by MAHSOOD SHAH

Universities have a long history of using student feedback from surveys. Some leaders now argue that the COVID pandemic compels institutions to gain fresh and better insights into the experience of students in the online mode of learning.

Insights into the experience of students during COVID semesters are critical to understand student expectations. For example, some universities have recently announced plans to move away from traditional lectures. Any change to lecture delivery methods should acknowledge and respond to current trends, student characteristics and student expectations in this regard.

Data from various sources, including from the regulator TEQSA, provide good insights into student expectations regarding the quality of their learning experience over the next decade. Some of those key expectations, based on an analysis of a decade of qualitative student feedback data, include;

Greater flexibility: there is strong evidence to suggest that students expect greater flexibility beyond COVID. Areas of flexibility include timetabling and assessment deadlines.

Quality of teaching staff: students expect teaching staff to be empathetic, approachable, responsive, fair and flexible. Teaching and professional staff are also expected to recognise international students’ cultures and learning barriers.

 Interaction: many 21st century students like teaching methods that encourage interaction between peers. Interactive teaching sessions, together with innovative learning spaces and/or teaching technologies, engage students.

 Teaching technologies: students anticipate teaching staff will be proficient in using teaching technologies. They expect educators to conduct live lectures and enable interactions. Short videos versus full recordings suit different cohorts of students. Students also prefer consistency in the design of the Learning Management Systems.

 Assessment design and methods: students also expect flexible assessment design and methods rather than compulsory class and invigilated exam(s). Groupwork does not work well with a first-year online student cohort. Students appreciate short videos which explain assessment requirements.

 Feedback on assessment: feedback on assessment has been an area needing improvement for decades, as highlighted in the Student Experience Survey (SES) and by student complaints. Feedback needs to be personalised on areas where students have done well and those needing improvement.

 Personalised learning and support: irrespective of the mode of learning, students expect personalised learning and support services. New models of learning support and other services are needed to accommodate all cohorts of students.

Just in time learning resources: students often complain about the volume of learning materials. Students show a preference for just in time learning resources that are relevant, up-to-date and engaging.

Acting on student feedback: students provide feedback on various aspects of their learning experience. They look forward to seeing changes taking place that they can witness while studying.

In these disrupted times, the student voice is more important than ever.

Mahsood Shah is a professor and dean at Swinburne University of Technology, Sydney. mahsoodshah@swin.edu.au


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