Creating a student-centered experience in health science colleges

In the realm of higher education, creating a student-centered experience has become the norm for...

In the realm of higher education, creating a student-centered experience has become the norm for supporting the success of students. This is especially true for health science colleges, where the integration of academic rigor, practical application, and personalized support are inextricably linked. 

By placing students at the center of their educational journey, institutions empower them to thrive academically, develop essential skills, and cultivate a passion for lifelong learning. This article explores strategies and best practices for designing a student-centered experience in health science colleges, with a focus on enhancing engagement, promoting well-rounded development, and preparing students for their future careers.

Building an engaging learning environment

There are a few key elements to building an engaged student-centered learning experience. Of most importance are addressing and having a strong ethos around the following:

  • Active learning
  • Individualized support
  • Clinical/ fieldwork experiences
  • Technology integration

We break down each of these sub-tenants of a student-centered experience as follows:

Active learning in health sciences

Active learning incorporates problem-based learning, case studies, group discussions, and hands-on laboratory experiences as central to the student experience. These methods encourage student participation, critical thinking, and practical application of concepts.

There is also ample evidence that students in an active learning environment better master the subject for higher-level cognitive programs.

Incorporating active learning as part of a greater student-centered experience has a cascading effect on the average student, impacting things like improved engagement, critical thinking, retention, and application of knowledge. 

Personalized advising and support

Student success is greatly influenced by personalized advising and support services. 

The key part of the personalization of advising is ensuring students meet with the same advisor. Dedicated academic advisors are crucial for providing personalized guidance and support to students. 

Students need a consistent point of contact throughout their academic journey to offer individualized attention and tailored advice. This personalized approach ensures that students receive comprehensive support in course selection, academic planning, and career guidance. The most effective advisors act as almost a coach for the student; it’s about keeping them motivated and seeing value out of the work they are doing.

Dedicated advisors can track students' progress, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and provide relevant resources and strategies for success. Students in turn feel more supported, empowered, and motivated to navigate their educational path effectively, leading to increased student satisfaction and improved academic outcomes. This is especially true when advisors make themselves approachable, appropriately commit time to each student, and are available and adaptable to the students’ needs.

Mentoring programs also play a vital role in the student-centered experience by providing valuable guidance, support, and opportunities for personal and professional growth. 

Mentors, who are often experienced faculty members or professionals in the field, offer individualized advice, share insights, and serve as role models for students. 

When students have an active voice in their desired mentors, this also helps improve the outcome of these kinds of programs, as this NIH paper suggests.

Mentors can extend beyond faculty, as well. This program from Tufts University is largely student-led and has dedicated resources across its various programs. By incorporating mentoring programs, health science colleges can create a supportive environment that empowers students to thrive and succeed in their educational and career journeys.

Clinical and fieldwork experiences in health science colleges

Clinical and fieldwork experiences are vital to a student-centered experience as they bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application in real-world healthcare settings. 

These experiences provide students with hands-on opportunities to apply their classroom learning, develop clinical skills, and gain exposure to various healthcare scenarios. By actively participating in clinical rotations, internships, and simulation-based learning, students enhance their critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making abilities. 

Clinical experiences also allow students to interact with patients, healthcare professionals, and interprofessional teams, fostering effective communication, teamwork, and empathy. 

Moreover, these experiences help students develop a professional identity, build confidence, and prepare for the demands of their future careers. 

It also helps students foster and develop a patient-centered care approach. This helps students approach healthcare from a holistic perspective that stresses the individuality and unique circumstances of each patient. This helps them develop empathy, compassion, as well as improves shared decision making skills.

Several studies show that nursing and other health science college students generally get a true sense of how their academic experience applies in a real-world setting, as well as helps them better understand the community they serve and some of the common ailments they can expect to work with.

By making clinical and fieldwork experiences part of the health science college’s student-centered experience, students learn to provide compassionate, personalized, and patient-focused care in a setting where they can likewise work on their active learning. 

Technology integration

Leverage technology to enhance learning experiences. Technology integration plays a significant role in the student-centered experience by encouraging engagement, facilitating access to resources, and promoting personalized learning. Here's how technology integration benefits the student-centered experience:

  1. Enhanced Engagement: Technology tools and platforms provide interactive and immersive learning experiences that can captivate students' attention and foster active engagement. Multimedia resources, virtual simulations, and gamified learning activities make the learning process more enjoyable and interactive, increasing student motivation and participation.
  2. Access to Resources: Technology integration provides students with easy access to a wide range of educational resources. Online databases, e-books, academic journals, and educational websites offer a wealth of information that students can explore at their own pace, catering to diverse learning styles and preferences.
  3. Personalized Learning: Technology allows for personalized learning experiences tailored to individual student needs. Adaptive learning platforms can assess students' strengths and weaknesses and provide customized content, feedback, and recommendations, enabling students to learn at their own pace and focus on areas that require improvement.
  4. Collaboration and Communication: Technology tools facilitate collaboration and communication among students, instructors, preceptors, and peers. Online discussion forums, video conferencing, and collaborative platforms enable students to interact, share ideas, and work together on group projects, fostering teamwork and enhancing social learning.
  5. Flexibility and Accessibility: Technology enables flexible and accessible learning experiences. Online learning platforms, recorded lectures, and mobile applications allow students to learn anytime and anywhere, accommodating different schedules and learning preferences.
  6. Data and Analytics: Technology tools can collect and analyze data on student performance through self-evaluations, hours logged, and overall progress. This data-driven approach helps instructors track student outcomes, and provide targeted support to enhance student success. Students also benefit when using an intuitive system to manage their student journey in one place.

By integrating technology effectively, institutions can create a student-centered environment that leverages the benefits of digital tools to enhance engagement, personalize learning experiences, foster collaboration, and prepare students for the technologically advanced healthcare landscape they will encounter in their careers.

Examples of technologies health science colleges can  implement include experiential and clinical learning management systems like CORE’s ELMS, video conferencing tools like Zoom, and Electronic Health Record Systems like EduHealth. 

Creating a student-centered experience requires a deliberate focus on engagement, personalized support, experiential learning, and holistic student well-being. 

By implementing these strategies, institutions can empower students to become active learners, critical thinkers, and well-rounded professionals. Moreover, fostering a student-centered approach cultivates a lifelong love for learning, prepares students for the challenges of their careers, and contributes to their overall personal and professional success. 

CORE Higher Ed Team


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