Saturday, May 19, 2018

What Makes for a Good Student Experience?

The Australian 2017 Student Experience Survey (QILT, 2018), shows three non-government universities with much higher undergraduate student satisfaction than other institutions. It would be easy to conclude that private institutions do better, but is that the case? It may be what they teach and who they teach, as much as how.

The good news is that while some Australian universities rate better than others on student satisfaction, they all rate well. Universities are tending to move more of the teaching online. This provides students with better access to learning, but may result in overall lower student satisfaction results.

Most Australian universities scored between 70% to just above 80% on educational experience for undergraduate students in 2017. Three exceptions were Bond University, The University of Notre Dame Australia, and the University of Divinity, all over 90%. However, not all non-government universities did well. Torrens University Australia, the only private for-profit university in Australia, had a score of only 77.6%, below many government universities.

Torrens is essentially an online university and these tend to rate poorly on student satisfaction. The University of Southern Queensland, which also has many online students also rated poorly at 73.6% (I have completed two online courses at USQ and thought they were good).

Absent from the QILT report is Open Universities Australia (OUA), a consortium of universities offering online courses. OUA would be likely to have a low student satisfaction score, similar to USQ and Torrens. It would be easy to conclude that these institutions are doing something wrong. But they accept students who would otherwise not be able to study at all. Given a choice, I am sure these students are more satisfied being able to study, than not.

The QILT report mention of online study in the Executive summary (page iv):
"The largest variation was that external/distance students were less likely to respond positively about their Learner Engagement, 22 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. Older students also rated Learner Engagement less positively than younger students, but this difference is most likely associated with the prevalence of external or internal study modes in these age groups.
Large differences in results by study mode for Learner Engagement continues to suggest that this scale may be performing differently for internal/mixed mode students and external mode students. The Department of Education and Training is currently considering a review
of the Learner Engagement scale. As an interim measure, the QILT website, which reports SES results at the institution by study area level, will continue to exclude external mode responses for the Learner Engagement focus area. This report, however, which reports SES results at national and aggregate levels, includes external mode responses in all Learner Engagement results. ..."
Also section 3.3 "The postgraduate coursework student experience by study area":
"The widest range in focus area results was for Learner Engagement, with 34 percentage points separating the study areas with the highest and lowest results, Rehabilitation at 72 per cent, and Nursing at 38 per cent, which may be associated with the relative proportion of online or distance learning associated with the various study areas."

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