The students of UCL were asked about their opinions regarding the different factors which can enhance their experience within the university. To analyze this motive, different factors were put forward to determine the main factor which most likely caused this phenomenon to take place. The data was collected through the questionnaires floated amongst students of UCL with four options, which were considered to have the most substantial impact upon the matter of concern. With better information and vigorous competition, before getting admitted to any university, students are not only concerned about the quality of education that they are expected to get but also the type of learning environment that they will be exposed to (Improving the Student Experience in Higher Education, 2012)
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Recently, studies have been conducted to identify and extract those factors which were most active in having a significant impact to augment the experience of students within the premises of their university. The surveys, which are being carried out for this purpose are known as “Student Experience Survey” and they tend to portray these main factors by targeting the students of well-known universities and lately, the number of students who were required to complete this survey exceeded the figure of 14,000. On the other hand, there were a total of 21 categories, which had been included within the survey and these options were then narrowed down according to those which were most frequently selected by the students (Corbyn, 2012). This approach has been used in this paper, where ideas to enhance the student experience were listed down and presented to the students in order to have their say regarding the idea which they consider feasible and necessary. The budget in this regard is 1 million pounds, and ideas have been formulated accordingly so that when the selected idea is implemented, the costs of implementation are within the specified budget.
While there were numerous ideas to select from, the main motive was to narrow the research down to a specific idea that could enhance the academic experience of students. Before detailed analyses of different ideas, it is essential to find out how the study can be made successful. According to the Student Experience Survey, students usually come from various parts of the country in order to study at a university and; therefore, one of their first concerns is accommodation. In this regard, if the university succeeds in providing proper accommodation facilities to students, university ratings are likely to increase. Moreover, universities that already provide accommodation observe a diverse community of students residing together (Education, 2012).
According to Paul Harris, the group strategy and corporate relations director at Unite, students nowadays wish to have a sense community i.e. a feeling that they are a part of a community as a whole. This is because no matter where students come from the world and regardless of their cultural background and economic background, the desire to mix with students of other cultures calls for a platform where students can get together (Education, 2012).
One of the ideas that were incorporated in our study was larger library space. However, a library is a place to study with concentration and a place where numerous sources including books, articles, newspapers etc can be found easily. While a library is an essential part of any educational institution, our results show that students do not prefer it in order to enhance their educational experience. This is because a library is already available in a university and; therefore, enhancing the library space might not result in a diverse community coming together and interacting with ease. A library is basically for the purpose of study rather than providing an opportunity to communicate.
Secondly, another idea was to have a Spacious & Cleaner Print Room Café. Students’ Experience of University Space: An Exploratory study states the importance as well as the disadvantages of having coffee shops and social spaces in universities. A coffee shape is a space for students that is considered to be “wildly popular” among students as it provides them with a space to get together, relax, interact and socialize with other students. Once disadvantage that this study specifically focuses on is that a café is a place where too many functions take place at the same time. A café is usually crowded which can be another disadvantage in terms of limits to relax and interact while at the same time, having an environment to study, as well (Cox, 2011). This idea was included in our research as one of those few ideas that had the potential to enhance the learning experience of students. However, a print room café is also a part of the university, and there are usually a number of substitutes in the form of small cafes near the university which are popular hangout spots for students who enjoy walking out of the university to have coffee with their friends in nearby café. These substitutes are places of interaction where students can enhance their student experience as many different student groups are likely to be present there is one time.
Another idea was to have changing rooms and showers. As discussed above, many universities cater to the student requirement of accommodation facilities and students who are applying for universities, abroad or in other states/cities, usually apply in those universities which provide accommodation. If changing rooms and showers and provided, cultural diversity can be utilized to enhance the student experience, but it depends on the facilities that are provided within the rooms. For instance, if changing rooms are such that provide relaxation and peacetime to students who wish to enjoy and relax, more and more students will spend their free time there. For instance, if the rooms are equipped with plasma screens, white boards, desktop computers as well as couches, students will spend time to refresh during break between classes and can enjoy a game of chess with friends. Not only this, provision of a foosball table, ping pong table, pool table, snack bar and lockers in the changing rooms will make students content as the room will be a perfect substitute of their own bedrooms and they can refresh themselves before classes. Moreover, the environment can be such that students can study there on the study tables and also use the couch. With internet facilities available, students will be well-connected within the room.
