Student Employees in IT and Learning Outcomes

Higher education IT departments’ indirectly support student learning, development outcomes, and student success by providing technical support to the departments. In addition, by employing students, higher education IT departments have opportunities to directly impact student success by providing them with experiential learning opportunities to learn soft and technical skills in preparation for their careers. Given thoughtful consideration, students could be provided with learning opportunities that complements/enhances the lessons they learn in the classroom. This mindset is consistent with the values of student affairs, the belief that learning happens within and outside the classroom.

To maximize these  learning opportunities require re-examining technical job duties (code, troubleshoot) to include non-technical activities so they may learn how to communicate, work in teams, lead, and develop critical thinking skills. One of the consistent comments from computer science students we’ve hired in the past is how much they learn about working collaboratively and in teams from their experience working for our department. It seems they only get to work in teams in one or two of their computer science classes. As supervisors, how then do we ensure that learning happens both in the technical and soft skills areas? With career staff, we have performance evaluations based on job descriptions. We can extend this practice to students by providing them with performance evaluations and also defining learning outcomes, using assessment techniques to measure their progress towards these learning outcomes along the way. These learning outcomes could be growth in areas of technical and non-technical competencies.

By being intentional with the areas of competencies for our students to develop by defining learning outcomes, I believe they would be more effective in their positions and at the same time, we are both contributing to their learning process and preparing them for their careers ahead of them.


3 thoughts on “Student Employees in IT and Learning Outcomes

  1. lmendersby

    You know I get excited when we talk about learning outcomes and competencies. 🙂 While it may seem ‘easier’ to assess technological competencies by putting students in front of a computer and watching them work, the greater challenges comes in the intersection of these technologies and the skills we teach in communication, conflict mediation, change management and critical thinking. Perhaps the divide between technical and non technical skills is really a gap between understanding the ‘what’ and ‘how’ that allows us to impact and shape the ‘who’ and ‘why’.

    1. Joe Sabado

      Hi Lisa,

      Absolutely! Even as staff members, the focus becomes the mechanics of what we do with the daily grinds and we forget the reasons why we do them in the first place. I’d like to foster an environment where students (and staff) reflect and consider beyond the technologies and keep in mind that at the end of the day, it’s about how we relate and communicate with others. It’s also about keeping in mind about the bigger picture we’re all a part of.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment:) I always appreciate your feedback.


  2. Kathy Rose

    We have been assessing learning outcomes for our graduate assistants for a few years now, but just recently started assessing learning outcomes for our undergraduate recreation center supervisors. The learning outcomes we identified include specific job skills, but also include transferable job skills, such as teamwork, communication, critical thinking, etc. Our supervisors receive formal written evaluations at the end of each semester, but they were also required to take a pre-survey before working their first supervisor shift, and they take a post-survey when they finish their tenure with us. The surveys have been helpful to show us areas that we need more training on, but it has also been gratifying to read individual comments about how each supervisor has improved in specific areas. I feel that the survey in particular is helpful for our students because it allows them to pause and think about exactly what they have learned on the job, which gives them talking points for their next job interview.

    Our Division of Student Affairs employees a lot of student workers across many departments, and I think it would be great if we could coordinate our assessment of transferable job skills throughout the division. I reject the idea that “experiential learning” is only of value when associated with an academic class. Joe, you’re right on target with this post.


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