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The Study Hall

Humanizing Your Student Success Strategy

You’re a university “Student Success” is your product. So, the million dollar question: How do you design a great  Student Success product? 

“When creating a product, close your eyes and pretend you’re a human being”

—Merci Grace, Slack

I’ve been crunching the numbers from every which angle, trying to decide how to best impact student engagement, retention, and attainment of competencies at scale. According to the studies I’ve read, students desire to find relevance in their learning, and without purpose and direction, students are more prone to academic failure. Shocker! If only Elon Musk could transport us from our institutional and corporate worlds to planet Earth, we could get a better sense for the basic needs of these so-called humans.

Rockets on a test launch

We need to humanize our Student Success strategy. It is long past due that we change from a model that treats students as a metric, cog in a wheel, or factory worker and into a personalized learning experience built around the student achieving long-term success in life.

I’ve got a confession to make: I am a human being. As the VP of Strategy for Portfolium, this comes in handy because I’m also the world’s leading expert on me; a once upon-a-time first-generation college student who came from working-class means, went to a public high school and applied to college with no money saved for tuition. I’m kind of what the fuss is all about in the broader Student Success conversation. 

Here’s a Student Success Framework that would have come in handy had my alma mater leveraged it and used the types of technologies provided by Portfolium and Canvas:

The pyramid graphic resonates with me. I spent a lot of time and money as an undergrad getting bad grades, dropping out of school and wandering in the wilderness of self-discovery before I could truly find relevance in higher ed. In the end, I stumbled forward into success. But success can’t be left to chance if we want most students and institutions to meet their full potential. To help make students successful, we must remove our blinders and get down to the business of delivering on the most fundamental human needs:

  • We must commit to helping students absorb and integrate knowledge
  • We must commit to helping students chart personalized learning pathways
  • We must commit to helping students map their strengths onto the real world
  • Technology can help us do all of this while creating synergy among campus silos

There is a lot at risk if we don’t make those commitments. A study by the Strada Institute shows just how much the first job after graduation can impact career success, the tip of our Student Success pyramid. 

“Our research found four in 10 college graduates are underemployed in their first job. Two-thirds of these graduates will still be underemployed five years later. Of those workers underemployed at five years, three-quarters will still be underemployed at the 10-year mark.”

The Permanent Detour: Underemployment’s Long-Term Effects on the Careers of College Grads

Infographic of Permanent Detour

Portfolium’s Student Success Platform, which humans actually love to use, is a bold leap forward for the 250+ schools that have decided to get back to basics and down to business.

Keep learning,

Jim Milton
VP of Strategy, Portfolium, Inc.