Student Feedback is Critical in Higher Education
The pandemic is shaping student needs on campus today and in the future
Nelnet interns share their perspectives on non-academic services
Communication, technology, and providing a way for students to give feedback are all essential parts to creating a successful college experience during and post the pandemic
Student feedback is one of the most important things to consider in the higher education world. Hearing what is working, what needs to be adjusted during the pandemic, and understanding if student needs are changing permanently enables institutions to serve students in the best way possible. The National Association of Campus Card Users (NACCU) is the only association that specializes in the campus identification and transaction industry. Formed in 1993, they serve colleges, universities, secondary institutions and companies that are involved with the campus card market. NACCU gave Nelnet interns, current college students, a platform to share what they expect to get from their campus experiences during these unique times. They share how their current higher education experience is shaping their future expectations at their institutions. Emily Kist, pathway intern and current college student, was the panel host – offering her perspectives as well. The five college student panelists included:
- Lauren, executive project intern
- Abby, pathway intern
- Leah, marketing strategist intern
- Pranav, ALLO data systems intern
- Mary, campus recruiting intern
Amy Stover, Nelnet Campus Commerce strategic director, kicked off the conversation by sharing the value that Nelnet places on interns in our organization.
“We have nearly 200 interns that we work with,” Stover said. “We find their feedback absolutely critical as we are building products and developing solutions for higher ed.”
The panel discussion tackled perspectives on shared spaces, new habits caused by the pandemic, expectations on non-academic services, contactless needs and communication, feedback opportunities and more.
Shared spaces on campuses
The students agreed that time spent in shared spaces on campus have greatly lessened due to safety concerns and the convenience of Zoom meetings.
Pranav said the only shared space he really uses anymore is the campus recreation center. He is finding difficulties when it comes to scheduling times to use the facility though. His institution requires him to reserve a time 24 hours in advance.
“It is really hard to plan this far in advance,” Pranav said. “We are college students and most likely don’t have a structured schedule because things come up. Knowing the building capacity and whether or not I can go would really help.”
Lauren said she is hesitant to use shared spaces on campus because she doesn’t know if the areas have been sanitized or not when she gets to a spot. Having an app or even a “just cleaned” sign on the table could help communicate when areas are being cleaned.
“Having more transparency on when the communal places are being cleaned would encourage more students to reserve places on campus,” Lauren said.
Pandemic creating new habits
The pandemic has altered the lifestyles of every single person in this world one way or another, especially college students.
Abby said her daily routine looks different now compared to before COVID-19. She is doing online learning, which also means she is not grabbing a coffee from an on campus stand that she had usually walked by on the way to class. There is such limited space on campus when she does go that she is finding herself going to off campus coffee places now because they have more seating. Regarding group projects, Abby said meeting on campus has turned into Zoom meetings.
“We realized, ‘oh we don’t all need to drive to this central location for a meeting,’” Abby said. “So, I think that there will be a drop off in the future of those shared spaces that were used for group meetings.”
Mary said her institution implemented a peer-to-peer mentorship program before COVID-19 even hit. The program covers all nine aspects of wellness, a few being financial, emotional, and physical. She said her campus has done a great job promoting this program through email blasts and encouraging professors to talk to students about it.
“No one understands what it’s like to go to college in a pandemic better than a fellow college student,” Mary said.
Contactless, effective communication
All the interns agreed that their institution could do better at communicating with the student population.
Leah said that the best way to communicate to college students is through email and social media. Lauren agreed that social media is where students want to get information. She said her institution has been making comical posts on social media platforms that engage the students.
Abby said the best way to communicate to students is via text messages. Sending out COVID-19 related updates or utilizing the platform for other messages would an efficient way to communicate to students.
Technology and digital IDs
Mary said she barely used her paper ID, besides to get into buildings. She also said at her institution, if you lose your ID, it is $25 to replace it, which isn’t necessarily cheap for a college student. Mary said she would have benefitted from a digital ID because of this cost.
“College students aren’t going to lose their phone, but they might lose an ID card,” Mary said.
Pranav said he mainly uses a contactless technology method when ordering food on campus. He said his campus offers students an app that allows them to order, customize, and pay for their food. The app would also tell students when their food was ready to be picked up.
On campus bookstore
With companies like Amazon and Chegg offering low prices and contactless processes, college students are not utilizing on campus bookstores anymore. Mary said her on campus bookstore would have to offer competitive buy back or transfer options to get her back to using it.
Even with everything going digital, Abby is still a physical type of book girl though.
“Now that everything is on the computer, I don’t want my book to also be on the computer,” Abby said.
Providing students a feedback option
The interns agreed that when it came to providing feedback at their universities, their voices were not easily heard.
Lauren said she doesn’t even know where she would go to provide feedback at her campus if she wanted to.
Mary said her university hasn’t done a great collective job getting feedback, but her college has. She said she sees communication directly from her college’s dean. It is important to get tailored responses from students because what is good for Mary and her degree, may not be fitting for another student’s degree.
Abby agreed and said that more specific feedback is needed. She touched on getting to sublevels and even professors asking for feedback would be beneficial.
Missing the most
The interns agreed that a sense of community is what they are missing the most. A simple thing, like running into other students while walking to class, is being missed. Students feel supported when they simply have a community surrounding them. Mary said there is no replication to being able to stop in somewhere and talk to people.
Emily said she misses the networking aspect of the college experience.
“I haven’t met nearly as many people as I normally would have in a given semester,” Emily said.
Leah said she really misses group exercise classes. Emily said she has resorted to watching workout videos on YouTube because of the pandemic effecting her gym on campus.
“The classes were so nice,” Leah said. “When COVID-19 hit, my institution didn’t offer virtual classes. I would have totally done it online if they gave us the option.”
To hear the full version of the student feedback web conference, visit naccutv.org.
Author: McKenzie Beach
McKenzie Beach is an Account Manger for Nelnet Campus Commerce. Graduating from Doane University with a degree in Strategic Communications and a minor in Leadership, she first joined Nelnet Campus Commerce as a content coordinator intern, she researched and communicated what is needed for our clients and the public. McKenzie is now an Account Manager, working directly with clients to further enhance their payments experience. When McKenzie is not working, she enjoys baking and spending time with her family.