Higher Education Strategy Associates

Best and Worst Student Experiences

Most of you know that we at HESA do the data collection and analysis for the Globe and Mail’s Canadian University Report. But what we do with that data is much more than just gives scores to each institution. We also spend a lot of our time mining that data for all its worth, looking for insight into the student experience (and not just on those miserable Toronto students).

Today we’d like to look at how students describe their best and worst academic experiences.

Now, you might think that these two things are pretty similar: one being the obverse of the other. Good profs = best experience, bad profs = worst experience, etc. But it turns out it’s not quite so simple.

Take technology and facilities, for instance. Students almost never cite great tech as being part of their best experience; they do, however, routinely describe bad tech as being a “worst experience.” They never describe a well-organized course or professor as a positive experience, but they regularly describe it as a worst experience.

When students talk about what made their experience at university so great, they tend to describe things like personal and intellectual growth and forming relationships (both with other students and professors). When they talk about worst experiences, they often talk about particular episodes or incidents. In other words, the good stuff takes months or years to build, the bad stuff is quicker and more transactional.

It’s an old rule of customer service – a positive reputation can take a long time to cultivate, but a bad reputation can be gained in a minute. Turns out it’s the same thing in higher education. It’s a lesson that we should all take to heart.

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One Response to Best and Worst Student Experiences

  1. Clayton Sith says:

    Could’t agree more Alex. The best student esperiences are defnitely the result of positive personal contact between students and those of us who work on their behalf at colleges and universities. Even with all the new technologies, social media and the rest, we must never loose sight of this.

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