- The holistic student experience is a growing focus for higher education stakeholders
- A new EDUCAUSE report examines technologies and practices shaping the holistic student experience on campus
- See related article: Flexibility is key to the student experience
More and more, higher-ed leaders across the nation are focusing on the importance of the student experience on campus and are analyzing the ways in which technology is used for student support and to improve the holistic student experience.
Student connection and belonging, mental health supports, the explosion of AI, concerns around storage and use of student data, and political factors have all led to conversations about where higher education itself is headed and what its future might look like. A new Horizon Report from EDUCAUSE explores these principles and highlights the importance of the holistic student experience.
In particular, the 2023 Horizon Report: Holistic Student Experience Edition identifies the key technologies and practices that an expert EDUCAUSE panel believes will have a significant impact on the future of the holistic student experience.
1. Artificial intelligence: “Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to impact all areas of the holistic student experience. Some stakeholders anticipate that AI-powered tools could be used to greatly improve students’ experiences through a broad range of functions: optimizing course loads, providing personalized coaching and tutoring, designing flexible and customizable learning paths, integrating content across courses and extracurricular activities, evaluating institutional processes and courses, assessing student learning, and much more. … Even those who envision a shining future for AI in higher education acknowledge that we are far from our ideal state, and getting there will take concerted investments of time and money.”
2. Accessible and inclusive tools and processes: “Accessible and inclusive tools and practices lie at the intersection of multiple social and technological trends described in this Horizon Report. The tools and processes the higher education community employs have the capacity to support students as never before, but they could also widen equity gaps between students in higher education institutions. An accessible and inclusive higher education requires much more than providing students with assistive technology or the ability to request accommodations. Accessibility and inclusivity must not be limited to instructional content. From student affairs and student life to financial aid and the parking office, the entirety of a student’s educational experience should be accessible and inclusive.”
3. Supporting student connection and belonging with technology: “Colleges and universities are leveraging technology to reimagine the ways in which students are able to connect, both with each other and with faculty and staff. Tools aimed at supporting students’ interpersonal connection and belonging can address issues such as recruitment and retention, educational and extracurricular engagement, academic
achievement, and general wellness. The role of student connection and belonging is well known to contribute to student success in higher education and support their holistic wellness by combating social isolation. Additionally, institutions can gain
valuable and essential insights about students’ experiences in their own words. Still, no technological solution comes without risk. Without careful implementation, tools designed for connection and belonging can easily flood students with extraneous information.”
4. Expanded mental health supports for students: “Higher education stakeholders’ increasing awareness of the challenges and impacts of mental health is a trend that touches almost every aspect of higher education. In an effort to aid students in these difficult times, faculty, staff, and administrators are working to expand mental health supports and programs. Faculty and staff training, peer counseling, graduate counselors and interns, and service bots are all examples of mechanisms for increasing student access to mental health support and equipping faculty and staff with the knowledge and empathy to connect students with the right help at the right time.”
5. Unified data models for learning analytics: “Higher education leaders can use learning analytics to achieve a more holistic understanding of student experiences across institutional silos, but only with the help of unified data models. Unified data models bring together disparate data from across the institution so that end users can carry out more robust analyses. Data insights can be used for a wide variety of institutional activities, from strategic planning to student advising. Analytics tools can also provide faculty and staff with recommendations such as pedagogical approaches and resources for students.”
6. Building data literacy for understanding and using student data: “All three of this year’s technological trends are related to data and data analysis. We see an increase
in the amount and types of data being collected about students; simultaneously, the use of machine learning and AI tools is increasing. New and improved data insights could certainly help the higher education community tackle some of its biggest problems (e.g., mounting budget cuts and the impending enrollment cliff), but without concurrent advances in data literacy for all institutional stakeholders, this data-driven culture could do more harm than good. Data insights that are improperly generated
or interpreted can inform interventions that reinforce harmful stereotypes and biases, lead to wasteful investment of resources in unhelpful programs, and distract institutional leaders from students’ holistic needs. Building data literacy for faculty and staff and empowering them to effectively generate and use data insights could improve institutions’ understanding of the holistic student experience, take a proactive approach to supporting students, and identify root causes of institutional barriers to student success.”