With the new semester underway, university leaders are focused on what Australian students need in order to have the best chance to succeed.
Studiosity's annual National Student Wellbeing survey (n = 1000) revealed how students feel about their coursework and what they are missing as part of their university experience.
The results show that almost half of Australian students (48%) wish their university educators offered more feedback on their work. In open-ended responses, students were very specific - they believe feedback from tutors and lecturers is too brief and generic, and that it needs to be more comprehensive in order to help them improve their work for future assessments.
● “I feel like teachers are spread quite thin and their workload is high so I feel like they need better support to provide us with further support”
● “Unless you have requested an appointment with your unit coordinator, you rarely get to review your paper and determine where you went wrong”
● “Although assessment tasks provide feedback, there is little opportunity to receive personalised feedback on my academic progress”
Demand for personalised feedback... in a time of mass enrolment
In parallel, university enrolments have grown significantly over the past decade (Norton and Cherastidtham, 2018); both domestic and international. More enrolments bring new diversity in abilities, and as a result, more pressure on university staff.
In order to deliver personalised feedback at scale, students need access to flexible, 24/7 online support, in order to serve diverse lifestyles, commute times, and modes.
Fortunately, most Australian universities offer Studiosity as the standard, and educators now recognise online support as a critical part of maintaining course quality. It helps lecturers spend their time focusing on field expertise rather than 24/7 core skills and personalised English writing feedback, for thousands of students.
What else do students want?
The other most common responses to what students desire were; access to free 24/7 support services online (22%), an increase in one-to-one study support options (18%) and additional peer-to-peer/group study options (10%).
Good news: The majority of students do feel supported
In a promising sign for the sector, the data also highlighted that 71% of students feel generally supported by their university. The two main reasons for this positive sentiment were their respective institution’s ready provision of study support services, and the availability and willingness of staff to be helpful. Interestingly, international students were significantly more likely to feel supported (86%) versus their local counterparts (71%).
Commenting on these results, Jack Goodman, Founder and Executive Chair of Studiosity notes,
“Although universities are doing an excellent job making the majority of students feel supported, there are still a lot of elements that can be improved to enhance the student experience. Nearly a third of all students believe their university could provide a more supportive environment, and almost half feel the feedback they receive on written work is sub-optimal.”
Declining sense of belonging for students off-campus?
The research revealed that 34% of students don’t feel as though they are part of a learning community, but 65% wish they did. Notably, international students were more (+18%) likely to feel they are part of a learning community.
Many noted that although there was a sense of community during classes, when they left campus they felt isolated and alone. Today, all students are online students, regardless of mode. Further, more students are facing financial hardship and splitting their time between work and study. (Universities Australia, 2018) Results suggest that more needs to be done to delivery inclusive services for students in all study modes.
Professor Judyth Sachs, Chief Academic Officer at Studiosity, adds,
“Whether or not a student feels part of a learning community can have a significant impact on their educational experience. While this research shows that many students are benefiting from this sense of community, in order to get the best results across the board, it’s important that universities implement processes that enable everyone to feel supported and included.”
It's clear universities are doing more to help students. It's also clear that the importance of the student experience - for the individual student as well as for the health of the sector and Australia's higher education brand - means there is room for continual improvement in the form of more personalised support.
Next: Which Australian universities are doing more for their students? Here are just a few stories:
Norton, A., Cherastidtham, I., and Mackey, W. (2018). Mapping Australian higher education 2018. Grattan Institute. Accessed at: https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/907-Mapping-Australian-higher-education-2018.pdf
Universities Australia. (2018). One in seven uni students regularly goes without food. [Press release]. Accessed at: https://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/media-item/one-in-seven-uni-students-regularly-go-without-food/