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Spotlighting student experience

22nd July 2015 0 comment
What do our students feel about studying at TAMK?  How would they describe their student experience?  Are there parallels between student experience and customer experience?

To find out about the student experience at TAMK, a number of first year students were interviewed.

Three areas in particular were identified as development targets:

– In some cases, we need to look at the quality and contents of teaching.  If there are problems in these areas, study motivation suffers drastically, says Aura Loikkanen, Director of Higher Education Services.

Another issue is that students sometimes have unrealistic expectations, which again affects motivation and increases the risk of student drop-out.

“We have been looking at ways of using student feedback more effectively and lots of ideas have been generated.”

– We can address this problem by increasing the amount of concrete information that we provide about our study programmes – on our website, for example.

The third issue that arose was the enormous importance of the feedback system. The students felt that the feedback they give doesn’t have sufficient effect on teaching.

– As a result of the survey we carried out, TAMK has started to pay special attention to ensuring that the feedback chain works properly.  We have been looking at ways of using student feedback more effectively and lots of ideas have been generated.  One feasible suggestion is to set up “course steering committees” made up of students on the courses concerned.

Is a student a customer?

According to Principal Lecturer Harri Kukkonen, the idea of using the student experience as one measure of quality in higher education has been around since the 1990s.

– In this model, the student is considered as a customer for education services.  But in my opinion, this idea is questionable; it’s worth examining critically whether a student can be considered as a customer just like customers for other kinds of services.

Studying doesn’t always give rise only to positive experiences.  The essential question is what action we can take to promote students’ commitment to their studies.

“The main keys to study success are a feeling of belonging to the student community, good study skills and good guidance. “

– The main keys to study success are a feeling of belonging to the student community, good study skills and good guidance.  Even though some unpleasant experiences may occur from time to time, every student needs to know that he or she will get help and support, Kukkonen explains.

Kukkonen has analysed the views of TAMK’s staff about the ideal student experience.  TAMK’s staff do not subscribe to the idea that the only purpose of higher education is to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed in their chosen professions.

– Issues such as personal growth as students and as professional people, two-way influence between students and teachers, the experience of belonging to a community, well-designed study facilities, equipment that works properly, good support services, and possibilities to include an international dimension in the study programmes were all considered important to the student experience.  Another significant factor is the city where the studies take place.

Service street – student services in one location

TAMK has been developing the quality of support services as part of the so-called ”Not Bad” project.  The set goals were that students should find it easy and straightforward to access the services they need; they should find the service quality reliable, and feel that their needs are given serious attention.

– The most tangible outcome of the project is the Service street – a corridor in the main campus building where all the most important student services are located side-by-side, says project co-ordinator Aura Loikkanen.





onlyonlineIn keeping with the theme of quality, my appointed task was to do a little detective work inside TAMK – a mystery shopping assignment on the familiar grounds of the library.

I’ve been at TAMK long enough to see the library relocate into the recently renovated facilities and, regretfully, haven’t been making extensive use of their loan services since the move. My previous use of the new facilities has mainly focused on the workspace that is available all around the library – the computers, conference rooms and the Quiet Room (for crunch time, when projects absolutely, positively need to get finished right away).

Taking an outsider’s view of the services on offer would prove to be interesting.

Course books are increasingly available as e-books

Paralleling the physical renovation, the library has been expanding the amount of e-services to a great degree – for example, materials in very high demand such as course books are increasingly available as e-books, joining a collection of e-resources that include a staggering amount of databases, newspapers and journals.

“The impression I formed very quickly was that there wasn’t an issue that the staff couldn’t solve.”

The library information specialists organise data searching workshops for students a couple of times per week to help them navigate the various databases and sources, something I might have to sign up for myself in the near future.

Soon enough, it turned out that traditional, active mystery shopping methodology was almost unnecessary – just being around the library, making observations and listening in on the conversations between students and the staff would bring up quite enough convoluted issues and scenarios for my intended purposes.

Staff act as a proper info-desk

Is it possible to find this obscure, niche source material based on the student’s extremely vague recollection of the surnames of the writers, which in turn happen to be very common surnames in Finland? Yes – and the answer would always be yes, no matter the issue.

The impression I formed very quickly was that there wasn’t an issue that the staff couldn’t solve. Students being who they are, the service desk at the library receives a whole host of inquiries that have nothing to do with the library and the staff act as a proper info-desk – unflinchingly tackling issues or calling up the appropriate people if they are unable to help directly. The library desk can be reached by real time chat six hours per day, no doubt adding to the amount of intriguing puzzles to be solved.

Most certainly I’ll be spending quite a bit of time at the library in the coming months. My degree studies are almost complete and I am to graduate by the end of 2015 – only the thesis itself remains to be done. The library is involved in the thesis process as well and it gives me no small amount of relief to know that the staff at hand has the capability of acting as a veritable Swiss army knife when it comes to problem-solving.




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