How students experience



Education student Golishwe presses the “submit” button and leans back in her chair. She has just completed the last module survey evaluating her experience of teaching and learning at the NWU.


This imagined scenario sums up the process that amassed over 65 000 responses when students completed the teaching and learning experience questionnaires sent out during the first and second semesters of 2020.


Robyn Bunt is responsible for running the annual student teaching and learning experience surveys.

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The overall results of the two surveys reveal that students are a little less satisfied with teaching and learning in 2020 compared to the previous year.


“This result is understandable, given that the pandemic caused all contact students to change to remote learning,” says Robyn Bunt, a junior academic developer at the Centre for Teaching and Learning, who is responsible for this project.


What are the surveys all about?


The annual surveys evaluate the quality of teaching and learning in a module and determine how students experience it.


“The Department of Higher Education and Training requires that institutions run surveys of students’ experience of teaching and learning,” explains Prof Robert Balfour, deputy vice-chancellor for teaching and learning.


He says universities report on these surveys when motivating for grant funding from the department.


Three categories of questions are asked in the surveys: teaching and learning, assessment opportunities, and study guide and module evaluation. Let’s look at the results in the teaching and learning category first.


Kudos for lecturers’ support


The aspects which received the highest satisfaction scores in this category were the lecturers’ use of eFundi and the varied resources they drew on to support the students’ learning.


The high satisfaction rates here could be ascribed to the extra effort lecturers made during the Covid-19 pandemic to increase their level of support and help students adjust to the change from contact to remote learning. “Many lecturers used videos and communication channels such as WhatsApp,” Robyn explains.


The aspect which scored the lowest was the variety of teaching and learning strategies. “This makes perfect sense,” says Robyn, “as lecturers had to keep to the guiding principles for teaching students remotely.”


According to these principles, content and activities must be eFundi-based, mobile friendly and low tech (using simple, baseline tools), and must aim for low data consumption and low immediacy (as it is not always possible for students to respond immediately).


Assessment opportunities are fine, thanks


In the second category, the students agreed that they were given enough ongoing opportunities to evaluate their learning through regular assessments.


Robyn believes this can probably be attributed to the continuous assessment approach the NWU has adopted to support its students during the pandemic.


She adds that one area was rated lower than in previous years. “The students perceived the feedback on assessments to be slightly less useful and did not improve their understanding.” Perceptions improved during the second semester, however.


Thumbs up for study guides and modules


Looking at the results in the third category, the students seemed to be more satisfied with the study guides and the layout of their module content during the second semester than in the first.


They indicated that the module content was well organised and that the assessment plan was available to them.


“It seems lecturers have become more comfortable with the new normal of working online and ensuring that students can easily access all of the information they needed,” says Robyn.


Making the results count


The summary reports of the survey results are shared with faculty management and the individual reports are shared with lecturers via Nextcloud.


Robyn says the aim for 2021 is to look deeper into the data and provide faculties with reports they can use as tools for implementing interventions, if necessary.


She foresees that more and more lecturers will become part of the process in future. “Since moving the surveys online in 2018, it has taken a while to get buy-in from most lecturers, but now that the process has been streamlined, we expect more of them to participate.”