The landscape of higher education has changed dramatically over the past few years – a global pandemic, the push for greater equity and inclusion in education, and the advent of generative AI have all played a role in altering how, when, and where people learn. Online and hybrid degree programs have become more mainstream, enabling a larger population of people to gain access to learning opportunities.
The need for students’ perspectives to be considered by decision-makers in higher education has never been more urgent. This need is what inspired Pearson to conduct our Student Success Survey, a review of college and university students that gives voice to their experiences and paves the way for meaningful improvement in the design and development of courses and tools in higher education.
The challenges: time management and focus
The top two issues facing the group of students surveyed were: time management and staying focused.
Time management issues
The survey responses show that students need more support when balancing their coursework with their other obligations. As one student from Merced College wrote, “I am constantly updating my time management system but none of it seems to work.”
Time management is a significant sticking point, not because students do not know how to manage their time, but because their lives have become so busy that the usual methods of keeping track of their to-dos are insufficient.
Many students must juggle full-time work and family responsibilities in addition to their studies. One respondent, a mom of three kids studying at the Delta College of San Joaquin, wrote, “Between classes, assignments, and activities, it can be difficult to find enough time in the day to get everything done. I try my best to prioritize my tasks and create a schedule, but sometimes unexpected events can throw me off track.”
Once a student gets knocked off track, it can be extremely difficult to help them get back on, especially at the higher education level.
Challenges with maintaining focus while reading and studying was the other primary problem for the students who participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of students reported trouble focusing as a significant obstacle to their learning.
Another Merced Community College student cites the pandemic as the turning point for their ability to focus on schoolwork. “I feel that after the pandemic I haven't been able to focus on anything.”
That student is not alone in feeling as though the COVID-19 pandemic has had an enduring negative impact on their ability to learn, even though many aspects of daily life have returned to a pre-pandemic state of functioning. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research found a link between the increased levels of stress and fear experienced by many college students during the pandemic and ongoing issues with focus and attention.
Pearson’s solution: Make students’ learning more efficient and engaging
The best way to learn how a student wants to learn is to hear it directly from them. Listening to student voices is essential, especially now, which is why we continue to connect with students directly, through focus groups, surveys, etc.
The results of the new Student Success Survey made it obvious that we are on the right track when it comes to understanding the two most significant issues for students:
- Time management
- Maintaining focus and engagement
We also found that the existing resources provided by Pearson have proven useful in addressing these areas of concern.