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Synopsis: With Mental Health Awareness month in full swing, a new report has indicated that stress and mental health continue to be major challenges for Higher Education students. Even as COVID restrictions and disruption recede, the combination of financial pressure, academic disruption, and coursework stress all threaten student success. However, the timely adoption of effective student insights solutions can help keep an institution on top of the most troublesome risk factors.
It remains a highly stressful time for students attending university and college programs. A recently published report indicates that up to a third of college students across the US have considered withdrawing from their studies due to a combination of factors, including the stress of academic life.
Despite a very high percentage of students clearly recognizing the importance of a Higher Education for career prospects, the reality at institutions around North America is that the path to graduation in both bachelor and graduate programs can be a mentally demanding one.
However, institutional administrators are in a unique position to ease stress factors. Identifying problem points, the severity of their impact, and the scale and diversity of student needs all forms part of the challenge. In this blog post, we’ll explore both the issues and the measures that administrators, course coordinators and institution managers can take.
The Scale of the Issue
It’s important to understand the scale of the challenge facing modern students. This national report reported that 27 percent of current students surveyed reported that simply remaining enrolled was ‘difficult’, with a further 9 percent reporting it was ‘very difficult’.
Additionally, 41% of associate degree students considered taking a break over the past six months. While the vast majority of students return to complete their studies, institutions recovering from the uncertainly of the past two years will want to minimize the attrition rate or number of students being knocked out of the academic cycle.
Overall, the current picture is one of students experiencing a demanding return to in-person instruction and classes. The challenge for institutions is to employ what measures they can to improve the student experience, while safeguarding academic rigor, overall excellence, and being mindful of the resources that are actually available.
How Institutions Can Respond
Many institutions are constrained in their capacities to support students directly. Putting in place staff to directly support students can be challenging in the current climate, especially where the hiring of mental health professionals and counselors has been impacted by the sheer competition for workers of this type, or by budgetary limits.
Instead, an overall effort to improve feedback and understand the factors that result in student stress can yield results. Many institutions will already have a framework or existing feedback and surveying system in place. However, bringing this insight together in a truly holistic and insightful platform is essential, ensuring all aspects of the student experience can be examined. This can in turn result in the swift identification of measures that can quickly make a major impact.
The tools that can be employed are varied. To ensure teaching effectiveness, a combination of more robust course evaluations, peer reviews, formative feedback, and 360 feedback can be employed. In assessing the ongoing student experience, a ramping up of check-ins, exit surveys, or alumni surveys may be called for.
The information gathered from these diverse sources can be revealing. Is teaching effectiveness struggling due to a specific institution-wide policy that could be easily tweaked? Can academic performance be boosted through the adoption of new ways of working, submission practices, or consultation methods? There are all questions that a more inclusion insight strategy can reveal.
More pointedly on the topic of relieving stress, this feedback can indicate exactly how aware students are of the available resources, events, and stress-busting initiatives that are there to assist them in stressful periods. These range from more collective, team-building activities to better signposting for services that are specifically there to help students.
The overall result? Properly instituted, institutions can realize a reduction in student attrition, absenteeism and a boost to graduation and overall student happiness.
Moving from Insight to Action
Once an institution has committed to empowering feedback across the institution, the gateway to change is open. The next step is to take action.
Certain solutions are adept at collecting and collating information, but don’t provide a clear route to action for institutions. Explorance’s Blue provides both the institutional context and robust reporting that stakeholders need to swiftly grasp the state of the student experience and take the action required.
Additionally, for those institutions that are engaged in collecting open-form comments from students, BlueML, a unique AI-powered comment analysis solution provides unrivalled insight into the sentiment behind supplied comments. Crucially, it provides suggestions on actions to take based on feedback, helping to rapidly make sense of what can appear to be a bewildering range of comments and opinions.
The institution that is focused on student wellness will find itself well-served in employing these kinds of solutions. Indeed, Explorance’s Bluenotes Community is fully dedicated to sharing, improving, and promoting the very best methods and strategies for institutions in this regard.
Relieving the more stressful aspects of the modern student experience is a challenge. However, with the right framework and solutions, the mountain can be scaled.
Blue•Course evaluations•Student insight solutions•Student voice•