In higher education, students are the main consumer. And as with all consumers, they have expectations of the quality of service or product that they’re buying.
Universities are having to fight harder to stay ahead of the competition in attracting new students and providing the quality courses, materials, support, and experiences that today’s students have come to expect.
How has the pandemic impacted student satisfaction?
The National Student Survey 2021 revealed that out of the 330,000 students surveyed, 75 per cent agreed that they were satisfied with the quality of their course.
Despite being a significant decrease from 83 per cent in 2020, the decline in satisfaction was seen in students studying subjects such as agriculture and performing arts. This perhaps reflects the difficulty that these hands-on and experiential learning courses had in transitioning to online learning.
The Office for Students, which manages the survey, also included an extra set of questions specific to studying during the global pandemic.
More than 180,000 students answered, with 80 per cent agreeing that their institution had provided sufficient distance learning opportunities. However, only 48% of students agreed to the question ‘I am content with the delivery of learning and teaching of my course during the covid pandemic,’ leaving universities to seek out long-term solutions for a future focused around hybrid learning.
The shift towards digital teaching and learning
In June 2020, the Secretary of State for Education commissioned Office for Students chair Sir Michael Barber, to conduct a review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Gravity assist: Propelling higher education to a brighter future report, 61% of undergraduate students would like their assessments to be delivered online or through a combination of online and in-person delivery once the pandemic is over, and 71% of students believe one or more aspects of their courses should be delivered online.
For some students, this ‘taste’ of online learning has increased their desire for hybrid learning in the future. The benefits realised by students during the pandemic included flexibility and self-paced learning, no commuting, new technical skills as well as accessibility and inclusivity of courses or materials they may not have previously had access to.
So, what do students expect from their university learning experience?
Students’ expectations of the future are high. They are used to dealing with large corporations whose digital presence usually exceeds that of their university experience.
Daniel Perry, chief information officer at Keele University said: “Universities will soon realise that students have fluid expectations. We are competing for user experience with places like Amazon – that’s the expected standard. If we are saying, ‘our systems are a little bit less worse than they were three years ago’, that’s a long way from saying ‘I want this to be as seamless as my experience with Amazon’.” April 2021. Technology-enabled teaching and learning at scale A roadmap to 2030.
These are the top three things on the student expectation lists:
1. Students want increased flexibility
Hybrid learning programs offer more flexibility than on-campus classes. Students are favouring the flexibility of a blended approach of online and onsite classes.
The flexibility in approach also allows educators to adapt the learning styles according to the students, providing a more personalised experience. It also means students can learn at their own pace rather than the pace of their fellow students in class. If they need to rewind a lecture or watch it again, they can.
A hybrid learning environment allows students to benefit from the best of on-campus and remote learning.
2. Students want the freedom to study from wherever they are
Hybrid learning programs allow students to enrol in remote classes wherever they are in the world. It opens the doors for students who are far from campus, providing an opportunity to enrol students who are no longer limited to geographic location.
A hybrid learning program also allows for continuous education in a number of scenarios ranging from the pandemic to university closures due to bad weather. This is a big drive for international students who had their UK university experience disrupted due to the pandemic.
3. Students want to develop their digital literacy
During the pandemic, both educators and students were exposed to new technologies for online learning.
These technologies helped to grow digital literacy skills which are essential for when they enter the professional world. And as such, many students are keen to continue this development.
The emerging trends, including AI and virtual reality, being used in some universities are also being used in the workplace so students will be in a good position when they start their professional careers. Communication and collaboration tools are also helping students connect with fellow students in a remote world as they would with colleagues in the workplace.
Universities are becoming increasingly aware of student expectations and their power to change how they are educated in the future. Many are going to great lengths to listen to the student voice and tailor their university course programmes to suit the needs of the future student.
While the pandemic caused some initial chaos for some universities, it has opened a host of opportunities for changing the face of teaching and learning for the future. And students certainly know what they want.
How can we help
Here at LearningMate, we’re experts in the field of online teaching and learning. We’re at the forefront of these advancements and are already supporting our clients to transform how they present their content and use their platforms for better learning experiences.
For an informal chat about how we might be able to provide a solution or support you in your journey to future-proofing your teaching and learning approach, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.