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What is a leading contributor to student academic success in higher education institutions? It may not surprise you to know that it’s the quality of the faculty. Proven through John Hattie’s research, an educator has a large impact on student achievement in K–12, and this remains true for higher education students, according to our global benchmark study on the State of Student Success and Engagement.

Working with Hanover Research, we fielded a survey in 13 countries asking 7,070 current students, administrators, and faculty from higher education institutions to define drivers of student success and identify factors for engagement. In our ongoing Student Success Series, we identify six leading trends in higher education and share insights about what these findings mean for institutions. In our first trend post, we shared that career readiness is a top priority for students. The second trend we identified reinforced that in addition to workforce training, holistic development and a focus on student well-being has never been more important.

Trend 3: Faculty student engagement is critical

As we work with educators around the world, we see technology often used as a facilitator to support connections between teachers and students. But even with the increasing use of technology today, students and administrators alike value the hands-on learning and collaboration that technology simply cannot replace. When asked what factors are considered to be the main drivers of student success, students and administrators named the following, reinforcing that technology is best used when paired with interactive content and opportunities for connection beyond devices:

  • Quality of faculty (88%)
  • Technology availability (86%) 
  • Engaging content and instruction (86%) 
  • Hands-on instruction (86%)

Survey respondents also highlighted the importance of the teacher-student connection, saying that faculty are responsible for shaping students' minds by creating an environment that empowers students to apply themselves and take ownership of their learning.  

With this in mind, instructional design must be approached with empathy to meet students not only where they are academically, but socially and emotionally as well. Sean Nufer, an educator at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and 2020 Canvas Educator of the Year winner, shared how he prioritises connecting with students in a recent discussion: “The community that you have in a traditional classroom is not replicated online. We have to be purposeful in building those connections...and those connections are vital, because without that network, what are we? We’re not just repositories of information. What brings education value are the connections we make that last beyond the three credits or 16 weeks.”

Our perspective on student success

When students experience direct involvement from their instructors, they feel more successful. Finding ways to emulate or replace these interactions in a digital environment is critical for both institutional and student success. There are numerous ways to support faculty in this mission, such as investing in professional development that focuses on best practices in adopting learning technology, providing ongoing faculty support through instructional designers and educational technologists, and encouraging faculty collaboration and communities for ongoing inspiration and best practice sharing.

When it comes to creating learning environments that facilitate instructor involvement, focus on tools that support interactive collaboration, feedback loops, and both asynchronous and synchronous video communication. The delivery of high-quality, differentiated learning experiences with apps and immersive technologies can help faculty and students alike thrive and connect in a time when connection proves challenging.

Get more insights. 

Download the full report to access even more insights from our study, including how socioeconomic factors contribute to student success and engagement and what impacts COVID-19 has had on students' educational experience. 

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