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Student needs: how do you deal with them?

The needs and wants of your students are dynamic. As with everyone’s habits and preferences they change over time. Because of that, educational institutions have to keep changing as well. The first thing you need to do is figure out what the current student needs and wants are. There are a lot of ways you can gather information regarding those needs and wants, as long as you have the right mindset. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Educational institutions often want to do everything right the first time. Funnily enough, that exact mindset causes institutions to fail. They take their time to do extensive research and by the time they are done, the results are already deprecated. However, the institution still acts on those results to change the way they provide information, the way they communicate, the facilities on campus or their student support system. The changes no longer meet the current student needs and thus the institution has failed to do it right the first time.

Instead of conducting extensive research, it is important that institutions just start. Not knowing everything is not a problem, as long as you find out along the way. In most cases, you are able to make an educated guess regarding what students need and want, or you are able to find out through a short survey. As soon as you have the first input you can go ahead and create a first version of whatever it is your students need. Once you have the first version, e.g. of a new student support method, you can start optimising this version. During a certain period of time, you monitor the way students use it and the problems they might encounter. At the same time, you simply ask students what they think about your new student support method. With this feedback, you make changes to ensure it suits your students even better. Only through doing and gathering feedback you get to the best result.

It is important to realise that student needs are ever changing. You will never be completely ‘done’. Make sure that whatever you do, you evaluate periodically. It is best not to wait until complaints come in before improving something. Acting proactively and being up to date with the needs and wants of your students allows you to keep improving and provide your students with the best service possible.

An example of acting on the ever changing student needs is the StuComm way of working. StuComm provides solutions to provide information for students, to communicate with students and to support students. The native smartphone application that contains all of this, is optimised continuously based on the current student needs. As the student needs are slightly different at different institutions, the institution that uses the app is able to change the content displayed in the app based on these differences.