Furthermore, according to Student Experience Study, a rise in the tuition fee has resulted in students demanding more from their university experience. Therefore, in order to enhance the student experience in universities, quality as well as quantity of student accommodation should be the focus of universities that wish to expand and increase their ratings (Education, 2012).
The study also states that nowadays, students are well informed and aware regarding what they would need once their university life begins. Therefore, they have a number of questions that they are likely to put forth, and these questions reflect their demands (Grove, 2012). Accommodation is one of those questions that they are likely to put forth rightfully as their university experience will depend partially on how good a place they can find in order to live and study. Moreover, having changing rooms and showers can only be a popular idea among students if hostels or apartments are far away and they find it difficult to travel. However, students prefer to search for accommodation within the university premises or in nearby apartments so that the problem of travelling never arises. If this is the case, having bathrooms in different parts of the university campus will be enough for the students. In this case, the last option needs to hold something more valuable to the students in order to cater for the cons in the aforementioned ideas. Such an idea is mentioned below.
This idea is regarding separate common rooms for undergraduates and postgraduates were the most popular among all the ideas mentioned in this paper. There can be a number of reasons as to why this idea stands out among other ideas. Firstly, students who wish to be a part of a diverse community of people from various backgrounds and cultures can find such an environment within a common room. An undergraduate from a different country can interact with other undergraduate students of the same field of study as well as other fields of studies if there is a common room for undergraduate students. Usually, this option is not available in a café or a library. Moreover, students nowadays demand Wi-Fi, and PC’s and internet facilities and a common room, that acts as a hub offering all these facilities will meet the requirements of numerous students who wish to settle in well and succeed (Grove, 2012). Also, if the facilities such as play station, foosball table, pool table, snack bar, mini photo booth, as well as, lockers are provided in the common rooms of both undergraduates and graduates, students will have a good time socializing, putting all cultural differences aside.
If a student finds a comfortable environment, he will be more likely to concentrate on his studies and a common room where students of the same class or field can come together is likely to create such a comfortable environment. Also, students are likely to engage in discussions and debates about various affairs of the university, and this will unite the student body resulting in a well-settled, well-integrated and content group of students.
Therefore, the first step to take in order to enhance the student experience is to listen to what the students have to say (Corbyn, 2012). The primary data collected via questionnaires in this regard is of utmost importance as it directly reflects the requirements and demands of the student body. As in this case, the last options seem to be quite popular among students, implementing it will result in satisfaction of the student body; therefore, the success of the selected idea. This particular idea can be implemented within the budget of 1 million pounds. Therefore, by focusing on the requirements of the student body, an idea has been narrowed down among the feasible ideas which had the potential to be implemented. As students’ say is essential, and the implementation of what they demand is necessary in order to enhance university experience of undergraduate students and postgraduates students, having separate common rooms for them is a practicable solution.
Lastly, the approach, which was used in order to derive the aforementioned ideas was the IDEO brainstorming approach. As per this approach, brainstorming is the focus of the entire research and the idea is to come up with a number of ideas before narrowing down to a few promising ideas. However, the key is to stay focused on the topic while brainstorming. Moreover, in order to derive these ideas, a few phases need to be followed. Phase 0 is related to the understanding of the topic in depth. The first phase is essential as it calls for visualizing and envisioning the ideas that are brainstormed. In this case, once the ideas were gathered and visualized, the second phase was related to the evaluation of all the ideas. Thirdly, when the promising ideas were narrowed down, through survey, one idea was selected to be implemented.
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