I’ve had a number of interactions with former students in recent weeks. These have mostly been positive – and have included lots of praise and thanks for the content of my classes several years ago. (This is one of the main rewards of the job, so I’ll enjoy it while I can).
This delayed gratification contrasts with the monitored and measured world of ‘student satisfaction’ we operate in. We can judge our satisfaction with a purchase or with a meal or film – but how is a student to assess their satisfaction with their teaching? If my only goal was student satisfaction I’d set easy, explicit assignments and give high grades – a guaranteed route to high student satisfaction scores.
Yet education is not a shopping transaction, it’s a long-term investment. Satisfaction has to be assessed at different stages as its rewards are not always immediate. Graduates rarely make use of the lessons we teach them in the early years of a PR career, but those lessons become more valuable as people climb the career ladder.
The distinction between immediate satisfaction and long-term returns is very similar to the discussions we have in public relations about measuring outcomes, not outputs.
Nor are long term outcomes from education only to be assessed through earning power (though this may be a useful measure). It’s too easy to overlook the lessons to be learnt from failure (‘fail fast and fail often’). One of the former students who expressed satisfaction with her long-ago classes never even completed her degree course. She’s now working in a digital communications role. Is she a success or a failure? It depends on the measures you choose to apply.