for ourselves and our students to connect and reconnect; in doing so we can work with our students to leverage the healing power of what Naomi Shihab Nye calls the “tender gravity of kindness.” Nye connects our potential to experience kindness to our ability to know, experience, connect with and bear witness to others’ sorrow.

When we bear witness, we acknowledge and advocate for truth -- our students’ struggles, pains and griefs -- and in doing so, we validate and empower them to heal. By using our positionality and proximity to our students, we can transform the classroom into a bridge that allows them to move from an uncertain, painful, disenchanted present to a future they can feel excited about and look forward to.

Below are 13 suggestions for supporting our students this coming fall term and bearing witness to their pain and joy, their stories and shared humanity. Reflect on these ideas and then share with our higher ed community and me (@lrningsanctuary) your own planned strategies for this fall semester, using #bearwitnesshighered.

Before the Semester: Course Planning

1. Focus on student assets. What will be your first communication with your students? What is the impression you want to leave on them after they receive the initial email from you? Consider articulating that when they come into your class, they bring past experiences, language, stories and cultural assets that can enable meaningful learning for themselves and the rest of the classroom community. For example, consider sending a short email a week before the semester begins to let students know how excited you are to embark on a learning journey with them.

2. Emphasize the intellectual and emotional aspects of learning. Add to your course learning outcomes an objective about the human dimension of learning, about our interdependence and interconnectedness. Often, our syllabi use technical language that does not encompass the affective dimensions of learning. Intentionally impart to your students that you want them to engage, to grow, and that there is responsibility that comes with knowledge. For example, consider adding a version of the following learning goal: “By the end of this course, students will be able to articulate the power of empathy in helping us see our common humanity and strive for truth and justice in the world.”

3. Explicitly prioritize student well-being. Add to the syllabus a statement about mental health and that you will prioritize your students’ well-being. In addition, include in the course schedule a mental health day when students take the day off to attend to themselves. Provide a list of national resources to learn about mental illness -- why we become depressed or anxious, for example -- and offer tools to help students. Libraries can purchase a license for the recent documentary The Wisdom of Trauma with Gabor Maté. Invite students to watch the documentary and share a paragraph about what resonated with them.

4. Connect institutional support with the classroom. Schedule an in-class visit from a college therapist or mental health specialist to share resources the institution offers related to grief, anxiety and depression and explain how to access them. During the session, ask questions and invite your students to ask questions. For example, what are warning signs of mental or emotional distress that you and students should be aware of and what should they do about them? Also, why do students struggle to seek help, and how can you, as their instructor, encourage them to do so?

5. Infuse music, poetry, humor and storytelling into your course. We store trauma in our bodies. One powerful way to metabolize trauma is through expressive arts, because they allow us to connect, create, make meaning, express, communicate and imagine new narratives. When planning your course, incorporate the arts throughout. For example, have music playing in the background when students arrive at your class. Invite students to request songs you can play throughout the semester. Another example is to offer 10-minute mental breaks during which students may journal, draw or write lyrics. Divide the time equally between creating and sharing.

At the Beginning of the Semester

6. Share your own story. Talk about how you navigated the past year and how you are processing the grief. This gesture will help normalize the feelings of pain and sadness and help create a space for your students to process their own experiences. It is important to remember that our stories should not burden the students but remind them that to feel sad is to be human. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, whose patients include college students, faculty members and staff, says showing “some level of vulnerability can go a long way” toward helping students. While Gold doesn’t advocate a need to disclose our mental health history to students, she reminds us that talking about our own pandemic-related challenges will help students open up.

“Students assume faculty don’t understand what they are experiencing … they will never approach you to talk about it if they don’t feel you are a safe person or trusted person to talk to, or one who even values the emotional experience in the first place.” Storytelling helps others imagine and connect and begin to feel comfortable to tell their own stories and even ask for help.

7. Remind students that you are there for them. Let students know they can come to you if they need help and that even if you cannot personally help them, you will find help for them. Let them know that you will also check on them if they stop showing up, because you care. If you continue not to hear from them, you will seek support from a dean or counselor, because you are concerned about their well-being. When or if that happens, it is crucial that your students know that you are not upset with them and that they are not “in trouble.”

