One of the primary roles of colleges and universities is to provide students with knowledge, skills, and experiences that will contribute to their overall success and career after graduation. To that end, demonstrating that our students are successful once they leave the classroom is becoming increasingly paramount, with growing calls for accountability and demonstration of student success post-graduation.
While simply acquiring a college degree demonstrates a certain level of learning, and finding a job after graduation shows some level of career success, how can we work to show a better connection between the two? How can we show that not only does college helps students get jobs, but that it also equips them with valuable knowledge and skills that help them to be successful in their chosen careers?
To try to answer these questions, we have looked at what our graduating seniors and recent alumni had to say about their college experience—what they were satisfied with, how much they learned, and what role that learning plays in their careers; fundamentally, we asked about what matters when it comes to success. Looking at the data can tell us a lot.
Importance of good faculty for career success
For anyone who works in or around higher education, there is little doubt of the role that faculty play in helping our students to succeed. It is wonderful when the data reflects the stories we know and see every day on campus. For instance, 83% of graduating engineering students who rated the quality of instruction as high in their major or program reported high levels of overall learning. For students who rated instruction moderately, the percent with high levels of learning drops to 40%. And, for students who rated instruction poorly, the percent reporting high levels of learning further drops to 6%. Similar patterns exist in overall satisfaction and across nursing, business, and teacher education.
Furthermore, across all exit and alumni surveys, regardless of academic program, survey factors related to faculty, instructors, and instruction consistently had the strongest positive correlations to overall learning, overall satisfaction, and overall program effectiveness. So, not only are students in various fields giving us positive data on the role of faculty, those items are also connected to key measures of learning and satisfaction for both graduating students and recent alumni.
Engaged learning vs. quality engaged learning
Engaged learning experiences, particularly those outside the classroom, allow students the opportunity to apply the material, concepts, and content learned in their courses to real-world situations, including their newfound career. However, it is not enough to just participate in engaged learning experiences. For example, 57% of undergraduate business students who completed the exit assessment said they participated in an internship—but there are no differences in terms of learning, satisfaction, or other outcomes between business students who did and did not have internships.
However, when you look at the quality of the engaged learning experience, then the impact is clear. Students who have quality engaged learning experiences report higher levels of learning and satisfaction across business, nursing, engineering, and teacher education programs. So, it could be said that the quality of engaged learning experiences matters more than simply participating in the experience.
Classroom content matters
When we discuss findings from our academic surveys, one of the most common questions posed relates to the importance of program content. Does the content students learn still matter once these students get jobs? Alumni tell us the answer to this question is a resounding yes.
A series of questions from our alumni assessments ask about the importance of certain learning outcomes and content areas to either their career or graduate school performance. Consistently, 5% of alumni or fewer reported that ANY of the factors related to learning outcomes are not at all important. Furthermore, a majority of students are reporting that all of these factors are extremely important. For teacher education alumni:
- 72% reported that outcomes related to classroom equity and diversity were extremely important to their jobs or graduate school performance
- 75% reported that outcomes related to fostering student development were extremely important to their jobs or graduate school performance
- 70% reported that learning outcomes related to developing curricula were extremely important to their jobs or graduate school performance.
Again, recent alumni from nursing and engineering programs reported similar levels of importance across nearly every content area in the alumni assessments. So, not only do students achieve learning outcomes, but they also recognize the value and importance of those outcomes once in their first full-time jobs.
So, what else are students saying about their college experience once they graduate? View the recording of our recent webinar on student career success: What Graduating Students and Alumni Tell Us.
Interested in learning more about how Benchworks Assessments can provide valuable data and data-backed suggestions for maximum program satisfaction at your own institution? Click the “Request a Demo” button to get started.