Students give top marks for their learning environment
Generally speaking, students have never been more satisfied with their learning environment at SDU. The Associate Dean is particularly pleased that more students are taking part in study groups, and fewer feel lonely. Several do feel stressed, however
Student satisfaction with the learning environment at the University of Southern Denmark has never been higher. On average, students rate the general learning environment as 6.9 on a scale from 0–10 (from very negative to very positive), which is the highest score ever.
This is evident from the recently published learning environment survey – a recurring survey of SDU’s learning environment. The purpose of the survey is to provide a snapshot of what students think of the learning environment to enable SDU to create the best possible framework for student wellbeing.
The survey was conducted in March, and a massive 46.5% of the 22,407 full-time students took part. That is the highest percentage response in 11 years of conducting surveys on the learning environment.
“Thanks to the large response, we have a really sound basis that we can use to safeguard a good learning environment, going forward. The students are generally positive, but there is of course room for improvements,” according to Lars Grassmé Binderup, chairman of the survey steering group and Associate Dean of Education in the Faculty of Humanities.
Fewer feel lonely
The survey asked students to evaluate the social and psychological environment, the physical environment, the aesthetic environment, security as well as IT and communication.
The survey shows in particular that the perception of being part of an academic and social community is significant in terms of student wellbeing and general perception of the learning environment. And positive developments can be seen here.
Lars Grassmé Binderup is especially pleased that fewer students feel lonely compared to the 2013 learning environment survey. In 2013, 17% of students said they felt lonely, but this year the figure has dropped to 11% of students.
“That is very positive, and indicates that our efforts in this area have paid off. This is partly a matter of integrating students academically and socially right from the beginning to make sure they do not get off to a bad start with university life. That’s why, throughout the University, we have been working to improve the early days of student life, for example by asking for more feedback about academic aspects and better socialisation for everyone,” Lars Grassmé Binderup explains.
According to the Associate Dean, the decrease in loneliness correlates with more people joining study groups. In 2013, 51% of students were involved in a study group, whereas the figure today is 62%. Only 36% of those who felt lonely were in a study group, which is indicative of a link between loneliness and not being in a study group.
Stress could be due to the Study Progress Reform
The survey also shows that 56% of students have experienced strong symptoms of stress in their everyday life and/or at exam times. In 2013, that figure was 50%.
Several students explained in the comments fields that they feel stressed about what is known as the Study Progress Reform – the reform of the universities adopted by the Danish Parliament in 2013, and which, among other things, has resulted in compulsory sign-up for exams and withholding of SU grants if studies are behind schedule by more than six months.
“The increase in stress could therefore very well be due to the Study Progress Reform; after all, it has not yet been fully implemented, so we are very much aware of the need to address this issue, going forward,” Lars Grassmé Binderup comments. He finds this development worrying.
He notes that SDU already offers a range of options for students who experience stress – for example the Counselling Centre, where students can see a student advisor.
“However, we might need to do more here and perhaps also offer more options, too, in anticipation of future demand,” he says.
Focus areas designated
Based on the survey, the survey steering group has designated a number of focus areas, including academic and social integration, as well as stress, for SDU to concentrate on particularly, going forward. The work of developing and kick-starting initiatives and action plans will now get under way.
All universities are required to conduct a learning environment survey at least once every three years. SDU has resolved to conduct the survey every two years.