Fundamental Support Services Every Higher Education Institution Must HaveEarl Harewood | Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University/School of Higher Education
In addition to creating challenging and congruent learning opportunities, it is important for higher education leaders to create a supportive learning environment to help learners acclimate, connect with others and as well as access well-matched student support services to help them complete their studies. Given this, at minimum supportive services ‘must’ include:
- Do more the ascribe to ethical principles; practice ethics, teach ethics and deal decisively with unethical behaviors whether the perpetrator is a student, staff, faculty member, board member or business partner.
- Offer at least a semester long college orientation program where students can learn study skills; learn about their learning style and personality and about the available resources on campus or in the virtual classroom.
- Match services available to online students with those available to on-campus students as best as possible. Variations should be avoided as much as possible since technology has provided many pathways to match services.
- Maintain a clean and welcoming teaching learning environment for on-campus students and a well-structured, well-organized and functional online learning environment.
- Don’t wait for students to complaint about something; higher education leaders must be intentional in seeking out students to see how they are doing and how they can be aided in advancing their studies and preparedness for the workforce.
- Response to students’ complaints and challenges timely and equitably.
- Well-trained and rewarded faculty, staff and student workers. The system must be equitable and have clear pathways for development and advancement.
- Cross-curricular teaching and learning and engaged scholarship opportunities for students, staff and faculty members.
- Grade students’ papers early and provide timely and constructive feedback that support students’ development.
- Establish mechanisms to receive on-campus, online and none local international students’ anonymous feedback.
- Benchmark service levels with comparable institution or larger entity to ensure service level is at high and congruent levels appropriate to meet students’ developmental and other needs.
- Use technology everywhere there is an opportunity to use technology to make faculty, staff and students’ engagement and access to service more readily available.
- Provide services to support worklife balance issues for staff, students and faculty members.
- Orientation must include a tour of campus and all campus services and meeting of key university personnel.
- Transition and housing services for faculty, staff and students.
- A buddy system that pairs new and more seasoned students, staff and faculty members to aid in the acclimation process.
- Different orientation program for international students as their needs will varied and will require different levels of service since some will be new arrivals, refugees, new permanent residences, those admitted in international student status, fellows, international resident students etc.
- Full support for cross-functional, cross-discipline and international development opportunities for faculty, staff and student to help foster engaged scholarship, heightened sensitivity to multi-level differences.
- Financial support of research and other scholarly activities among students, faculty and staff.
- Students’ advocate or ombudsman office for student to raise concern and resolve problems they may have with other students, staff, or faculty.
- Culturally sensitive psychological services to aid learners needing these services.
- Listen to students; let them know that they have a voice on issues on campus.
- Include students on varied committees so they can learn from those experiences and represent other students in responsible ways.
- Basic education and related support services.
- Well informed career development staff and a well-resourced career development service center.
- Repository for students to look for jobs, internships, mentoring, coaching, volunteering, funding and other opportunities.
- Culturally sensitive teaching and learning environment where diversity is used as a point of teaching sensitivity to differences.
- Strong academic advisory center and personnel.
- Electronic databases along with a library for books on careers, financial aid and programs and information.
- Suitable links to matched employers and alumni who can assist students with finding congruent employment opportunities with their course of studies.
- Financial resources based on need and merit-based support.
- Resources for study abroad and where to find financial resources to support such activities.
- Speaker bureaus to encourage international and other students with varied backgrounds to share these experiences with other students.
- Challenge students through research, assistantships, projects, internships, fellowships, project grants, etc.
- Language acquisition support programs and resources for English as Another Language, Adult Basic Education, for students taking foreign language or for students preparing for travel to another country.
- Offer cultural sensitivity training that prime students, faculty and staff to interact with diverse learners from an array of backgrounds, life experiences and circumstances.
- Childcare centers and resources on campus and those approved in the community that is accessible to students.
- Sensitive virtual learning environment with all the appropriate links to take learners to pertinent resources.
- Accreditation, vetting and accountability system for collaborative teaching and learning arrangements in foreign countries.
- Encourage the formation of student arm of professional associations on campus and include virtual presences, as well. This could be a place where students can learn about their chosen profession and get involved on the student level.
- Opportunities for students to learn from faculty through mentoring, coaching and other types of collaborative learning opportunities.
- Systems for ensuring that curriculum are aligned with workforce knowledge, skills and abilities requirements.
- An environment where people feel they fit because the uniqueness are aspects respected, celebrated and seen as a vehicle for creating pathways to improve learning and greater sensitivity.
- The crafted message truthfully represents the institution in all aspects.
- The focus cannot be all about money of a public relation stunt, because learning that focus only on money often do very little to aid students especially if the learning has nothing to do with holistically developing the person, organizations and communities in foreign countries.
The key to helping students acclimate, engage meaningfully in their studies and then graduate is: to know who the students are? What they bring to the teaching and learning space? What are their needs? What are their fears and concerns? Answers to these questions provide the impetus for structuring a meaningful and consistent response that reaches the lowest common denominator among students, staff and faculty. This is probable the most important intervention since the experiences students have with other students, with staff and faculty are important catalyst for helping them forward, stalling their progress, sending them off to a competitor institution or getting them to give up all together. Higher education leaders must work with all constituent groups to forge the best possible strategies to recruit, develop, retain and graduate students who will market the institution by the experiences they have had and their ability to function congruently in the respective workplaces. These should be the drivers for developing the best possible student retention strategy and changing a culture of lackluster student, staff and faculty services.
This is the conclusion to Harewood’s article from last week, Changing Learning Outcomes: Global Strategies For Student Retention.
Author Perspective: Educator