Student Survey tells University what is working and what needs improving

For the second year in a row, more than three-quarters of OUM students gave the faculty and administration their input into how the University is running and their suggestions for improvement, in the ninth OUM Annual Student Survey, completed in January.

“We are very pleased that we had this great turnout for the second year in a row. So many students took the time to share with us what’s working, what needs improving, and their suggestions for getting there,” says Chris Dudley, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration & Student Affairs. “I think the reason we have such a good response is because students see that we take their suggestions seriously and put them to work.”

With exactly the same number of responses as last year, 171, the student body was well-represented in terms of geography and where students are in the program. Thirty-seven percent of respondents were in the system-based modules. Nearly three-quarters of respondents entered OUM within the last three years.

High ratings

Every student survey, since the first one in 2011, has asked students to rate different aspects of their University experience on a scale of one (poor) to ten (excellent). With a nine-year range for overall satisfaction between 6.7 and 7.6, the 2019 overall satisfaction score was 7.4. Nearly three-quarters of OUM students rated their overall experience as “good” or “excellent,” which would be ratings of 8 to 10 on the scale of satisfaction.

Ninety percent of students indicated strong or moderate awareness of OUM’s mission statement and report doing their best to fulfill it.

Likes and dislikes

A key feature of the student survey is the section where students are asked what they “like most” and “like least” about OUM.

Similar to previous surveys, there was a great deal of similarity among the likes, with “flexible” and “flexibility” accounting for 43 percent of the responses. Online learning, lectures, and student support also came up as favorable attributes.

Several students included names of faculty and staff members they appreciate and a few they criticized. Those comments will be conveyed to those who were named.

Dislikes, on the other hand, were as diverse as OUM’s student body. Some of the most common responses were “none, no comment, all good,” indicating no dislikes. The most-commonly mentioned dislike concerned a variety of issues regarding course structure, with students asking for more lecture time, use of outside resources such as Lecturio, more innovation using teaching technology, periodic on-site clinical assessment, more recorded clinical lectures, and more course content.

Students on both sides of the Pacific expressed their concerns about having adequate clinical rotation sites in their home countries, the clinical skills course, and exam structure. American students expressed concerns about the In-House Exam and USMLE prep.

“OUM’s academic and administrative leaders read all these comments and take action to make the necessary corrections,” says Dudley. “We’re going to investigate the situations that were mentioned and will take a close look at our administrative policies and procedures, as well as the work of our staff members themselves, to be sure that we’re sensitive and responsive to student needs.”

Research readiness

A question in the 2018 survey, asking where students were with their research projects, confirmed what Dr. Brown and his team had long suspected: Students were behind where they should be. In 2018, more than 40 percent reported being at the first step in the research continuum: aware of the requirement but have not yet started their project. Another 33 percent were at the second step: identified a potential topic but have not taken any further action.

In 2019, those first- and second-step numbers dropped considerably, as students took action on their research projects throughout the year. In 2019, those only aware of the research requirement but not taking any further action dropped to one-quarter, and those identifying the topic but not starting dropped to 24 percent. Total students in those first two research steps dropped from 73 percent in 2018 to 49 percent in 2019.

“We made a lot of progress in 2019,” says Dr. Brown, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Director of Research. “Dr. Camera and the research advisors were very busy getting more students on track. Research Club presentations have been booked well in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to start your research project.”

Technology and Library

Students provided a lot of good feedback on OUM’s technology and library services.

On the tech side, satisfaction with support is high, and the new Zoom platform that OUM started using for its classes in early 2019 received a high 4.4 rating out of 5.

However, some students have reported problems with Proctortrack. Most of the problems seem to be related to early experiences with the exam-proctoring technology. Training videos for students have been created, and OUM tech support and Verificient continue to work on those issues.

On the Library side, ClinicalKey continued to receive praise and criticism. It seems that those who use ClinicalKey more, appreciate it. There were some complaints about the mandatory ClinicalKey fees, primarily from those who do not use it. It is important to know that OUM’s contract with Elsevier for ClinicalKey is on an institutional basis. Individual subscriptions are much more costly, more than $2,000 annually for the multi-specialty flex package.

“From student comments, it seems that providing more information about the features available and limitations of the collections in ClinicalKey and ClinicalKey Student would be of benefit,” says Else Talbot, OUM e-Librarian. “For example, some students commented they could not save or print from the texts, but ClinicalKey does have this feature. Others were disappointed with the journal articles in ClinicalKey, not realizing that ClinicalKey only has full text from Elsevier-published journals.”

In previous surveys, students had suggested the library should add such new services as links to major medical websites and databases, training videos on using ClinicalKey and ClinicalKey Student, online presentations on evaluating the quality of Internet sites, and conducting a literature search for a research project. The 2019 survey asked about student use and awareness of these resources. (Responses are in the chart at right.)

“The fact that about half the responders do not know of the additions points to the need for better promotion of library additions and improvements,” says Talbot.

OUMSA enjoys strong support

The OUM Student Association is enjoying good visibility among the students, with more than 90 percent saying they are aware of OUMSA and 43 percent of respondents identifying as members.

The survey provided OUMSA leadership with some insight into what students expect from their membership and general awareness of OUMSA programs.

Analysis, conclusions & recommendations

The results of the Annual OUM Student Survey for 2019 are largely positive and consistent with previous years.

By country, Samoans and Kiwis are generally more satisfied than Australians, Americans, and Canadians.

“It’s interesting how students in each country think students in another country are receiving preferential treatment,” says Dudley. “However, nothing could be further from reality. Perhaps our efforts to customize our offerings to students of different countries are being misconstrued as playing favorites.”

Areas of need identified in the 2019 survey include:

  • Concerns of Australians and Americans about availability of convenient in-country clinical rotations.
  • Concerns of American students about the In-House Exam and USMLE prep. Many of those concerns will be addressed by the new Academic Board policy that goes into effect in March.
  • Uneven experience with the clinical skills courses. Many of the issues mentioned already have been addressed with the new course offerings.
  • Uneven student experience with faculty and administrators, some of which may be related to unexpected outcomes of student requests.

Recommendations to address these concerns and others in the survey include:

  • Continued efforts by University and regional leadership to improve clinical rotation opportunities for students in their home countries, as well as in other locations.
  • Continued work on recorded lectures and other materials for the clinical modules.
  • Continued review of student course surveys by the Director of Faculty Affairs to identify any issues between faculty and students.
  • A review of administrative procedures and staff protocols by the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Administration & Student Affairs.

“It’s great that so many of our students take the time to tell us how they feel about their experience,” says Dudley. “These surveys are an important part of our efforts to continuously improve OUM.”

The OUM Student Survey is administered to the entire student body annually in November/December. While participation is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. Participation rates in early years were 45-50 percent, but they have been above 70 percent for the past two years.  The University’s Steering Committee, as well as several faculty and administrative committees, have copies of the 59-page report and are incorporating student input and ideas into their plans for the development of future policies and procedures and for University-wide strategic planning. The detailed results of each survey also are shared with PAASCU, OUM’s accrediting agency.