Students are asked to make major decisions about their lives – what to do after high school, which community college or university to attend, what degree to get, what career they want to pursue. Often the adults in their lives ask students to make these decisions without having access to the information they need to make them.
Students don’t want to make these decisions in the dark, and leaders shouldn’t ask them to. Higher education leaders must ensure that learners have the information they need to navigate education and make workforce decisions throughout their learning journey.
The problem arises even before students reach higher education institutions. Recently, the Data Quality Campaign and the Kentucky Student Voice team worked with Harris Poll to survey high school students from across the country about how they are thinking about data as they enter high school and make plans for post-secondary education and the workforce. We found that high school students want access to their information, but don’t have it.
Only 35 percent of high school students reported that their school informed them about the post-secondary or career paths available to them. And 80 percent of high school students agree that they would feel more confident about their post-high school career if they had better access to information.
Many of these students will enter the higher education programs they have chosen without real data to guide their decision making. And that lack of information doesn’t improve the moment students step onto a college campus. Students in higher education institutions still do not have all the information they need, as well as recent information a technology-focused student voice survey of 2,000 senior students — conductor Inside the higher ed and College Pulse, powered by Kaplan—sheds light on the kinds of information they’re asking for and what higher education leaders can do about it.
College students are not just consumers of higher education, they should be seen as an active part of the higher education community. To respond to their clarion calls to be part of the conversation, higher education leaders must prioritize communication with students. By doing this, leaders can build trust it is necessary to encourage its students to actively participate in decision-making. The Student Voice survey provides valuable evidence that leaders should begin communicating in the following ways.
1. Share your progress towards graduation.
Just as high school students want information about their path after high school, college students want accurate information about their path to graduation. And they’re asking for more ways to access that information, sharing that they’d like their college to improve online student portals (37 percent), automated progress tracking (29 percent), online student records and transcripts (29 percent) ), and student progress monitoring, which includes tracking progress in online courses and alerting students at risk of failure (22 percent).
Access to information about their progress will allow college students to make informed decisions about their lives, including course load, extracurricular opportunities, extra academic support, and career paths.
2. Provide access to teachers.
More than a quarter of students surveyed want advanced communication technologies to connect with faculty and staff (chat, text messaging, web conferencing, etc.). At the start of the pandemic, educational institutions were forced to rethink how they operate and were asked to provide their students with any number of new technology platforms. While many institutions have returned to in-person learning, college students are asking for better ways to communicate with their professors.
Increased access to faculty will provide these students with another important piece of information about their progress and ensure they receive the support they need to successfully complete their degree or credential.
3. Data protection.
Protection of student data it’s more than just checking a box – it’s a fundamental part of using data effectively. However, higher education institutions often lack comprehensive strategies to protect student data at all levels. By making data privacy an institution-wide priority and setting common expectations for faculty and staff, higher education leaders can ensure that student data remains secure and can be used appropriately to help students succeed.
Desire for voice
While college students are asking for more information, the Student Voice survey also found a fair amount of what some might call apathy among respondents. Students, however, believe they should have a say: 85 percent believe college students should have at least some input when it comes to technology investments an institution makes. However, 43 percent report that they are not sure how their institution empowers students to express themselves. Engaging college students in making decisions about how their data is used and protected is an important part of building trust.
Data empowers students—whether in high school or college—to make the decisions they need to chart their own path through education and into the workforce. But data doesn’t help students make those decisions if they can’t find it or share with leadership what information they need to feel supported and protected about their data. To truly support the students they serve, higher education leaders must make it a priority not only to listen to their students, but also to create open lines of communication for improvement.
Click here for more results from Student Voice’s technology outlook survey.