Enhancing the student experience in Higher Education (HE) shouldn’t be a quick fix or an area you only focus on for a short period of time. You need to optimise it regularly so your institution provides an exceptional experience for students, resulting in increased retention rates and also to reduce dropout figures.
Here are nine tips you can try right now to enhance the student experience in your institution.
- Implement Creative Initiatives
- Offer Alumni Engagement Opportunities
- Provide Online Forums
- Embrace Diversity
- Ask for Feedback and Apply It
- Offer Training Opportunities
- Offer Extra Support Services and Promote Them
- Work Closer With the Students’ Union
- Transform the Curriculum
1. Implement Creative Initiatives
Focusing on the wellbeing of students plays a major role in the experience they have at university. While the majority might already expect week-long awareness campaigns regarding a certain issue - such as mental health - think outside of the box to implement more creative ideas that will engage them further. Some ideas include:
- Confidence and communication workshops.
- Walking groups.
- Yoga classes.
- Mentor programmes.
- Coffee, cake and a chat.
Ideas like these can feel more personal to students and offer something unique to them, compared to the support they already receive.
2. Offer Alumni Engagement Opportunities
A Randstad study revealed 45% of students have considered dropping out of their course. Some of the reasons for why they thought about doing so included financial pressures, loneliness, homesickness but also career uncertainty. The latter is an area where offering alumni engagement opportunities can help.
Students are understandably uncertain about what comes next. Will they graduate? Will they find a suitable career? Will the career help them earn a living? Students want to see the potential for success and growth, so set up avenues where they can chat with alumni that have gone on to enjoy great achievements.
It allows them to ask questions, receive feedback, ideas and put students at ease to keep them engaged and focused on their goals.
3. Provide Online Forums
Not every student is vocal in a lecture, seminar or workshop. They’re more comfortable in a private setting or behind a keyboard where they can share all of their thoughts and opinions. To allow like-minded students to come together and discuss issues that matter to them, create an online forum platform to foster close ties outside of the lecture theatres.
With online forums, students can continue learning at their own pace, create stronger ties with peers in group projects and also share knowledge in a setting where they’re most comfortable. Studies have also shown students who take part in online discussions like these tend to perform better in exams.
Create a platform and promote it to raise awareness. As students utilise a platform like this more often, it can help foster a spirit of togetherness between them.
4. Embrace Diversity
To offer a complete student experience, you need to consider all students at your institution, whether it’s ethnic minority students or those that come from a low-income background.
Focus on ways you can help their progression to graduation using your university’s tools and resources, ensuring they enter the working world with a genuine chance to excel. You also need to think beyond the classroom to other issues that can affect their experience.
For example, hate crime is a prevalent issue where HE providers can do more. A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted nearly a quarter of ethnic minority students have been subject to racial harassment on campus. One year earlier, a National Union of Students survey showed a third of Muslim students experienced a hate crime during their time at university.
You need to offer additional support, catered to ethnic minorities and their bespoke needs. This can include creating dedicated offices to support multicultural backgrounds and students of different backgrounds. You can also conduct frequent surveys to sense your institution’s sense of belonging, wellbeing support and inclusivity to see where you’re really at.
5. Ask for Feedback and Apply It
Student feedback is a major component of the experience they receive - or at least it should be. You can provide students with a platform to get their thoughts and opinions across, enabling them to provide HE institutions with valuable feedback on the teaching styles and learning environment.
There are many tools out there to utilise, ranging from SurveyMonkey and Google Forms to any internal polls you send out via email or the student portal. It’s a valuable way to find out what students truly think of the experience so far, what they’re concerned about and what they enjoy.
Having these insights is one thing, but you then need to apply that feedback. Utilise relevant suggestions to help improve the student experience and show students you’re committed to making changes they want.
6. Offer Training Opportunities
Teaching staff and tutors are on the front line, so they should receive training and also understand the role they play in offering a better student experience. It doesn’t just revolve around teaching styles either. Although important, training opportunities can upskill them further so they can recognise signs of potential disengagement.
It allows them to use their new skills to either help directly or at least point students in the right direction where they can receive additional support.
7. Offer Extra Support Services and Promote Them
Every university should have a focus on providing more than just academic support. Wellbeing is a major part of the wider student experiences, so it could be a time to refine your strategy and develop more support services than you already have.
Personal problems can often interfere with academic performance, so students also need to be fully aware of what your HE institution provides them with. Whether it’s through the prospectus, student portal or via regular emails, make an effort to promote both internal and external services and resources.
8. Work Closer With the Students’ Union
Although you might already work closely with your university’s students’ union, look at ways you can collaborate further to help students feel more involved from the start of their HE journey. For example, a closer partnership could result in the society search being made much easier for students.
It’s a beneficial way to increase participation rates for students of all faiths and backgrounds. With a lot of messages to keep up with, especially during Freshers’ Week, it can often be a challenge for them to find a society they’ll fit with. By working with the students’ union, you can make the search easier by promoting a range of unions which are personalised and catered to students.
It ensures they won’t be alone, they can participate in activities and enjoy a happier experience.
9. Transform the Curriculum
You can also work alongside students to co-develop and review the curriculum, tailoring it based on their feedback. It helps to ensure modules, assessments and grading criteria are integrated into the design of the curriculum.
This is where offering the chance for students to provide feedback can help. You might find that the number of exams is too high or you need to standardise module credits across all programmes. By gaining feedback and applying it to relevant areas of the curriculum, you can restructure the academic year to benefit students.
This by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do to improve the student experience in HE. Each university will do things differently with the experience at the heart of its strategy. There’s still so much more you can do to positively transform what you offer so we’ve highlighted even more ideas in our guide.
Find Even More Tips to Enhance the Student Experience in Our Guide
As the student experience plays a big role in retention and dropout rates, you need to find ways you can offer even more to students. In our guide, you’ll find what the student experience looks like today, what a good strategy looks like, more tips you can implement and much more.
To get your copy, click on the link below.