The National Survey of Student Engagement, an in-depth study currently in its 15th year, measures student involvement in higher education. This year’s report used updated measures to quantify student-faculty interaction, technological use in the classroom, cooperative learning, and more. With about 335,000 freshman and senior students at over 550 four-year schools in both the U.S.A. and Canada taking part, this comprehensive study provides valuable information on work, research, experience, and interactions currently taking place at colleges and universities throughout North America.
- The smaller the school, the higher the student-faculty interaction rate (page 16, Figure 12), with senior student-faculty interaction higher than that of incoming freshman. The difference between interactions at a school with fewer than 1,000 students versus a school with over 10,000, however, was relatively small.
- As a general rule of thumb, students used to be expected to study two hours for every one hour of class per work. That outside study time has been cut down by about half, though study time varies by discipline, with engineers studying about five hours more per week than those studying the social sciences.
- First-year students who went above and beyond with their learning—researching with a faculty member, or joining a learning community, for example—had a much more satisfactory and challenging learning experience. They were even more likely to choose their same institution if they had to start college all over again.
- Low numbers in reports of helping interactions with advisors and staff is of concern; many students seek the advice of friends, professors, and family for class advice—not official advisers. “If one student in 10 never sees an adviser, that’s really a shocker,” says NSSE study director Alexander C. McCormick during a recent visit to Inside Higher Ed. The real numbers may in fact be of even greater concern, since only 40% of students identified an adviser as their primary source of academic advice.
Overall, the use of technology was positively related to student engagement. 96% of students throughout the study reported using technology in some form, from frequent mobile device usage and collaborative editing software to blogging, e-portfolio creation, and more. Throughout the study findings, faculty and student interaction has proven to be an important factor in learning. Use the findings (you can even download Snapshot, your own institution’s statistics) to see how you can improve offerings at your school, reach out further to students, and provide the most interactive education possible.
Think digital portfolios are only for job-hunting students about to graduate? Think again. With tracking, grading rubrics, and built-in communication technologies, e-portfolios are becoming an innovative way to monitor classroom learning over time.
In addition to giving students the opportunity to curate, reflect, and learn from past work, digital portfolios provide teachers with a number of benefits as well. Digitizing students’ work allows instructors to reflect on their own teaching strategies and students’ success rates. By looking at bodies of work throughout a semester, staff can see where students have succeeded or need more work; it’s a way to have an online catalog of not only student work, but faculty efficacy.
Sites such as Seelio offer simple online portfolios for students and teachers, while companies like Pathbrite have created institution-specific online portfolio platforms. These more advanced systems allow the use of pre-loaded or custom rubrics as well as the ability to share information with teaching assistants and students. Apps are big on the online portfolio scene as well, and many can help ease students into the overwhelming task of building an online presence for work. VoiceThread is a free app that allows teachers and students to create and share dynamic conversations around everything from documents to videos. Professors can use such apps to open lines communication, tutor one-on-one, and give students a strong grasp of both important details and overarching course concepts.
As Trent Batson, President and CEO for the Association for Authentic, Experiential, and Evidence-Based Learning, asks, “Is the portfolio built in [to the curriculum] or is it bolted on [as just another graded assignment]?” In this Educause podcast, he stresses coursework that students are constantly building into a digital archive, learning from, and reflecting upon. It’s the process of curating a portfolio over time that matters; simply making the creation of digital portfolios a course assignment hasn’t proven to be all that helpful to students or faculty, says Batson.
Certain educators also believe that the exercise of immersing oneself into creating a digital portfolio use various higher-order skills that may not otherwise be accessed. Those who prefer to grade students through individual improvement—rather than through standardized tests scores—find it convenient to see students’ work from the beginning of class to present. Though on the surface digital portfolios may appear to be just a stepping stone into the job world, administrators, staff, and students alike are just beginning to understand the useful nature of investing time in digital portfolios.