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What are the characteristics that make a great student experience? 

I am well-versed in what the literature and studies show, as well as what professors and teachers think make a great student experience. “Be engaging”; “edutainment“; Don’t be a sage on a stage”; etc., etc.

But what I want to know is what do today’s students think makes a great student experience? 

So I decided to do a small social experiment. I polled 50 random students at my college and held two mini focus groups on the topic of “the student experience”. I ran two brainstorming sessions and had the students vote on the emerging themes that they thought were essential to having a great student experience.

Before sharing the findings, I decided to ask several faculty members the same question. The following are a few excerpts:

– “Students probably like when their teacher lets them use phones in the classroom”.

– “My students get in the zone when we do applied learning exercises – they love it!”.

– “A great student experience should be 1 half a great teacher and 1 half a great student. Those are the experiences that I remember the most”.

__________________________

Here is the interesting part: what the students said.

The top five themes that emerged in both sessions were:

1) Caring – students remember those teachers that genuinely cared about who they were, what they stood for, and where they will be going in their life.

2) Role model – this one was a bit of a surprise. Students said that having a teacher that they could look up to (for a variety of reasons, including life experience, industry experience, subject matter expertise, strong values, parental figure, etc.) can make the student experience very memorable.

3) Relatable – students mentioned that for an experience to be great, they have to be able to connect with their teacher at some level (e.g. common interest, values, life goals, etc.).

4) Have your back – students stated that those teachers who consistently looked out for their best interests, pulled them up when they fell down, brushed their shoulders off, and encouraged them to keep going, are the teachers that they often remember the most.

5) Transparency/Genuine  – this was very interesting. Students recalled several “not so great” experiences and said that when teachers acted in secrecy, failed to provide clarifications, never communicated expectations, and did not have a strong sense or presence in the classroom, ultimately had a negative effect on the student experience. Genuine was a common word that was used at least 20 times in the sessions.

WordItOut-word-cloud-530127

Word Cloud of Themes for the Great Student Experience (created using WordItOut).

And there you have it, from the consumer (students) themselves – what makes a great student experience. It really comes back to those personal connections, relationship and community-building elements, and sincerity that integrate beautifully to build that great student experience.

To all those great teachers out there, thank you! You are on the frontlines of the student experience every single day!

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