Throughout the Semester

8. Remember that language matters. Invite, reassure and encourage. When the fall term begins, after a year of learning during a pandemic, students will likely have retained less than they would have in a typical year. (In the Student Voice survey, 52 percent of students reported feeling as if they learned less this past year compared to pre-COVID.) It can be overwhelming for students to hear how they are “behind” academically without giving them a road map to catch up.

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We have to balance content with grace and be mindful not to overwhelm them with a sense of urgency to “catch up.” For example, during your first meeting with your students, congratulate them on making it through last year and let them know that you will devote time to review and bring everyone up to speed. Gold notes, “Be aware of the language you use in emails. The smallest thing you write in an email to the whole class, but especially in reply to a student, will be analyzed over and over and sometimes can be taken out of context. Lead with validation and empathy where possible. Especially right now.” I have forgotten much of the contents from my undergraduate years, but I do remember things my professors said to me when I was feeling anxious or self-doubtful and how that made me feel.

9. Focus on learning as a process. Remind students throughout the semester that learning involves a complex series of events that change the brain’s structure. Learning is a journey, and struggle is part of that journey. Failure to understand the materials the first time around is part of the learning. It is essential that when we discuss failure as an opportunity for growth, we model that and remain consistent in that message. Communicate to students that your approach to assessment is to help them learn the materials, even if it means you slow down and or take multiple tries. For example, consider using an assessment or grading approach that centers on students and their learning improvements.

10. Center meaningful learning. Remind students of the big picture throughout the semester. Our brains seek and make meaning and assign value to those meanings and invest energy accordingly. If an activity we are engaged in is meaningless, our brains will quickly disengage and divert attention to other, more meaningful activities. At the beginning of the semester, ask why they are taking your course and how their reasons relate to their dreams and the betterment of their community and the world. Then, throughout the semester, say, “Remind yourself why being here matters to you, your family and your community.” Invite them to write their answers on a Post-it and place it on a wall and have everyone examine all the Post-its during the break.

11. Help students tell their stories. Help students get to know, support and advocate for each other. Trauma impacts our sense of self and causes us to view ourselves as an other. One reason peer support helps us is that it allows us to connect with others who can bear witness to our story as we bear witness to theirs. Sometimes, when we feel stuck, our peers can help us tell our truths and lessen our pain.

This support from our peers can help liberate the stories we carry, as was echoed in Maya Angelou’s words: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” For example, during the first couple of weeks of the semester, encourage students to learn each other’s names and three everyday things that connect them. One of your assignments could be to ask students to advocate for each other. Let them know you will give five points extra credit to the entire class if everyone completes the assignment, and every student has an advocate.

12. Pause to reflect and advocate. Advocate for systematic mental health support. I have written about how institutions need to have a holistic approach to mental health where an ethic of care and kindness becomes foundational to our institution -- for students and employees alike. At times it will seem like no change is happening, and no one is taking us seriously. We persist in the name of love -- for our students, our colleagues and humanity. Someone will eventually listen.

13. Take care of yourself and find a support network. One of my former mentors used to tell me, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” In the same spirit, we have to take care of our own well-being so we can continue to give. Gold notes, “It is really hard to be a faculty member, especially in the middle of returning to a ‘new normal’ work environment after a pandemic. You have a right to feel whatever you will feel and to have your own support. It will make you a better teacher to understand your reactions and why you are having them, to cope with the experience yourself, and to problem solve.” Self-care is not a luxury but rather a way to help us metabolize pain, grief and traumas in order to continue to help others.

In two recent Inside Higher Ed columns, I wrote about how intentionally engaging students and their well-being can help them navigate their way through murky terrains to a beautiful future where they can be more confident and excited about learning and life. Our healing journey ahead is not going to be easy or painless or predictable.

There is nothing I wish to romanticize about my life as a middle school war survivor: it was scary and painful and, at times, still is. But our journey can be communal, and in that community, even as we grieve we can find comfort and even joy.

