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2020 NSS results call for optimised communication in education

“Student satisfaction stable as data continues to highlight need for clear communication”, reads the press release from the Office for Students’ 2020 National Student Survey.

The NSS results are fresh off the press! It is pleasing to find that even during these difficult times, where some of the responses were still being submitted, that 83% of the 311,432 of the students who responded, were satisfied with their course. One key area that was noted for improvement by the OfS was the ways in which courses were organised and how institutions communicate changes to students.

According to the OfS, both the way in which courses are organised and how the institutions communicate changes to students has seen a decline in student approval. This year’s NSS confirms that there is still room for improvement in these areas. Taking into account the changes institutions have made and will need to make as a result of the recent pandemic, these areas in particular need to be addressed. We take a deeper look at what areas of the survey concern student communication, as Luke Billings provides us with some possible solutions to challenges educational institutions face.

Organisation and management

“Any changes in the course or teaching have been communicated effectively”

One of the largest declines in student satisfaction was seen in the way in which institutions communicated changes with their students. This saw the satisfaction rate drop by 2% from 77% in 2019 to 75% in 2020. With the OfS stating the results were not impacted by the coronavirus, this is cause for concern. Particularly relevant as institutions starting back in September will be tasked with communicating numerous logistical changes to students that have changed since the summer, as well as ongoing changes throughout the year.

Luke Billings: “With many students getting swamped left, right and centre by email, it could be useful to send out push notifications about major changes such as buildings now off-limits or days students definitely are not allowed on campus. If a lecture moves from virtual to in-person or vice versa, being able to communicate this change and notify students immediately through their student app also proves very useful.”

 Learning community

 “I feel part of a community of staff and students”

It is pleasing to see that students’ views on the sense of community have not declined but maintained an approval score of 69%. While it has not declined, it is still a relatively low base and there is always room for improvement. Especially now, as from September much of the in-person activities so common at freshers week and follow that, may not be possible.

Luke Billings: “What our partner institutions have found very helpful in building a community is making use of the News feature within the student app. It could be by posting articles from the Student Union President, Vice-Chancellor or sharing achievements of individual students. Also being able to display physical and virtual events within the app helps students who are not always the most engaged and who would not normally proactively seek out events to attend on campus.”

Student voice

I have had the right opportunities to provide feedback on my course.”

Another pleasing discovery of the survey was that 85% of students agreed that they have opportunities to provide feedback about their courses. However, only 62% agree that it was clear how the feedback was being used. It could be that although students can give feedback, the way it organised for the institution, may not be optimal for taking quick and decisive action.

Luke Billings: “In many cases, course feedback is still done by a module evaluation after a 12-week course has been completed. A midpoint between getting no feedback and using the end-of-module survey is allowing them to provide feedback in a quick and easy to use way. TIO University of Applied Sciences has implemented an approach that surprised me. They gather feedback on a regular basis through their student app, providing them with regular insights in order to constantly improve. They have seen their student satisfaction increase continuously due to this implementation”

Academic support  

 “I have been able to contact staff when I needed to.”

Students’ views on academic support also remain high, particularly in relation to the ease in which students could contact staff. 86% of students agree that is the case, the same rate as 2019. However, there is still room for improvement in relation to the quality of advice and guidance given to students with a score of 78%.

Luke Billings: “As the NSS survey is completed by final year students, many of them already know who to contact and where to find their contact details. This may not be the case for first-year students joining in September. Sometimes contact details of essential staff and quite often personal tutors can be hidden away on one of the many emails a first-year student may receive. Students at our partner institutions find that having an overview of all contacts, including contact details, within their student app, is very helpful.

If you would like to discuss how you can improve your communication metrics reach out to Luke Billings!