Dr. Kiran S Nair, Program Director-MBA and Associate Professor, Abu Dhabi School of Management, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Dr. Kiran Nair is an Associate Professor of Management and the MBA Director at Abu Dhabi School of Management (ADSM), Abu Dhabi, UAE. He has been associated with Higher Education Industry since 2016. Dr. Kiran holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration, specializing in the field of Marketing. His teaching specialization is in the field of Marketing, Innovation, Strategic Management, and Management. Dr. Nair has 17 years of industry experience, working with various multinational organizations in the Middle East and India.  His primary responsibilities have spanned Sales & Distribution Management, Marketing, and General Management. He has held different key positions such as Regional Business Development Manager, Product Head, Category Head, and Country Manager. As a lover of education and excellence and passionate about the youth, he came up with “Books2Boardrooms with Dr. Kiran”. Books2Boardrooms with Dr. Kiran is a YouTube channel where one learns from the BEST in the industry (from various niches and walks of life).

 

It is widely believed that our youths are the leaders of tomorrow. When Higher education institutions live up to their expectations by doing what is adequately required of them, then the end product is that they will produce competent, smart, skilled and employable graduates.

A lot of efforts are concentrated on the number of students who get enrolled in college rather than on improving the quality of what they receive and learn once they arrive there. The Rising graduation rates and levels of educational achievement will realize little if the potentials of students are not adequately maximized.

It is very worrisome that quite many graduates are unemployed, and this is not because there are no jobs, but it is because some are not employable! Some Employers complain that many graduates they hire are deficient in basic skills such as writing, problem-solving, critical thinking and character required for certain job roles. While this can majorly be blamed on the students themselves who fall into this category, some amount of blame also falls on the Educational institution which produces such graduates.

The mode of learning, teaching and lecturing that students in the higher institution are subjected to plays a great role in their lives and affects how they will eventually turn out.

As much as possible we would want to reduce flaws and loopholes that are present in our educational system to ensure that our students have the best learning experience and turn out to be the wonderful graduates we expect them to be.

To critically examine this subject of how we can enhance the quality learning experience in the higher institution, we would look at three main perspectives which include:

  1. The Students
  2. The Educators/lecturers.
  3. The Institution

The Students

If we are looking at the best practices we can adopt to ensure that we have a quality learning experience in our colleges, then we need to have a critical look at the students themselves because they are the subject in this case. Now we have to look at what roles they have to play to ensure that they get the best out of their learning experience.

The first aspect is their WILLINGNESS to Learn. This is because it is believed that a horse can be forced to the stream but can’t be forced to drink. If the students aren’t willing to learn a particular course or go through a certain program, then we won’t be able to get the best out of them! We can’t enhance their learning experience. No matter what great measures the school puts in place. It then comes down to these questions; How well do they love the course that they are learning? Were they compelled or forced into studying such a course? How well is it a course that appeals to them personally? We need to find answers to these questions.

If our students can study exactly what they want to study, what they are passionate about, then every other measure will fit in properly and then there would be this seamless experience in their learning experience. There would be a longing in the hearts of the students to learn and anticipate doing new things each day. Because the willingness is there.

Another point that would facilitate and enhance a better learning experience on the part of the students is for them to keep up to date with concurrent teaching. If they read up, prepare, research and study ahead of the class, then the learning experience would be very smooth because they would be able to relate easily with what the lecturer is trying to pass across. On the other hand, if they are lazy and nonchalant about their studies then definitely we can’t expect the learning experience to be seamless. Students are expected to have a good study culture and schedule which they should follow religiously. The more time they invest in their study, the more value they will get and the more capacity they will build.

The Educators/Lecturers

There would be no need for us to have students in higher institutions if there are no educators, lecturers or instructors to guide them. The importance of having seasoned and professional educators in our colleges cannot be overemphasized, because they are the ones who will dispense the required knowledge to the students. So if we are looking at the best practices that need to be carried out to enhance the quality learning experience, then we have to also look from the perspective of our lecturers and see what they also need to do from their angle to enhance the learning experience.

The first aspect we have to look at is the RELATIONSHIP between the Lecturers and the students. How well does he/she relate with the students? How jovial and cordial is the relationship between both parties? Can the students see their lecturer as someone they can trust or be free to discuss issues that pertain to their education or seek advice from?

Do they accord the lecturer his/her due respect? All these are questions that need to be answered. It is believed that educators are like parents to their students. The moment we begin to have friction and relationship problems between the students and the educators, then we can be sure that the quality of the learning experience will be affected negatively. So to avoid this, the lecturer needs to ensure that they carry every student along, as often as possible, try to have some discussion with students whom they feel might be having issues coping with studies, and find solutions to help them out. In a nutshell, if a decent relationship between both parties is sustained, you can be sure that the learning experience would be seamless.

The next area would be HOW the Lecturer handles the class.

Is the lecturer’s class a “Military Regime” or is it fun to be in? Is it something that students look forward to? If a lecturer’s class is one to which every student looks forward, then they will be under a better learning umbrella. They’ll always want to be in his class because it’s fun and that way they’ll be listening, active and paying rapt attention to him/her. When a lecturer makes the class an interactive one in which every student is allowed to participate and express themselves, then subconsciously, the students will have a sense of belonging in the class and would want to go the extra mile to learn and participate more. So making the class an interactive one is of vital importance and a key point to enhancing the learning experience.

