Improving Student Experience Through Technology

students-woking-on-tablets-and-laptops

By Tony Forsythe
Originally appeared on E-Campus News

Student life can be full of stressors. Many students are juggling work, family, and school all at once while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It can be enough to break even the strongest wills.

Understanding this struggle, universities are tasked with making the student experience as seamless as possible from a logistical point of view.

Students are working hard enough to succeed from an academic standpoint. Worrying about the “housekeeping” items is not something that anyone wants to put any significant amount of energy toward. Keeping the level of confusion and frustration associated with all that goes into attending a higher education institution at the lowest possible level is key.

This is a critical factor when trying to improve the student experience at any institution. Academic workload is challenging enough, no student wants to have to add to this challenge unnecessarily.

Two of the biggest areas where we see this happen occur at the bookends of the semester.

At the beginning of the semester, universities must accommodate students’ seating needs and at the end, they must facilitate an efficient exam process. These are two areas where institutions must be vigilant to improve the student experience.

Seating

All institutions want to be able to make any accommodation necessary for students with special needs and disabilities. Specifically, this is an issue at the beginning of any semester.

Depending on the nature of the special need or disability, where a student sits in a classroom can be of particular importance. And with spaces limited and only so many seats per class, this can be a challenge.

Additionally, this all must be addressed anonymously and handled in a sensitive matter so as not to call any undue attention to the students with these special requests. Thus, universities must be able to get the student the seat they require in order to accommodate their disability.

These needs can come in many different forms. For example, one student may need to sit close to the door or window to accommodate their anxiety. Another may need to sit up front for purposes of hearing or seeing the professor more clearly. What many students don’t like to do, however, is draw attention to themselves in these situations.

Many schools began creating groups dedicated to accommodating students. Through data gathered by these kinds of groups, students that have a specific requirement can utilize a program to self-seat before anyone else has the opportunity. Through new applications, students with special requirements can sign in with their credentials, understand the layout and pick their seat first to ensure that seating will not be of concern during the semester. This is a simple, but incredibly effective way to improve a student’s learning experience and remove a stressor from their plate before the semester gets going.

Another concern that has been important as of late for obvious reasons is social distancing. During the pandemic, universities were limited in capacity and had to block entire rows. Students now could choose their seat before the semester began while knowing exactly the proximity they would be to others around them. Then, when others without specific requirements would select their seats, they can just fill in based on what’s available at the time.

Exams

The next pain point for students comes later in the semester at a point of tremendous anxiety: final exams.

There are so many questions rattling around in the heads of students regarding taking exams. When is the test? Where will it be conducted? How long will it last? Do I have to show up early? Is the room going to house the equipment I need for a special requirement? There are so many different factors associated with one exam session that keeping everything straight for a student can be challenging.

As in the example for seating, there are also students with specific needs for an exam. Some may need larger print on their exam. Others may need a special device to take an exam. Students with these needs have these conversations with the disabilities services office on campus, but they still need to be assured that everything is facilitated during this very stressful time of the semester.

These needs must be effectively communicated with the proctor and registrars’ office in a way that is confidential. This used to be done through emailing back and forth, but as one would imagine, this has many opportunities to go off the rails and have something slip through the cracks.

Universities are now discovering applications available that were designed specifically to address these challenges. With a robust exam scheduling system, students can log in and get a full listing on everything they need for the exam.

For universities that have implemented this kind of technology, students end up checking these applications many times leading up to these critical exams. After all, when the final exam can make up 80, 90 or 100 percent of their final grade, understanding and being confident in the logistics involved in taking the test is critical.

By eliminating clutter and making the communications accurate, universities are creating and maintaining trust with their student body. Students are getting exactly the information they need and no more. These kinds of applications allow the school to implement an accurate, consistent form of communication as students come to expect these details conveyed to them in a certain way.

About the Author

Tony Forsythe is the CEO of AppointLink, a custom solution provider that helps organizations communicate and collaborate more efficiently. AppointLink higher education applications are designed to eliminate the friction that slows education. Its solutions seamlessly blend into educational technology ecosystems to improve student, faculty and administrative performance.