5 ways to help students cultivate a sense of belonging

Students who report a strong sense of belonging at their college or university typically do better in school, and a new survey points to five key steps schools can take to support students’ mental health and success.

This sense of belonging is critical for students, especially students who are first-generation college students and students of color from low-income backgrounds. In fact, feeling a sense of belonging has been proven to have an effect on college completion rates.

A report based on a survey of alumni from the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP), which aims to prepare its K-12 students to thrive in education and the workforce, points to clear-cut steps institutions can take to help students feel positive about their path.

The survey results indicate five actionable steps colleges and universities can take to help KIPP alumni, and students like them, sustain a strong sense of belonging and positive mental health.


3 ways video assessment fosters community in online courses

While online courses have become a convenient option for students, their growing popularity has also exposed some significant challenges associated with distance learning. One in particular—how to foster community in online courses—is especially pressing. Unfortunately, digitizing aspects of the learning process has caused some of the human components to fall to the wayside.

Since online learning environments often include little to no face-to-face contact, building relationships between students, their peers, and the instructor can be difficult. And students have been feeling the sting, which shows in both satisfaction levels and academic performance.

The problem: face time

In many online classes, educators hold students accountable for their coursework, but student and peer-to-peer engagement isn’t always a requirement. Because of this, learners often miss out on opportunities to build valuable soft skills like communication and collaboration. Peer review is another great way for students to forge relationships, but because they aren’t physically present in a classroom, it’s difficult for instructors to enable these exercises. Distance learning also makes it harder for educators to provide personalized, timely feedback, which hampers their connection with students.

The solution: video assessment

Most instructors understand the importance of establishing a community in online courses, but they may not have the right tools to foster one. Video-assessment platforms offer a unique solution because they address the issue at a peer-to-peer and student-to-instructor level.


11 online education trends institutions should track

Career aspirations continue to drive students’ decisions to enroll in online education programs, according to a new survey tracking online learning trends.

The report from BestColleges.com surveyed 295 online program administrators and 1,500 students, including prospective students, current students, and alumni, to gauge their experiences in online education programs.

In addition to career motivations, survey results show online students are getting younger, and schools report an increase in enrollment of traditional college students.

The survey delves into trends around online program marketing and recruitment, program design and development, and student demographics.

The trends can guide institutions as they tailor their online learning programs to best suit students’ needs:

1. Seventy-three percent of online students say career and employment goals were a major motivation for enrolling in their online learning program. Those goals include transitioning to a new career field (35 percent) and earning academic credentials in a current field of work (30 percent).

2. Online students are getting younger, and 34 percent of surveyed institutions reported an increase in traditional college students (ages 18-25).

3. Demand is increasing, as well. Ninety-nine percent of online education program administrators say demand has increased or stayed the same over the past few years, and nearly 40 percent of respondents say they plan to increase their online program budgets in the next year.

4. It appears online programs are carefully considering enrollment growth and hiring trends—73 percent of schools say they decided to offer online education programs based on the growth potential for overall student enrollment, while 68 percent also considered employment demand.

5. Prospective students use a variety of methods to research online education programs, including reading online reviews from students (23 percent), researching college websites (18 percent), contacting schools directly (17 percent), researching ranking websites (17 percent), visiting campuses (13 percent), and talking to students or graduates (10 percent).

6. The majority of students in online education programs (79 percent) and the majority of alumni (76 percent) think online education is better than or equal to on-campus education, and 57 percent of surveyed schools say employers feel the same way.

7. Cost remains students’ biggest obstacle as they choose as online education program. Estimating annual costs and applying for financial aid are identified as students’ two biggest challenges.

8. Students struggle to find the right online education program. In fact, this challenge was the third-most-identified challenge. This might be due to the increase in younger students who may not have identified goals or chosen a career path.

9. Surveyed schools predict business and related subjects such as logistics and accounting, healthcare and medical subjects, and computer science will experience the most enrollment growth over the next five years.

10. Schools say they are offering a new online education program as a growth opportunity to increase overall student enrollment (73 percent), because there is employment demand for the knowledge or skills (68 percent), and because there is a demand from students who are interested in the subject area or degree level (64 percent).

11. Schools’ biggest challenges when it comes to offering online education programs include marketing new online programs to prospective students and meeting recruitment goals (74 percent), and meeting cost and management demands required by new online programs (54 percent).


4 key predictors of students’ satisfaction with their institution

Students who find their higher-ed studies relevant to their current roles in the workforce tend to believe they received a high-quality education that was worth the cost, according to a new Strada Education and Gallup study examining perceived quality and value of higher education.

Relevance has emerged as a key issue in both K-12 and higher education, with students more engaged in and satisfied with their education when they know their classroom lessons are directly related to the world around them.

The report is the first in a three-part series, “From College to Life: Relevance and the Value of Higher Education,” and examines perspectives from a nationally representative sample of 78,091 adults, ages 18 to 65, who are currently employed and have taken at least some college courses. Findings come from the daily Strada-Gallup Education Consumer Survey.

The report builds on previous Strada-Gallup research signaling the importance of relevance in higher-ed learning. For instance, consumers say “job and career outcomes” are the main reason they enrolled in higher education, more than doubling mentions of any other motivation.

The most valued advice when it comes to choosing an educational path and field of study comes from work-based sources. Confidence in finding a job and succeeding in the workplace are significantly higher motivations among those who have had faculty or staff members speak with them directly about their career aspirations.


How to use technology to improve the transfer process

The University of Arkansas had a problem: Admissions staff needed to make quicker decisions about transfer students and needed to reach students in new markets, but a backlog of transfer credits slowed progress.

