How often do you involve students in the process of creating student success outcomes?
You should be taking every opportunity you can to be informed firsthand from student experiences when making decisions that impact them.
Otherwise, we’re making decisions based on our gut, anecdotal experiences, or assumptions. There are several avenues and opportunities to do this, and it will make your campus student experience better.
Here are a few suggestions:
The most logical starting point here is to define design thinking, since it is an integral mindset to this whole endeavor. Design thinking is the idea that we have to create experiences with the end user in mind first. In this case, that user being students. We have to clearly envision how a student will interact with a particular resource. How will they know about it? Do we want them to spend a lot of time with it or should it be as quick as possible? Will it be entirely digital or is the tool just a means to get students into our offices? It will depend, of course, on the specific situation but these are the things that should be thought through to understand how to best design student experiences from their perspective.
This is what comes naturally to most higher education professionals. We will do the routine survey every now and again. Surveying plays an important role, giving an easy access point to gauge satisfaction and collect open-ended feedback. Done in a proper cadence to not oversaturate students, surveys can live as part of a comprehensive data strategy. Something else that can help with this sort of iterative data gathering is conducting focus groups on a particular subject to get more in-depth feedback and facilitate discussion. Student voices are crucial to hone your design thinking (see prior point) to make sure your focus is informed by firsthand student views.
Less often though are we augmenting our decision making with a full suite of data analytics. Even a little bit can go a long way here. Utilizing information from learning management systems (LMS) such as activity levels, assignment completion rates, and what pages students are spending the most time on can all inform how we work. In order to achieve our desired outcomes, perhaps we tinker with the layout of a course, or the messaging about it to increase academic performance, for example. Also, you could be tracking event attendance historically to see how many and which students are attending what kind of events at different times of the year.
We need to make sure we’re gathering data both in the moment and at regular intervals to get everything you need to design great student experiences.
After you’ve integrated design thinking into your processes and gathered relevant data, you can work to develop prototypes to test out ideas. Prototyping is essentially just testing out an idea in a small, controlled way as a method to solicit constructive feedback. It can be hard to get a full investment in an idea at scale from the beginning. Also, you want to be sure it’s going to work out before you make a full investment. Think about launching a tutoring program, you’d learn a lot and understand how to contour it to your student needs to start it small within one school within the university versus the entire campus at once. Aligning with the gathering data tip, you must make sure to do intentional surveying, focus grouping, and analytics during and after a prototype phase to have a complete picture of how a pilot project was utilized.
All of these pieces of advice clearly feed off of each other. You may make a change based on survey data and then be able to see the intended results in the analytics. Or maybe not, then you can make sure to try to do something different, perhaps as a controlled pilot prototype to see if it works. At the end of the day, it’s all about creating continuous feedback loops to facilitate a continuous commitment to improvement. It takes a team effort to make this happen, and if it’s all put properly into place, you can support amazing student experiences and success.
Written by Dustin Ramsdell
Dustin helps students succeed everyday in his role as a Student Success Lead at Noodle Partners. He is also a proud geek as well as a higher ed blogger, and podcaster. He loves craft beer, good movies, and deep conversations. Connect with him on Twitter or over at his blog.