Furthermore, another area to consider is the TEACHING PATTERNS of the Lecturer. If the learning experience is to be enhanced, then the teaching patterns which a lecturer decides to adopt will be a key factor to look into. The lecturer needs to study their audience and find out the best teaching methods that will favour the students.

For example, the lecturer could decide to explain a topic with demonstrations and writings while everyone listens, and then he gives his materials to them to flow with. Some other times, it could be that projecting a video or a presentation slide would be preferable as against just writing on the board and explaining with words of the mouth depending on what is being taught at that time.

It has been observed that when students work together in groups, they help sharpen themselves. The lecturer can also decide to create groups of students, say around four or five, and then assign tasks and group assignments to them. This would be done in such a way that students who are timid or not bold enough to meet the lecturer or even ask questions in class, can be free to express themselves and learn from their mates in the group. This should be an intentional extension of a teaching pattern of the Lecturer and will help to enhance the learning experience.

Another important point would be for the Lecturers to be able to connect the theories, lessons and concepts that they teach the students to the real-life application of those things. If the lecturers can successfully make students see how what they learn in class can be adequately applied in the professional world, it would make more sense to them and they will see the importance and relevance of the course they are studying. This will also enhance the relationship between the students and their instructors and the overall learning experience too.

Another key point is giving the students PERIODIC TESTS AND ASSESSMENTS, as against just one major test which comes before the main general examination. If periodic or weekly practical tests are given to students, it would help them get prepared adequately for their exams. Sometimes, the reason most students don’t pass exams is that they don’t prepare adequately for them. However, writing tests every week or every two weeks will help them sustain the consciousness of what they’ve been learning so far and thus become better at it. The lecturer would be able to realise and know those who are still having challenges and those who have a better understanding of what they have been taught. This would lead the lecturer to sort out any issues and have time to get those who are having problems ready and prepared before the main examination.

Also, it would keep the students on their toes and they would want to take their studies seriously because they would be looking forward to the practical assessments. So having constant but not burdensome tests will help enhance the learning experience because it will keep the students on their toes and get them prepared for the future.

The Institution

Having looked at some practices from the perspective of the Students and Educators that can be employed to enhance the quality learning experience in the higher institution, we want to also look at what roles and practices the Educational Institution itself can play to foster better learning experience.

We are in the digital age, the landscape of college life and the learning experience is changing dramatically. This offers colleges and universities a wide array of tools and avenues for broadened communication.

To ensure that more students leave an institution with the credentials they came for, the Institution must focus on improving the overall student learning experience by doing the following;

The Institution has to be ACTIVE on Social media. Social media gives Colleges the ability to reach out to their students easily. It also enables students to ‘meet’ each other online, sparking friendships and working relationships from the very beginning of their time at college.

As the average youth spends a lot of time on social media, it is only logical for colleges to use different platforms to connect with their students. Visual platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are great for using visuals to communicate information, while Facebook and Twitter are ideal for promoting interaction and providing solutions to concerns or issues.

With some careful planning and strategy, colleges and universities can build their brand on social media. Using features such as video stories, they can share student experiences and promote upcoming events to build engagement and enhance the learning experience.

The next practice to adopt by the Institution would be to Seek out FEEDBACK from Students and implement it. Students are in a better position to give feedback about their learning programmes and experiences because they know the pros and cons of a learning program better. Student feedback is of utmost importance and cannot be overemphasized.

Using tools such as Google Forms and other Survey mediums, it is easy to ask students what they think while polls on social media and blogs are simple ways to get intel into what students want to know more about or have concerns about. This gives the institutions valuable insights and external verification on what is working and what needs to be changed to improve the student experience. In essence, students can become co-creators of their learning environment. The key is to implement suggestions that may work and let students know you are trialling them.

Another very vital point would be for the Higher Institution to work in partnership and close synergy with various professionals and industries where these students can be employed as soon as they graduate. The Higher institution should have a very strong Industry panel and have frequent meetings with them to know what exactly these industries require from the students. Working closely with these industries would bridge the gap between the Students and the industry. When this relationship is built, Experts from these industries can be invited regularly to have interactive sessions with the students. This will would enable the students would be able to understand what is expected of them, and what kind of work culture they are to embrace. When they graduate, life and expectations in the outside world won’t be strange to them, due to the first-hand experience and interactions they’ve had while in school.

Another very essential practice that is of great importance is the Strong Avoidance of RACISM in Higher institutions. Neglecting this practice has the potential to damage the reputation that an educational institution has built over the years. No student should be given preferential treatment or made to look as though they are better than some others because of where they come from. Harmony should be encouraged in higher institutions. Colour, tribe or race shouldn’t be a factor that should determine how students are treated. The moment some students begin to feel abused and insulted because of their origins, it will negatively affect their learning experience and cause them to begin to lose interest in school. That way, we won’t get the best out of them. Hence, Racism should be avoided at all costs.

In conclusion, when students choose an institution to enrol in and learn from, their learning expectations should match with the educator programmes, and these two needs to align with the industry’s expectations. When all three are aligned, that would be the best higher education one can have. Strict adherence to the above-mentioned practices will produce a better quality of learning experience and a better quality of graduating students.

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