Skip to main content
6 min read
Communication: A Key Element of Student Success in Higher Education

Student success in higher education has long been defined by several key elements, including onboarding, career planning, and experiential learning. One of the key indicators of student success, however, is communication: communication both between students and between students and teachers. To see a high level of success, students need to be able to access critical answers to their questions and to feel as though they have a place to belong in their college and university settings. 

Effective communication strategies can help pave the way to those high overall levels of student success. Take a look at these key elements of student success and how communication can help overcome barriers that might stand in the way of students achieving their dreams and making their goals a reality. 

Communication is critical to a student’s sense of capability and performance.

As many as 20% of students in higher education experience imposter syndrome: the feeling that they do not belong in their current college setting or that they do not have the qualifications necessary to achieve their goals. Simply observing other students, especially on social media platforms that are usually filled with the “sunshine and roses” approach to sharing, may further increase that sense of being out of place. 

Through critical communication with other peers, however–especially those who may feel the same way as the student in question–students can learn more about their specific qualifications, including how and why they belong in a particular environment. Over time, they can learn to address those issues.

By communicating clearly with professors and staff members, students can also express the feelings that they’re most likely to struggle with and receive more effective feedback from their professors, which may help them determine the full extent of their capability.

Communication with professors can provide students with vital feedback.

Feedback can help students address the issues they may have with their performance before those issues become more serious. First-year college students, in particular, may have a hard time adapting to the standards required of them on tests, quizzes, and classroom performance. While professors may outline those expectations in the syllabus for each class, students may not be sure of how they are upholding those regulations. This challenge can increase when students participate in an online learning model, where they have fewer opportunities for direct interaction with their professors. 

Open lines of communication, on the other hand, can help open the door to providing students with the vital information they need to enhance their success. Since they can receive regular feedback from their professors, students can adapt their performance in response to their professors’ expectations–and they can feel more confident in the assignments they’re submitting. 

Effective communication helps remove the wall between professors and students and creates relationships. 

Often, a wall exists between professors and students that makes it very difficult for students, especially those from some minority cultures, to approach their professors effectively. Not only that, many students do not have the chance to get to know their professors personally, especially if they only interact in an online environment. They may have no idea what their professors look like or who they are, especially with scripted communications and class sessions. 

Communication through a tool like Pronto, however, can help establish a relationship between student and teacher. Instead of a wall between student and teacher, made worse by a primarily online environment in which students may have less ability to communicate face-to-face with a teacher, students can easily connect with their professors to ask questions, clarify information, or simply share feedback. 

Relationship matters immensely when it comes to student learning at any level. Students are more likely to respond to a professor they feel they can relate to and with. As a result of that relationship, professors can also develop deeper insights into student learning and needs, which can help them adapt to the classroom environment as needed. 

Using a solid communication platform can make it easier for students to interact with and ask for help from one another. 

Students work best in the community. Communication and collaboration can help take their studies to the next level as they ask questions of one another, pursue solutions together, and check each other’s work. Some students are naturally more likely to ask for support or assistance from a peer than they are to ask for similar assistance from an instructor. Others may enjoy a collaborative environment in which they can discuss the concepts reviewed in class on a deeper level. 

Often, students can also provide vital advice and support for one another. One student may be able to explain something in a way that simply clicks for another, or to provide a different perspective that may make it easier to grasp a new concept. Students can also bring their unique experiences to the table in a way that enhances overall classroom learning. A solid communication platform can make students more accessible to one another, improving relationships within the classroom. Often, that can open the door to students working together more effectively. 

Without a solid communication platform available, it can take students until well into the semester to start to develop any kind of relationship with one another. A platform like Pronto, on the other hand, removes many of those communication barriers and helps students start working together from early in the semester, even if they do not already have existing relationships. 

Communication becomes critical in times of crisis. 

Higher education is in the midst of a period of unprecedented turmoil. Now, more than ever, students need to know what to expect. The NACAC has made substantial changes in recent years to its Code of Ethics and Professional Practices. Students have experienced uncertainty as on-campus classes shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic or shifted to an online-only model. Even as many campuses open back up to in-person instruction for students, many students aren’t sure what their university of choice will offer next. Will they have the chance to continue with online learning, if that’s a platform that works for them? What does in-person learning look like, and what expectations does the campus have of them? 

Crises do not necessarily have to be nationwide for communication to be critical, either. What happens when illness sweeps across a specific campus during a difficult flu season? How will students learn about weather-related shutdowns to their campus? An effective communication tool can help provide students with more information about what is happening around them at any given time, which can help them respond with confidence as emergencies arise. 

Student-to-student communication can help with the vital sense of student belonging.

A sense of belonging, especially early in their college careers, is critical to student success. When students feel as though they belong to a school community at any level of education, they are more likely to feel motivated to learn and to continue learning. 

Many students in higher education are coming out of a high school experience that included a rich social life and numerous interactions. They may have been part of numerous organizations and clubs, participated in sports teams, and attended multiple events throughout their high school career. Losing that as they move into their college years can leave them feeling out of place and unmotivated to push forward.

Other students may have struggled to find a sense of belonging in high school. As they moved into college, however, they expected more interactions with peers and an environment where they were more likely to belong. Failing to find that sense of belonging, on the other hand, can leave them feeling discouraged, demotivated, and at higher risk of dropping out.

The challenge of belonging can prove even more difficult in an online-based classroom, where students have little to no face-to-face interaction. Because they meet only virtually, students have fewer opportunities for the small but vital interactions that can ultimately lead to building relationships, from borrowing a pencil to chatting for a few moments as class lets out. They may also be less likely to recognize one another in the crowd since they do not have the opportunity to meet in person. 


The right communication platform, however, can help change that. Despite not meeting in person, students will have an open door to interact and communicate with one another. They can form relationships and develop that vital sense of belonging that can help them feel like part of the university community, which can significantly increase overall motivation and drive. 

Using the right communication platform is a critical part of helping higher education students succeed. Online students, in particular, need to know that the door to their professors is as open to them as it would be to students who attend in person–and that they can get in touch with their peers as needed. Pronto can help you achieve your communication goals in your classroom. Contact us today to learn more about our platform and how it can help enhance both: communication between students and teachers and communication between peers.