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What do students really want?

At a recent conference of the Ecole Hotelier Lausanne affliliated schools the one presentation that made the most impact on me was the one by current students who shared what they really wanted in a college. And the feedback was surprising. Even though we at Ecole Hotelier @ Lavasa pride ourselves on being current, I realised we were still had a long way to go. I then did some quick desktop research to see if the answers to the same question were universal or peculiar to the hospitality industry and by all accounts it goes right across the board. Here are five wants that seem to top the student’s list across the globe and across industries but which are especially pertinent to the current state of hospitality education in India.

1 Teacher Mentors

‘Students want an environment that is conducive to learning. They need to be respected by their peers and teachers. Students need to feel safe physically and able to take risks intellectually in classrooms. They want opportunities to be challenged, ways to apply what they learn to the real world, and discussions about current events While this seems almost elementary, it’s saddening to see how often these elements are missing. The traditional top down approach to learning continues across Indian educational institutions. Questioning the instructor is seen as disrespect, and challenging the teaching facilitator is taboo. Most instructors haven’t been in the industry for years, the more legendry the professor the greater the disconnect in terms of time. Many so-called stalwarts haven’t stepped out of academia for decades, how can they then allow themselves to be challenged? And relate curriculum to current events? Respect means both students and faculty treating each other as adults. I was recently speaking to the President of IUBH Germany and he shared how in Germany parents cannot even enquire about their wards performance once they cross the age of eighteen! He and his colleagues would be guilty of breach of confidence if they shared any information without the students consent! While I am not sure that is the best way to go, certainly we have a long way to go in meeting today’s students completely fair request to be treated with respect and provided a safe environment to intellectually grow. 1.StudentsSpeakOut.org


‘They want there to be high expectations and at the same time an understanding that what is best for one student is not necessarily best for another student. How do we make curriculum flexible? It’s a challenge anywhere but in India with our archaic educational system and out dated syllabuses the problem is compounded. Technology can certainly help, but the problem is that most students are way ahead of their teachers in terms of tech savvy, but that’s what the students want and those of us who seek to serve them better get with it fast!

Real world application

Students want to be ready for the world of the 2020s, with knowledge multiplying itself in less than two years; the need for relevancy is critical. No longer should the question ‘why should I learn this’ be seen as an irritant, if we cannot answer it truthfully we should not teach it.

Online all the time

Students today are the “most wired” ever so it’s no surprise that a recent study by Educause found that 60% of students said they would not attend a college all if it does not offer free Wi-Fi. While most colleges and universities have (one would think) Internet, Wi-Fi that works consistently and anywhere on campus is increasingly thought of as an essential feature, rather than a luxury. Students want to be online not only in their dorm rooms or computer centers or the library, but anywhere. However, only 78% of students think that Wi-Fi is “extremely valuable for their academic success” — suggesting that, their reasons for wanting Wi-Fi are for reasons others than their studies, to stay connected with friends and family; to play video games, watch videos, access music? The Educause study also found that, while 47% of students believe technology makes professors better at their jobs, over 30% of students think that their instructors are “incapable of getting technology working without student aid.” Students want, or rather, need (they believe) to be online all the time. Another study by Online Colleges found that students now prefer “hybrid” classes that combine online learning and assignments with “face to face” time in the classroom. This in turn could be a solution to the one size doesn’t fit all conundrum.

Don’t want it easy

2.CitizensLeague.org 3.http://www.care2.com/causes/what-students-want-in-a-college.html#ixzz3vR89czdA This to me was the most surprising takeaway from the student interaction at Lausanne; they actually demonstrated that the primary reason for choosing Lausanne over other hospitality schools was the academic rigour. They know if they have to be ready for a challenging world they need to get used to the challenge in college itself. This I believe is common to students everywhere, even if we look back to our student days it was the courses and faculty that challenged us that we remember most fondly. In conclusion perhaps its time we took a hard look at our current educational system and curriculums and truly try to meet the needs of our customers the students?