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Recent data indicates that since 2020, the number of students
enrolled in college or university has fallen by more than one million As attitudes about higher education have shifted, it’s possible that this decline is permanent unless universities proactively seek solutions to attract and retain students. In light of this information, many colleges and universities are placing an even greater emphasis on improving student outcomes. Student success is the goal, but the path to achievement is not direct. To reach students, you often need to reach faculty first. Read on to learn how faculty success = student success.
Supporting faculty with new tools
Despite online learning having a previously successful track record, the emergency shift to an online environment was not a positive experience for many students. Here’s why.
As an article from EdSurge notes, the problem wasn’t in online learning itself. The challenges arose because colleges and universities didn’t prepare their faculty to teach in a completely new modality. With the right training and preparation, the transition could have been much smoother. In fact, some survey results indicated that students performed better and enjoyed online learning more as their professors got used to the platforms and adapted their techniques to a virtual setting heading into the spring of 2021. Of course, the circumstances left little time for any training, but HigherEd institutions should take note of the direct connection between faculty technological literacy and student success. Though hybrid and virtual learning may be waning in some places, these technologies aren’t going anywhere, and institutions are likely to continue virtual programs to increase flexibility and student access. The 2021 Changing Landscape of Education (CHLOE) report noted that post-COVID priorities for higher education include supporting online learning priorities and needs, increasing flexibility to meet student needs, and improving technical infrastructure.
Before your institution adopts any more classroom technology, make sure that you have change management structures in place to ensure faculty success. Offer the right training resources, have early conversations, and engage your faculty in the decision. Digital transformation should be viewed as a partnership to empower faculty to improve student success by helping reduce faculty resistance to technology.
Remove administrative burden so your faculty have more time
Inside Higher Ed argues that the best place to reach students at risk of not graduating is in the classroom, and notes that individual instructors, as well as entire departments, can have a huge impact on student retention rates. Yet faculty are often weighed down by the burden of administrative tasks that have nothing to do with teaching and mentorship and aren’t furthering student success. For instance, according to a 2020 PeopleAdmin survey, faculty tasks are done predominantly on paper by 48% of institutions. This means the processes of applying for grant funding, tracking work history and achievements, personalizing dossiers, and pulling together information for promotion and tenure review processes are taking up unnecessary time. Digitization can hugely reduce that administrative burden.
Some non-teaching burdens are also distributed unequally. Women and faculty of color are more frequently called upon to take on service roles than their peers. While committee service is an often necessary part of a faculty member’s role, these positions are time-consuming and take away from other job duties. Additionally, faculty receive little recognition for sacrificing teaching or research hours to service. Take a look at your faculty’s reported service hours—with the right analytics, you can discover if there is an unequal burden at your institution.
Working to remove inequities in faculty workload, as well as digitizing processes to reduce manual data work, can enable faculty success and, in turn, empower student success.
Focus on your DEI initiatives
According to data from CUPA-HR, women, and minorities are still underrepresented among tenure-track faculty. Additionally, female faculty were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, sacrificing research to balance caregiving responsibilities and other faculty responsibilities. The last few years highlighted the “leaky pipeline” of women and minorities in faculty positions. Minority students report that having professors of their race is a contributing factor in feeling supported and successful at a school. Female undergraduate students are also more likely to take on leadership roles when they have female role models in the classroom. Data indicates that an increase in faculty diversity improves transfer and drop-out rates. Increasingly, DEI is an integral component of accreditation and institutions should prepare for these evolving requirements.
What does this information tell us? Ensuring the success of all of your students means supporting women and minorities in faculty roles. When thinking about positive student outcomes, make sure your institution is focused on plugging the leaky pipeline, building a diverse faculty, broadening your DEI initiatives, and creating a culture of engagement and inclusion at your institution.
Data, data, data
Faculty have long collected information from students to help improve effectiveness, but today’s technology provides more info than ever. This abundance of data, when properly utilized, can be a game-changer for faculty. Previously, faculty may have relied on course evaluations offered at the end of a semester—after the course is over when it’s too late to make any changes. They might also look at students’ final grades or mid-semester assessments to gauge how successful their curriculum has been. With the analytics offered by Enflux, and its partnership with PeopleAdmin, faculty can receive real-time analytics that helps them understand curriculum effectiveness while they’re still teaching a course. This empowers faculty to tailor their courses to the students they’re currently working with, meaning they can pivot when a teaching tool isn’t working, or re-engage in a topic that many students didn’t grasp. This immediate feedback boosts curriculum and teaching effectiveness, helping faculty succeed in their roles so students can succeed at your institution.
Student success is the mission of higher education, and faculty success is vital to achieving that mission. With a focus on DEI, data, digitization, and faculty change management, you can give your faculty the tools to succeed and find positive student outcomes for your institution.