HEat Index, Issue 6 – College Student Skills, User Testing in EdTech, and College Preparation

03/21/2024

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Today, we look at the continued impacts of the pandemic on student learning and preparation for college, discovering that higher education institutions will presumably need to increase their student success efforts if they want to improve their retention and graduation rates. One possible method they could employ: user testing of instructor-designed learning materials to help ensure their effectiveness. 

After reading today’s issue, let us know if your institution has plans to teach “studenting” skills in the comments! 

 

How to Be a College Student 

From It’s Time to Start Teaching Your Students How to Be a Student | The Chronicle of Higher Education   

In this article, Emily Isaacs advocates for faculty teaching “studenting” skills in their courses in addition to the academic subject.    

Our Thoughts 

As someone who worked directly in student success for eight years of my twenty-year career in higher education, I’ll admit that I’m biased about this article. It offers sound advice that’s worth repeating, and something I advocated for many times over the years. Everyone on campus plays a role in helping students be successful.  

Unfortunately, these challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic, and will remain an issue for higher education to address for years to come. Luckily, there are several good resources such as Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success to help guide institutions on best practices they can employ to help students thrive. If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it.   

 

User Testing of Teaching Materials 

From Learning Designers Call for More User Testing of Edtech Products and Teaching Materials | EdSurge News   

The importance of testing learning materials (either created by edtech companies or designed by instructors) with the student users is important for better learning outcomes.   

Our Thoughts 

I’m finishing my PhD in learning technology, so I’m certainly one of those learning designers who would call for more user testing (and miss Audrey Watters’s voice on edtech in general). So, in an effort to be impartial, I consulted our fabulous senior user experience designer, Brandy Smith, to get her thoughts and here’s what she had to say.  

Education is obviously underfunded but there should be collaboration between the students and designers. They should be testing with them as well, if for no other reason than to see if the materials make sense. These are basic principles in design thinking. I’m not sure how you call yourself a designer or an educator without making sure your materials actually work.”  

With increasing public skepticism about higher education, it is especially important to establish that our educational materials and edtech products result in improved learning outcomes. Including students in their design and development is one way to help ensure this happens.  

 

High Schools and College Prep 

From Just 47% of public schools rate themselves highly on college prep | K-12 Dive    

According to a recent survey from the National Center for Education Statistics, less than half of public high schools say they do a good job of preparing students for college.   

Our Thoughts 

Well, that’s not great news, especially given the learning loss associated with the pandemic, which further emphasizes the importance of the first article about teaching “studenting” skills. Higher education leaders should pay close attention to the disparities noted in college preparation across socio-economic lines and geographical regions, as indicated by lower self-assessment scores from schools in less affluent areas.   

This discrepancy points to the need for institutions to adapt their admissions and student success strategies to better accommodate and support a broader range of students, ensuring equitable access to higher education opportunities. High quality and trusted data will be important to assess these efforts as institutions look to improve retention and graduation rates equally across all populations.

Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor
Senior Solutions Ambassador at Evisions

Allen Taylor is a self-proclaimed higher education and data science nerd. He currently serves as a Senior Solutions Ambassador at Evisions and is based out of Pennsylvania. With over 20 years of higher education experience at numerous public, private, small, and large institutions, Allen has successfully lead institution-wide initiatives in areas such as student success, enrollment management, advising, and technology and has presented at national and regional conferences on his experiences. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Western Carolina University, a Master of Science degree in College Student Personnel from The University of Tennessee, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching, Learning, and Technology from Lehigh University. When he’s trying to avoid working on his dissertation, you can find him exploring the outdoors, traveling at home and abroad, or in the kitchen trying to coax an even better loaf of bread from the oven.

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