Who are we? We are the student advisory board of EDLAB, also known as ESAB, and we are giving input on EDLAB education innovation projects as well as providing the student’s perspectives on education-related matters. We are a group of students that is interested in enriching UM’s education and realized that we needed a broader perspective on student opinion to provide input and focus for our future activities. Education is a much-debated topic with many different aspects, different approaches, as well as different ideas for improvement. We hence decided to get insight into the student population’s perception of the education at UM by launching a student education monitor.
What is the student education monitor? The student education monitor is a survey initiated by ESAB to gain a better understanding of how students perceive education at UM. The survey is built around four main pillars: engagement in PBL-sessions, assessment, expectations and well-being. We chose these particular pillars as they are essential for the student learning experience. The pillars are based on common topics in 15 interviews that we conducted with UM students about education previous to distributing the student education monitor. The engagement with PBL, assessment as well as expectations, all seem obvious choices for such a survey. However, investigating the wellbeing of students is also an important aspect of education since wellbeing influences how much energy students can spend on preparing for class, engaging with classroom dynamics and taking assessments.
In the following, we will report the results of the student education monitor as well as set these results into a context. Important to mention is that the survey was developed by the ESAB students, and while it has some reliability, it cannot be seen as fully representative of how students perceive education at UM.
Method: To know what kind of questions we should ask the students of UM, we conducted 10 informal semi-structured interviews. Based on these interviews, we decided to design a total of twenty-one questions (open and closed questions) in four main categories. The survey was administered online and was running for a total of four weeks. The closed questions were asked on a 5-point Likert scale (1. Strongly Disagree – 5. Strongly Agree). In total 121 students responded, including 80 valid responses. To analyse the data, we looked at averages, frequencies and scale averages.
Demographics. The distribution of students that took the survey was quite representative with regards to distribution of students at the different faculties (see Fig.1). The same goes for the distribution of Master’s and Bachelor’s students, with 73% of responses being Bachelor’s students and 26% of Master’s students. While over 60% of the students were in their first two years studying at UM, the remaining 40% were at UM for three years or more.
Overall Results. While students feel they are engaged in PBL sessions and feel comfortable contributing in PBL sessions, the assessment as well as the match between expectations and reality of education at UM, is evaluated as moderate by students. Furthermore, students perceive that their education is negatively impacted by their wellbeing (see. Table 1).
Table 1: Scale Means Education Monitor
|Part of Education||Mean||SD|
Student feel engaged. Results of the survey show that students feel motivated to prepare for PBL sessions (M=3.83; SD=1.13), as well as contribute to discussions (M=4.32; SD=0.88). Interestingly, these results are not what we expected to see, comparing it to the fifteen in-depth interviews before the survey. We interpret this mismatch between our interviews and the results of the survey, as the difference between feeling like being part of an open collaborative learning environment on the one hand and the other hand contributing to the tutorials.
Expectation – reality gap. Having a closer look at the expectations that students have before coming to UM, it seems that the expectations of the content of the studies match well (M=3,81; SD=1,16). The expectation of the educational approach, on the other hand, does not match the expectations of students, only 34,% of students (N=27) indicated that their expectations were matched. Similarly, students’ expectations are not met in the area of meeting people at UM. Only around 29% of the students (N=23) indicated that their expectation of what kind of people there would meet at UM was met.
Interested in creative assessment. While the assessment seems to be peeved moderate by students, there is a call for more creative and varied assessment methods (M=3.71; SD=1.22). Students indicated a moderate appreciation of multiple-choice exams, however, based on the open questions related to how to improve education at UM, students seem to demand a different assessment culture.
Covid, wellbeing and students education. Students indicated that not only their wellbeing but also their education was negatively influenced by the COVID-19 measures over the last few years (M=3.78; SD=1.31). When students had the opportunity to give input on what UM could do to improve their wellbeing policies, the most common category of improvement was adapting education. More specifically, students seem to prioritise flexibility, reduced workload, clearer communication as well as decisions (regarding online vs. offline education), over having well-being weeks, mindfulness workshops or similar events. These can be seen by the number of answers regarding adapting education, rather than the answers about organising events.
Open-ended questions. Finally, the open-ended questions (see Box 1) were directed toward two matters of education. One describes students’ overall experience at UM and the other describes what students would advise the Rector to change at UM if they would get a chance to talk to them. The results of the experience questions are depicted in a word cloud, with the “biggest” word being the most used to describe the educational experience at UM. As shown in Box 1, students seem to perceive their studies as challenging, overwhelming as well as international. As for what students advise the rector to change, students would focus on making recording lectures mandatory, increasing the support for special needs, as well as improving/increasing the food options on campus.
Conclusion. The ESAB student education monitor used a 21-item questionnaire to measure the perspectives on subjective wellbeing, expectations in their studies, as well as assessment methodologies and engagement within PBL-sessions. The highest mean score is attributed to engagement (M=4.04), followed by expectations(M=3.93), assessment (M=3.48) and well-being(M=2.58). Overall, students perceived that education (coupled with COVID-19) has negatively impacted well-being. Open-ended questions were used to enquire into the overall experience of students (overwhelming, challenging, etc.), as well as what would they like to mention to the rector to change at UM (food options, special needs, etc.).