Many colleges are experimenting with new teaching methods these days, as several trends work their way across campuses, including active learning classrooms, the transition to millennials and now to Gen Z, and rising pressure to graduate workforce-ready students.
To better understand what today’s students expect from college, EdSurge recently interviewed three members of EdSurge Independent, its affiliated group for students that meets weekly to discuss higher ed and technology trends.
The students were: Angele Law, an MBA student at MIT Sloan School of Management and a strategic summer associate at Boston Public Schools; Patrick Grady O’Malley, a graduate student in digital humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and who holds a master’s in educational communications and technology from NYU; and Megan Simmons, an undergraduate at Barnard College in New York City.
During the interview, the students touched on several things they wish colleges knew about what they want from college.
1: Students don’t feel heard
While faculty are generally approachable, Grady O’Malley said, he wishes there were more opportunities for students to discuss classes and the curriculum with their instructors, either formally or informally. “I wish there were better ways of sharing my concerns other than at the end of the semester when you fill out those [teacher evaluations],” he said.
Simmons agreed, explaining that students don’t always feel that student evaluations are taken seriously and acted on by university officials. By the end of the term, it’s too late for student evaluations to have any effect on the current class, Law added. She suggests instructors conduct an informal survey midway through each term, then show the results to their classes and explain how they’re responding to the feedback.
2: Students love interactive and project-based learning
When asked about the best learning experiences they’ve had, all three interviewees pointed to classes with interactive and project-based elements.
One “multimodal” class required students to participate in an “online environment” that offered “different ways to engage with the material and the topics,” said Grady O’Malley. When the goal of a class is for students to create a specific project, students feel more accomplished and get a more concrete sense of their growth, said Simmons. It’s exciting when courses help students make real-world connections to their individual interests and planned careers, added Law.
3: Students want more customized learning experiences
Advances in ed tech have made it possible to adapt courses to students in new ways, Law noted. But there are also low-tech ways to accomplish similar goals, she argues. For example, she suggested, at the beginning of each term, an instructor might simply ask students to write down a few sentences about why they’re interested in the topic and how familiar they are with it, then use the responses to adapt the course content.
Faculty members should “see students as a partner in which you could work with, instead of someone that you have to serve or someone that you see yourself as superior to,” Law said (Johnson, EdSurge, 8/7).