I had the privilege of sitting on the panel during a well attended session at this year’s Chartered ABS Annual Conference, Monday 7 November to discuss the changing student expectations for a more flexible and personalised education. The esteemed fellow guest panellists and I explored the opportunities and challenges of how you do this at scale, within a reasonable cost, and how this all affects learning and teaching strategy.
- Professor Delphine Manceau, Dean, NEOMA Business School
- Dr Cathy Minett-Smith, Principal Fellow, Higher Education Academy, Dean of Learning and Teaching, College of Business and Law, University of the West of England
- Elaine Clarke, College Director of Education and Students, Lincoln International Business school
- Lewis McKinnon, Head of Partner Development, Studiosity
- Chair: Professor Kamil Omoteso, Pro Vice-Chancellor/Dean, College of Business, Law and Social Science, University of Derby
The key theme was “More”. More flexibility, more in-person, more fun, experiential and sense-making learning, plus personalised and timely feedback. These are the current student demands; partly in response to the on-demand contextualised approaches taken by myriad sectors that students (and staff) interact with daily in their personal lives - expedited by the wholesale and rapid move to online during lockdown - and partly because quite simply, the ‘traditional student’ no longer exists.
The challenge for institutions therefore is how to innovate in order to manage, meet or even perhaps challenge the most diverse set of expectations from students in the sector to date? With these ‘paradoxical expectations’ academics need to offer a strong variety of learning and teaching experiences.
- We should frame students' multicultural skills and politics for future expectations and to be able to deal with constant change and help them to understand the world better; we must build their soft skills ready for what they will need in their future careers and work environment, and for future roles and skills that do not yet exist. (Read/watch: How to prepare for your future career: Student panel)
- To get to the heart of what’s changing, it’s first absolutely key to understand what remains unchanged; there is an artificial dichotomy between online and in person, however they are not mutually exclusive and so we must offer clear signals to students when it’s meaningful to come onto campus.
- NEOMA's 100% virtual campus is an excellent example of a metaverse - a virtual space where students and academics can all connect with others akin to the real world.
- We need to create transparent learning journeys for students: if they perceive learning as binge content consumption, that’s what they will ask for. We must therefore make sense of it for students; It’s our role to shape and influence student expectations.
- We have a psychological contract with students; we must put theory into practice, consider inclusivity, and how we build strategies to train staff around frameworks of expertise, look at team approaches.
- More and more HEIs are identifying opportunities when partnering with external services like Studiosity in order to address students’ needs for out-of-hours study support and timely feedback.
- External partnerships can offer cost effective options to suit all circumstances; controlled spend for specific time periods enable more effective business planning, and transparent ROI metrics; services don’t replace existing support and cannibalise existing roles and responsibilities.
- With so many demands on our students’ time, we need to think, are we being flexible? Do we genuinely give students choice on how they access their learning? How do we keep up with their demands for speed, choice, longer availability times?
In summary, we all aim to continually understand our students' needs by shaping their expectations, future-proofing and moulding their skills, and ensure they have the best possible learning experience. Does this require an overhaul? Is it a case of looking to external partners to plug the gaps, then tweaking, not overhauling, teaching and learning strategy and programme design/delivery?
This brings me to my last thought of the session, which is a perennial driver: to manage these changed student expectations, be innovative and don’t be afraid to try new things.
Following an introduction at the Chartered ABS Annual Conference, in the 2018/19 academic year University of Exeter ran a pilot in the Business School. 24/7 support was offered to all students across all programmes, including undergraduates and the full suite of postgraduate programmes. In 2019/20, the pilot was extended to the entire university for a three year partnership.
You can read the University of Exeter full Case Study here.
You can download the full webinar transcript here (check your downloads for the Word document).