Understanding the evolving needs and expectations of students is paramount to student success, retention, and completion.

How can leaders boost student success?

Understanding the evolving needs and expectations of students is paramount to helping ensure their retention, completion, and long-term success

Key points:

As higher-ed leaders continue to grapple with enrollment challenges and vastly diverse student groups, understanding students’ needs and expectations is essential in ensuring a positive student experience and academic (and long-term) success.

A new report from Anthology, surveying more than 5,000 higher education
leaders and current students in 11 countries, delves into issues such as student mental health, tech-driven experiences, and student success as it provides context and perspective about the opportunities, challenges, preferences, and
technology impact across a number of areas.

In examining just responses from U.S.-based university leaders and students, it’s clear that institutions must understand students’ needs and expectations if students are to reach academic and long-term success.

Ninety-two percent of responding students indicated “at least one significant challenge they faced during the last term.” Of those students, 44 percent reported feeling anxious or overwhelmed about academic workloads or expectations. Nearly the same percentage (41 percent) indicated that managing mental health and wellness was a key challenge.

“There are clear actions that universities should consider based on this data,” according to the report. “Prioritizing mental health support for students seems paramount based on the responses–while this may not be fully in a university’s remit,
ensuring that students are aware of mental health services that are available, and are able to access these services, is critical. Additionally, universities should consider ways to reduce the anxiety or pressure from academic expectations–how universities can better support students, ensuring they feel prepared rather than overwhelmed.”

Students were also asked to identify how their institution could support them as they worked to finish their degrees. Top answers included offering a wider range of engaging and relevant courses and majors (33 percent), offering more academic support services (30 percent), and enhancing career and internship services (27 percent), helping students feel like they’re part of the university community (24 percent), and enhancing financial aid and scholarship opportunities (24 percent).

When university administrators were asked how they could help support students, top answers included creating a deeper sense of belonging on campus (23 percent), implementing flexible schedules to accommodate work or personal obligations (22 percent), offering courses in different modalities (21 percent), improving communication and transparency around academic expectations (19 percent), and enhancing financial aid and scholarship opportunities (17 percent).

University leaders have an opportunity to examine students’ top priorities and address those with strategic policies actions, and changes that reflect students’ needs.

Technology is a valuable way to improve the student experience. Overall, students are looking for more support and guidance in a world where they are increasingly communicated with. One of the key opportunities is through more personalized information from their university. The large majority of students would find the following types of information helpful to receive:

  • Reminders about assignments due in class (90 percent)
  • Recommendations of courses to take based on career goals (89 percent)
  • Recommendations of courses to take based on prior grades (88 percent)
  • Reminders about upcoming deadlines such as course registrations, etc. (87 percent)
  • Recommendations for courses to take based on their major (86 percent)
  • Information about upcoming student organization events (82 percent)

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Laura Ascione

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