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State of Student Success and Trends in Higher Education

2020 Global Research Study and Trends

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A Defining Moment

2020 brought both unprecedented challenges and opportunities for higher education. The pandemic’s impact brings critical questions to light: What is the value of higher education? How do you define student success in college today? Our global study, The State of Student Success and Engagement, surveyed 7,070 current students, administrators, and faculty in 13 countries to gather the latest student success data. The results give institutions vital insight and actions on how to evolve and thrive in this challenging environment.

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Student Success Data: Global Trends & Insights

1

Career Readiness

Career readiness is the number one priority for students. Matching programs to job demand will continue to increase in importance in the next 12 months as students continue to share concerns about how their education is preparing them for a post-COVID-19 workforce.

2

Holistic Development

Institutions need to think beyond the lecture. Holistic development—defined as self-discipline, communication, knowledge, and personal reflection—means teaching habits for success and a focus on mental well-being has never been more important.

3

Quality of Faculty

Faculty student engagement is critical. Our survey verifies a well-known and leading contributor to academic success: the quality of faculty. Adding to that, success today requires availability of technology and engaging content and instruction.

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The Shifting Definition of Student Success

Traditionally higher education institutions have defined student success in college as year-over-year retention and graduation. The research found institutions shifting to a more holistic focus on the student and citing less quantifiable attributes like hard work, knowledge, skills, and overall success in life. Students also prioritize this holistic view, but job placement in their field of study remains the top indicator of success.

“[Success is] How well students are prepared to accomplish their current and future academic, personal, and professional goals through the development of knowledge, a sense of responsibility and self-reliance, and a connection to the college and wider community.”

– APAC, Administrator

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Student Engagement from a Distance

Students say the most impactful engagement strategies involve hands-on instruction and experience-based learning. To keep students engaged at a distance, online learning needs to be intentionally designed. Creating meaningful, interactive experiences between faculty and students will be critical to continued student engagement. Institutions that work to improve faculty proficiency in online teaching will be better positioned to help students succeed.

“[Success is] Creating your own goals and striving to accomplish them.”

– U.S., Student

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Socioeconomic Factors

Socioeconomic disparities impact student success and engagement in college. Self-identified higher income students are 2.5 times more likely to report being extremely engaged in classes and coursework. Remote learning only heightens these disparities. Students from self-identified lower economic classes are more than 4 times as likely to report difficulty in staying very engaged in online learning. Equitable access to technology and resources remains a critical enabler to closing this gap.

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The Impact of COVID-19

The pandemic’s impact on student success and engagement cannot be understated. More than two-thirds of students say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their academic progress and career readiness. But silver linings remain. Both students and faculty report a more favorable opinion toward online learning since COVID-19 emerged.

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Download the report for full access to these research results, our perspective, and initial considerations to think about as you start planning for 2021 and beyond.

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