3 ways college students have changed in the past 10 years

Writing for eCampus News, Meris Stansbury rounds up three ways college students have changed in recent years.

1. Most students today have "nontraditional" characteristics

The majority of today's college students do not fit the standard profile: someone who is between 18 and 21, a recent graduate of high school, and a full-time student. Now, students are a vastly more diverse group. Almost half of students enrolled in higher education fall into the "nontraditional" student category.

Knewton, an adaptive learning software maker, did a study of today's 20 million college students and concluded that, of today's students:

  • Around 1 in 5 are over the age of 30;
  • Around 2 in 5 attend a community college; and
  • Roughly 37% attend college on a part-time basis.

Colleges could do a lot more to support their nontraditional students, Roger Riddell argues in Education Dive. Even small steps like keeping the bursar's office open later would show students that administrators are working to accommodate their needs.

2. Students feel overwhelmed

Stansbury cites research by the Miller Heiman Group, a sales training provider, finding that students today face an overwhelming flood of information and responsibilities. Technology has increased access to information, but many students haven't figured out how to make it useful or remember it. Some researchers suggest that low-income students might be particularly at risk for cognitive overload.

Today's students are also more likely to be juggling multiple responsibilities on top of school. A 2015 study by the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University found that 70% to 80% of students work while going to school. Around 40% of undergraduates work more than 30 hours per week, much more than the 15 hours per week accepted as the threshold for harming academic success.

Find students' hidden pain points

3. Students want flexible learning options

Perhaps because students are juggling more responsibilities, they are increasingly interested in learning options that adapt to their situation. More than 25% of students have taken at least one online course, Stansbury reports.

At the University of Central Florida (UCF), about half of students work 20 hours per week or more. This means there's also a lot of demand for alternative learning options, administrators say. According to UCF officials, their students like online classes because they offer a degree of flexibility they don't have when taking a face-to-face course.

According to research by Exult, another learning technology vendor, some of the other trends in online learning include:

  • App-based learning
  • Microlearning
  • Learning Videos
  • Mobile Learning
  • Gamification
  • Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

(Stansbury, eCampus News, 7/8; Riddell, Education Dive, 7/11).

Help first-generation students navigate your college's 'hidden curriculum'


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