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The Front Line of Student Success: Arming Faculty for the Digital Age

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Top-down and bottom-up forces are driving change within universities, with faculty feeling the pressure from both sides. Administrative leaders are striving to address economic pressures, uncover new revenue streams and achieve sustainable growth amid an increasingly competitive marketplace. Students are "shopping" for institutions that offer flexible, technology-enabled programs and promise job opportunities waiting upon graduation. And faculty find themselves in the middle, pressured to adapt to ever evolving student expectations and industry demands - while having to learn new technologies and models of teaching to address the widening range of student academic preparation and learning styles in the classroom.

But how can institutional leaders promote changes to student success in a part of the organization outside of their domain? As Huron’s leaders collected their thoughts on this question, they were struck by the sheer scope of the answer, ranging from access to data and comfort with technology to providing access to incentives and even astrology to guide future planning. (The latter being tongue-in-cheek, of course, but there is an element of soothsaying in predicting the future of education.)

There are four key ways leaders can support faculty success (and change) in this new age of higher education:

  1. Technology: Provide access to and incentivize faculty to engage in technology training so faculty can develop the skills needed to take advantage of the teaching and learning tools available to them that support student success. Instructors who are more confident and agile with technology are more likely to incorporate it within their curricula.
  2. Methodology: Encourage faculty to explore new forms of pedagogy, including active learning, case-based simulations, and self-guided instruction options to better promote student outcomes and provide learners with the flexible learning options they desire.
  3. Psychology: Share data analytics with instructors to help them identify at-risk students for additional support. Faculty may then put those students in touch with advisors who can help address non-academic factors affecting student retention and success (including wellness, financial challenges and a general sense of belonging).
  4. Astrology: Providing insights on marketplace trends and connect instructors with industry leaders to better "predict" the needs of the future job market. Faculty may then be inspired to create new curricula around the skills and the competencies that students will need to succeed in these new career fields.

In a previous blog, Huron talked about governance and defining whom the institution serves. Given that student success is so closely tied to instructor success, it's important that leaders solicit faculty input on the institution's mission. And the above four areas could provide the springboard for a conversation that leads to meaningful change.

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