Student Success: Where Real Learning Meets Real-World Experience

This article was published in the Fall 2020 issue

by Melissa Loble, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Instructure

The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 presented several challenges for higher education institutions around the world. Physical campuses faced sustained closures and classes were rapidly transferred online, increasing the importance of equitable access to not only internet and devices, but also engaging content and instruction. Today, with the back-to-school season in full swing, educators have had tough decisions to make regarding the continuation of learning in an expanding virtual world.

As I strive to support educators experiencing this paradigm shift globally, I am reminded of my own experiences as an educator and the importance of the education community. It is humbling to see how educators have come together in our Canvas community to troubleshoot new technology, answer questions, meet the individual needs of students, and against all odds, keep the learning going.

Though the unexpected pivot to online learning created additional stress for educators and students alike, it also presented an opportunity to rethink the value of higher education and redefine what it means for students to be successful.

This was the impetus of our just-released global study, The State of Student Success and Engagement. In partnership with Hanover Research, we surveyed over 7,000 current students, admins, and faculty in 13 countries to find out how they define student success and what factors into student engagement.

Upon the completion of this study, a leading trend emerged: Work and career readiness is the number one priority for students. More specifically, students want to know that their achievements at school are directly preparing them for the workforce.

This newfound priority presents Silicon Slopes and the Utah tech community with an opportunity to partner with higher education institutions as they support students transitioning from academic life to professional careers. These community partners will aid in the creation of meaningful learning experiences—whether virtual or in person—that align with the needs of the rapidly evolving workforce. This hands-on approach allows students to present credible evidence of their learning when the right job opportunity arises. As we look to the future, we may come to the conclusion that student success may not need to be defined by a grade, but rather, an intersection where real learning meets real-world experience.

Knowing that this trend will only grow in importance, we see many colleges and universities exploring new ways to connect with community partners, enabling students to build a professional network they can lean on well beyond graduation. When students are given the opportunity to complete projects that solve real challenges for real organizations, they gain both competence and confidence to carry them forward into the job market.

To learn more about the definition of success from a student perspective, I invite you to review our findings about the importance of professional development in today’s education landscape by visiting

Keep Learning!

[Learn more about our research]

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