After a state lottery bill funded academic scholarships in 2009, the university saw enrollment jump. Then, it became easier for students to transfer their associate degree coursework to four-year schools, leading to transfer increases between 5 and 10 percent each year.

Despite these spikes in enrollments and transfer students, the university’s registrar and admissions staff remained the same size, which meant staff had to process more documents and transcripts via legacy technology and manual processes.

Average transcript turnaround time varied between two and six weeks. Sometimes, final transcript evaluations weren’t finalized until a month into a new semester. Data entry took up much of the staff’s time—high school and college transfer transcripts went to the university’s admissions office for review and were manually entered into the university’s PeopleSoft system. Next, transcripts were hand-delivered to the registrar for manual review and posting.


Training new grads to beat out the bots

As graduation nears for many college students, the job hunt is officially on. And, as if the pressure to land that first gig weren’t high enough, today’s grads are now facing competition from a new quarter: robots. While these bots may not be a physical presence in the office just yet, advanced automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to take over some—perhaps many—of the jobs that human workers hold today. With automation on the verge of mass adoption across many industries, how can workers make sure they have the skills necessary to keep their jobs, and succeed in them, in the face of automated competition?

The threat is real

According to a recent study commissioned by MindEdge Learning, the threat to existing jobs is real. Nearly half (42 percent) of company managers believe that automation and robotics will lead to a net loss of jobs in their respective industries, while only 18 percent say that automation will help to create jobs.

Our study, which surveyed 1,000 U.S. managers (or those of higher rank) about the rise of robotics and AI in the workplace, found that the level of concern about potential job losses is much higher at companies that have already automated. Fully 52 percent of managers at such companies say their workers are worried about job losses; by contrast, at firms that have not yet adopted automation, a mere 15 percent of managers say their employees are worried about their job security. These findings strongly suggest that employees at non-automated firms are seriously underestimating technology’s eventual threat to their livelihoods.

But it isn’t all bad news. The survey also shows that managers have a clear sense of the type of worker who won’t be supplanted by robotics and advanced automation. So the challenge for new grads and all other job candidates is to become that type of worker. How? It all boils down to having the right combination of skills.


9 online learning trends straight from chief online officers

Online learning continues to offer expanded learning opportunities to traditional and nontraditional students, but it also challenges institutional norms.

Now, a new report examines what chief online officers have to say about must-have technologies and tools, new program ventures, and alternative learning providers.

The 2018 Changing Landscape of Online Education is part of a continuing effort to uncover what chief online officers at higher-ed institutions think about learning policies, practices, and plans. It’s a joint initiative of Quality Matters and Eduventures.

The report offers a deeper dive into important online learning subject matters and policies, including these 9 areas:

1. Though the term “online learning” can blur the lines between all-online and blended learning, surveyed institutions tend to emphasize fully-online programs over blended learning—in fact, very few institutions said they see blended learning as a core strategy.


Is your state among the best for higher education?

Virginia tops the 2018 list of best states for a higher education, according to a new ranking from SmartAsset, which analyzes U.S. public institutions to determine which offer the best value based on a variety of metrics.

The analysis compares states using five factors:

Undergraduate graduation rate: Data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Data is for the 2015-2016 school year.

Average net price: This metric considers the average yearly price for first-time, full-time undergraduate students. Data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and is for the 2015-2016 school year.

Student-faculty ratio: This metric also comes from the IPEDS data center. It’s from the 2016-2017 school year.

Twenty-year return on investment: This is the difference between 20 years of median pay for a graduate with a bachelor’s degree minus the costs for attending the higher education institution for four years and 24 years of median pay for a high school graduate. Data comes from Payscale.

In-state attendance rate: This is the percentage of students who graduated from high school in 2015 who went on to attend an in-state college. Data comes from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.


It’s time to turn legacy HR departments into a digital experience

Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that nearly 80 percent of executives surveyed rated employee experience as important, while only 22 percent reported that their organizations were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience. This is often related to legacy human resources (HR) systems that don’t support a modern experience, or fragmented processes that are too manual and don’t use digital tools. These realities can cause your university’s stakeholders to be disappointed with institutional interactions.

Fragmented systems and processes can create frustration for employees when, for example, they’re unable to find the information they need to manage their careers or life events, or when their attempt to execute HR tasks becomes complex and time-consuming.

Today’s digital workforce demands access to information that is predictive, personalized, and easily accessible. So, why don’t HR departments offer something similar?

Making the shift to digital

HR leaders are beginning to recognize the need to shift from “systems of record” to constituent-centered models. And while building a digital organization of the future is challenging for any industry, this is especially true in higher education, where the quality and reputation of your faculty, students, and staff is of the utmost importance.


10 new trends defining the state of higher education

Establishing innovative strategies for growth and preparing for industry disruption are just two of a number of trends higher-ed leaders should expect to come their way in 2018, according to a new report.

The State of Higher Education 2018, from professional services firm Grant Thornton LLP, offers guidance around emerging and potential higher-education trends in 2018. The leadership challenges and opportunities outlined in the report are shaped by the firm’s interaction with higher-ed clients.

Trends include achieving growth strategies; preparing for disruption; outsourcing via shared services consortia; using public-private partnerships; mergers, partnerships, and collaborations; tailoring fundraising to generational nuances; using independent verification and validation ( IV&V) for cloud implementation success; innovations in campus facilities usage; preparing for social media reputation risks; and new ways to measure success.

“This is a time of great potential for engaging a diverse constituency, collaborating with other institutions and private industry, and effecting substantial operational change,” writes Mark Oster, national managing partner for Grant Thornton’s not-for-profit and higher education practices. “Innovative thinking will be vital to successfully moving into the future and we hope these articles will help institutional leaders do just that.”