Author/s: 
Mays Imad

Mays Imad (@lrningsanctuary) is a neuroscientist and the founding coordinator of the teaching and learning center at Pima Community College. She teaches biomedical ethics and pathophysiology and studies stress and emotions and their effect on students’ learning.

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College students rate online learning during the pandemic a disaster (opinion)

Many university leaders have praised how well their institutions managed through the abrupt transition from in-person to online education during the pandemic. As one higher ed industry expert put it to me last week: “They’ve strained their necks patting themselves on the back so much.” But fresh student ratings on the value of their education tell an entirely different story. They say past year was closer to an unmitigated disaster than any kind of success.

Among the latest findings from Inside Higher Ed’s Student Voice survey (in partnership with College Pulse and supported by Kaplan) are college student ratings on the value of their education this year. On a five-point scale from “excellent” to “poor,” a mere 7 percent of current students rated the value of their education this year as “excellent,” while nearly three times as many (19 percent) were on the opposite end of the scale rating it “poor.” Nearly half all students (47 percent) rated their educational value as “fair” or “poor.” No way to sugarcoat it -- this is an abysmal rating.

To further illustrate how bad this rating is, following is an apples-to-apples comparison to what is arguably the most prevalent customer rating metric in history: the five-star rating used by ride-sharing company Uber and many other companies and organizations. (Across 2019 and 2020 alone, there were 12 billion Uber rides completed -- all of which gathered user ratings.) Asking the same exact question above but using the five-star scale, students gave their colleges and universities an average 3.4 rating this past year (which includes just 11 percent who provided a five-star rating).

To put this in perspective, Uber famously fires drivers who average below a 4.6 rating. (Interestingly, only about 2 to 3 percent of drivers are in that range.) If universities were rated like Uber drivers, they would have been fired many times over this year.

Granted, an Uber ride is very different than a college education. But the rating metric is nonetheless a tried-and-true indicator that is well understood by a vast majority of students and consumers across many kinds of products, services and experiences. And higher education would be wise to take its dismal rating with a dose of humility and urgency.

The pandemic accelerated and compounded many pre-existing conditions facing higher education, from rising tuition costs to doubts about graduate work readiness and substantial declines in the confidence of higher education. Although universities made a fast and impressive logistical pivot to online during the pandemic, there is little evidence to suggest it was done well from a quality-of-education perspective. And this will further exacerbate the current trend of declining confidence and enrollments in higher education.

This is not to suggest that all colleges and universities did a poor job this year delivering on the value of their education. But the averages tell us there is quite a bit of fresh student dissatisfaction on top of the already growing doubts and questions about the value of higher education.

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In addition, the pandemic has created new student expectations that universities are going to be very hard-pressed to deliver upon, according to another recent Student Voice survey. Although most students are eager to return to in-person learning, the majority still want the option to take classes online, and eight in 10 would like all their lectures to be recorded. As higher ed leaders plan for a full return to campus this fall, few are thinking about how they will deliver on both an in-person and an online experience for students and faculty going forward. With strong demand for continued work-from-home options among working adults and faculty, this will be even more complicated.

Unlike the Uber driver who gets fired at 4.6, higher ed leaders have an opportunity to take their 3.4 rating and treat it as the baseline for continuous improvement going forward.

College and university officials should take quality ratings of all kinds seriously and utilize them as critical barometers on the education they offer. One clear learning from the pandemic is that some schools/colleges, and some teachers/faculty members, adapted to online far better than others. There was tremendous variability in the quality of what was offered with rich lessons to guide improvement. Unlike the Uber driver who gets fired at 4.6, higher ed leaders have an opportunity to take their 3.4 and treat it as the baseline for continuous improvement going forward.

Coming out of the pandemic, student expectations are going to be sky-high. With students fresh off a not-so-satisfying year with new experiences and modalities from which to evaluate their education, it is plausible their ratings could drop further as opposed to improve. This is no time to take the foot off the pedal of improving pedagogy and the overall quality of the educational experience for students. In fact, this coming academic year may be the most important year in higher ed history to deliver on value.

Author/s: 
Brandon Busteed

Brandon Busteed is chief partnership officer and global head of learn-work innovation at Kaplan, sponsor of the Student Voice news hub.

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