The Top Factors Disrupting Students' Academic Experiences

The Top Factors Disrupting Students' Academic Experiences

As the landscape of higher education continues to evolve, it is crucial for institutions to prioritize the needs of students by listening to their unique perspectives. In a recent survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, over 3,000 undergraduate college students from both two and four-year colleges shared their perspectives on various aspects of their academic lives. From flexible deadlines to inclusive teaching practices, let's explore the factors reported that support, change, or disrupt the academic experience for students.

Flexible Deadlines and Teaching Styles

According to the survey, a significant majority of students (57%) expressed the desire for professors to adopt flexible deadlines. This preference is even more pronounced among students receiving financial aid. Students believe that flexibility in deadlines can accommodate extenuating circumstances and foster academic success.

Teaching style emerged as a significant factor influencing student success, with 55% of the students reporting struggles due to incompatible teaching styles. This concern is heightened among students with learning disabilities (67%) and LGBTQIA+ students (60%). In response, educators are encouraged to adopt inclusive active learning strategies that provide students with choices in participation. A significant portion of students found interactive lectures to be the preferred class format, promoting engagement and better learning outcomes.

Barriers to Success in the Classroom

Apart from teaching style, students identified several other barriers to success in the classroom. Balancing schoolwork and other responsibilities, unclear expectations, and mental health struggles were highlighted as significant challenges. It is crucial for institutions to foster a supportive environment and provide clear guidelines for students to alleviate these factors.

Mental health struggles interfered with the academic success of 40% of the surveyed students, further reinforcing the evidence that students are more in need of support now, in a post-pandemic learning environment, than ever before. Work responsibilities, financial concerns, and mental health issues can significantly impact a student's ability to thrive academically.

Academic Advising

The survey revealed a gap in academic advising, with just over half of the students (55%) reporting receiving guidance on required courses and graduation sequences. This deficiency was particularly prominent among nonwhite students. Additionally, only 2 in 5 students were required to meet with an advisor, despite the positive impact it had on guiding students towards their academic goals.

It should be noted that this gap in advising is determined to be a systemic issue resulting from faculty overwhelm, not individual oversight. Institutions can implement comprehensive advising policies to encourage meaningful engagement with advisors, setting students on the right track toward graduation.

Administrative Holds and Registration

The presence of administrative holds which prevented students from registering for classes emerged as a significant obstacle affecting 1 in 5 students. It disproportionately impacted underrepresented students, such as Black and Latino students, and those with learning disabilities. Additionally, 3 in 10 students experienced a required course for graduation fill before they could register. These academic holds and registration issues can have an immense impact on a student’s motivation, engagement, and overall success.

Grading and Course Materials

When it comes to grading, two-thirds of students (66%) felt that their professors graded fairly all around. However, disparities were found based on race, socioeconomic status, and learning disabilities. 1 in 4 students noted that they have had difficulties understanding a professor’s grading in the past, which identifies large opportunities for better transparency and explanation of overall grading policies from staff.

Course materials and their uses were also found to play a vital role in student learning. Over half of the students surveyed expressed a preference for a mix of digital and physical course materials, highlighting the importance of offering diverse options. While students acknowledged that professors choose up-to-date instructional materials, affordability still remains a concern for students on a regular basis.

Institutional Role in Student Success

Continual efforts to encourage student feedback and understanding of student perspectives are essential for institutions to provide a supportive learning environment. These survey findings shed light on key areas for growth and improvement, as well as the importance of meeting students where they are in their academic journey. By learning from these insights, higher education institutions can create an environment where all students can thrive academically.

Learn more about how you can achieve student success at your institution through this series of on-demand webinars.

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