Do you know what students actually want out of a college?

"We are seeing a growing group of non-traditional students demand change in the way institutions offer courses," said Melissa Loble, Instructure's chief customer experience officer. "Learners are looking for flexibility and an emphasis on career skills in preparation for entering the workforce."

What do students look for in a college? To be set up for success in their future endeavors, of course. But how do they get there, and what must higher education institutions do to support them in their ventures?

Last week, Instructure, an education technology company, released its findings from “The State of Student Success and Engagement in Higher Education” survey, a reflection of 7,500 perspectives from current students, administrators and faculty from diverse public and private college institutions across the country. According to Melissa Loble, Instructure’s chief customer experience officer, students find value in so much more than simply a university’s prestigious reputation.

“We are seeing a growing group of non-traditional students demand change in the way institutions offer courses,” she said in a news release. “Learners are looking for flexibility and an emphasis on career skills in preparation for entering the workforce. Institutions that offer holistic solutions, such as mental health resources and mentoring programs, will go a long way in ensuring student success.”

The survey, conducted in July, revealed six prominent characteristics students look for in a college.

Convenience and flexibility

As a result of the pandemic, students demand options between in-person, online or hybrid courses and expect high standards in course design.

  • 62% of students report wanting to take some courses fully online, and 72% of faculty members wish to teach some courses fully online.
  • 69% of students have positive attitudes toward digital learning material, hybrid instruction (61%) and online learning (59%).

Career readiness

Most notably, career readiness continues to top the list of importance among college students, yet a significant number of institutions still struggle in this regard.

  • 32% of respondents say their institution struggles to prepare students for their careers post-graduation.
  • The majority (71%) attribute three important factors for measuring student success: Career readiness, skill competency and student advancement.

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Growing demand for competency/skills-based learning

The number of students seeking programs that allows them to quickly enter the workforce continues to grow, the survey indicates. Two-thirds of respondents believe competency-based education is the most important factor for students.

Student engagement requires tech-enhanced pedagogy

Higher education institutions must provide their students with a wide availability of technological resources, in addition to highly engaging instruction.

  • 52% of respondents have positive feelings toward online learning.
  • Colleges often use education technology to keep students engaged through video communication (57%), classroom management tools (50%) and learning management (42%).

The digital divide still exists

“Internet connectivity continues one of the most basic needs of learners across the globe,” the report reads. “Institutions are responding to students’ needs, including focusing on bridging the digital divide in a variety of ways.”

  • Internet access continues to be the greatest socioeconomic factor negatively impacting student engagement (91%).

Student mental health is paramount to student success

Supporting students’ mental health, especially since the pandemic, has become an increased focus among colleges and universities across the nation. Thankfully, higher education institutions have responded to this need, according to faculty members.

  • 56% of administrators, compared to 42% of students, believe their institution is adequately addressing student mental health.
  • Mental health counseling is the number-one method of supporting students (52%) compared to campus well-being events (45%) and mentorship programs (52%).
Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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