QAA report: student expectations and perceptions of HE

A recent report from Kings College London and the QAA looks at student expectations and perceptions of higher education. Though there is no specific focus on digital aspects of the HE experience, there are still findings from the study which confirm and add detail to our Digital Student Study Findings (numbering is my own).

1. Facilities and resources were central [to student expectations and perceptions]; if the institution is unable to effectively provide the environment in which the student can learn [including ‘computers and physical spaces’ as one of four aspects], it appears to be seen as failing in its mandate. Students increasingly reflect negatively on failures to meet their expectations [in this area]

Recommendation: there need to be clear and simple statements communicated for the most important aspects of a student’s degree, focused at the course level

This agrees with our recommendation that institutions address student expectations at course level and provide guidance to students on recommended devices, software and services; also our recommendation to ensure students are aware of their responsibilities as well as what will be provided for them in the digital environment.

2. Recommendation: institutions should be cautious of using [social media] as marketing opportunities and setting unrealistic expectations or ‘selling’ an undeliverable experience.

This agrees with the tenor of our recommendations that institutions should engage students in open dialogue about their digital experience and environment for study.

3. Students value face to face interactions for learning and support. Students viewed technology as a means to access resources and support studying, and no students mentioned pedagogical uses of digital technologies.
Students tend to focus on functional aspects of IT infrastructure, including ease and reliability of accessing resources and quality of wireless internet, rather than innovative uses of technology in teaching.
Recommendation: Institutions should be cautious of using technology as a replacement for face to face interactions or as a substitute for developing an active and collaborative learning environment.

This agrees with our finding that students have limited or conservative expectations of digital technology for learning, and echoes the insistence of students in our focus group that the face to face experience remains central to their idea of higher education. We also recommended that technology should not be perceived by students as a substitute for contact time.

4. Recommendation: There needs to be sophisticated promotion and co-ordination of student services within institutions.
This confirms our finding that support for digital practice is not currently well coordinated at point of use.

It is particularly welcome to see digital aspects of the study environment being assessed for their impact on students’ overall perception of their learning experience. Comments welcome!

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