Student Success from the Perspective of Students Themselves

October 23, 2019 7347
Student Reading a Book

The Community College Libraries and Academic Support for Student Success (CCLASSS) project examines student success from the perspectives of the students themselves, the challenges they face in achieving it, and the services they think might effectively support them in their attainment of success.

Through CCLASSS, the aim is to examine student goals, challenges, and needs from the student perspective; develop a series of services that target these expressed goals, challenges, and needs; and test the demand for these service prototypes. In fall of 2018, 10,844 students were surveyed across seven community colleges to this end. This project, co-led by Northern Virginia Community College and Ithaka S+R, along with six other community college partners and support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, focuses on strengthening the position of the community college library in serving student needs.

The corollary research report, created by Melissa Blankstein, Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, and Braddlee, performs analysis on, and tries to understand the significance of, the results of the survey.


Researchers working on this project conducted 37 interviews with community college students in the project’s discovery phase. These interviews guided researchers in the creation of eight distinct “service concepts,” hypothetical prototypes of services that colleges might offer to students to aid in the attainment of goals or the meeting of needs as expressed by students themselves. The survey was then tested with students in order to make sure that it was well understood.

Following questions on their goals and challenges, the student respondents were presented with descriptions of service concepts that might be offered at their college.

The report is presented in condensed form. To read more about the methodology, project, or the results of it, click here to read the full report.

Student Goals

Students see both intrinsic, process-oriented goals, and extrinsic, outcome-oriented goals as highly important. For example, the greatest share of students (about six in 10) view gaining knowledge about a specific subject, major, or career to be an extremely important goal, while the next most-common goal among students is making money (57 percent of students).

Overall, goals relating to socializing and student collaboration are less important to students than goals relating to future endeavors. The researchers did note some disparities in goal-orientation among different demographics of students. Foreign students identify GPA and social skill development as more important aspirations than their non-foreign peers. Parents were more likely to identify a career transition as an important goal, while non-parents were more likely than parents to identify transferring to another college or University as a primary goal.

What percent of students identify with each goal?
Percentage of students who identify with a particular goal

Student Challenges

Students live complex lives. They have family obligations, work obligations (75 percent of students surveyed had some form of work!), other engagements, etc., and when students’ needs aren’t met in their everyday lives, their academic performances suffer as a result.

It should be no surprise, then, that the pressing challenges for most students surveyed were related to non-curricular issues. 55 percent of respondents identified balancing family, household, and school responsibilities as somewhat or very difficult. 54 percent of respondents rated balancing work and school responsibilities as similarly difficult. 50 percent of respondents had issues coming up with enough money to pay for all their basic needs, while 49 percent of respondents noted difficulty having enough money to pay for their courses. 46 percent of students had issues with time management.

Curricular challenges aren’t terribly far behind—for example, 37 percent of students struggled writing research papers, 29 percent struggle with finding access to textbooks and other course materials, and 28 percent struggle with completing required courses for their major/program.

Students face a wide range of challenges. Around 20 percent of students noted challenges finding quiet spaces to work in, adjusting to their new communities, seeking help with assignments, or improving their English.

Less than 10 percent noted problems finding access to laptops, computers, or similar devices, and also with finding access to the Internet.

Percentage of students who voice similar challenges

Student Needs

In terms of student challenges and goals, there are many student needs. Researchers proposed several potential services which might assist students in the attainment of their goals. Here are the surveyed services, followed by the opinions of the student respondents.

  1. Knowledge Base – “Imagine that the college offered a single point of contact for whenever you need help navigating any part of college including advising, registering for classes, applying for financial aid, securing personal counseling, and obtaining tutoring or other coursework assistance. This service would offer expertise in connecting you with the right college employee for assistance.
  2. Loaning Tech – “Imagine that there was a place at your college where you could access technology either to borrow for use outside class and at home, or use on-site with expert training and assistance. The equipment available might include options such as a ‘one-touch studio’ for recording video presentations, 3-D printers, large-format poster-size printers, virtual reality headsets, multimedia editing computers and software, digital audio/video recorders, laptops, tables, chromebooks, scientific calculators, Wi-Fi hotspots, and black/white or color printers for on-site use and/or checkout.
  3. Personal Librarian – “Imagine that a dedicated professional employed by the college would be available to help you find and use all kinds of content sources you might need for your coursework, including books and journals, in paper, and on the internet. This professional would provide help in person or via email, phone, or chat on any assignment.
  4. Social Worker – “Imagine that a social worker was readily available at your college to help you any time you needed personal assistance. Depending on your needs, they could assist you with finding housing, securing childcare, finding reliable transportation, seeking public assistance, and/or navigating other life challenges. The social worker would offer drop-in hours, and they would also be “on call” if you had a personal emergency during non-working hours.
  5. Child Care – “Imagine that there were an array of services at the college to accommodate students who have children of their own or are caregivers while you are attending class. These services might include designated spaces for families to study together, both regular and emergency childcare programs, and tutoring and other afterschool services for children.
  6. Privacy – “Imagine that there was a workshop you could take about how to operate effectively and safely in today’s digital world. This would include a practical guide on how to choose which digital services to use, how to encrypt sensitive communications, and how to delete your activity trail and presence. Each student would be guided in finding the right balance between using personalized services and the privacy interests that these services may minimize.
  7. Community Advocacy – “Imagine the college made available opportunities that would help you better develop your capacity as a member of your community and society. These could include one-time presentations by faculty, members of community groups, industry experts, or fellow students, and could take the form of workshops, ongoing discussion groups, informal meetups, or online resources. Rather than seek to educate you on particular political perspectives, the goal would be to help you develop your own perspective and strategies for engagement, so you could participate on issues that are important to you as a citizen, an informed member of society, an activist, or whatever other role you choose to assume.
  8. Student Showcase – “Imagine that the college offered you and fellow students an opportunity to publicly display work from your classes, or to contribute personal and professional expertise developed outside of classes, through various displays, presentations, workshops, and more, either in person or virtually. You would have a space in which you could gather with other students to share your experience, expertise, and work, as well as learn from other students.
Student Opinions on the Value of Potential Services

Augustus Wachbrit (or, if you’re intimidated by his three-syllable name, Gus) is the Social Science Communications Intern at SAGE Publishing. He assists in the creation, curation, revision, and distribution of various forms of written content primarily for Social Science Space and Method Space. He is studying Philosophy and English at California Lutheran University, where he is a research fellow and department assistant. If you’re likely to find him anywhere, he’ll be studying from a textbook, writing (either academically or creatively), exercising, or defying all odds and doing all these things at once.

View all posts by Gus Wachbrit

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