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Research Revealed: Views on Learning and Assessment

Students and educators weigh in on motivations, fair grading, and learning barriers in the hybrid world.

What motivates college students to learn? According to a recent study conducted by Course Hero, the answer may come as a surprise to educators. Over the course of ten days, from June 23 – July 2, Course Hero surveyed 2,700 full- and part-time students and 345 higher ed instructors, to shed light on student goals, barriers to success, and what constitutes fair assessment. Here, we highlight the key findings, to show where students and faculty most align and diverge, and what these similarities and gaps can teach us about the shifting landscape of higher ed.

For a more indepth look at the research findings and to hear from students and educators, watch this video from a live Education Summit ‘21 discussion.

Key Findings

Though educators believe their learners are motivated primarily by the need to land a job after graduation, the majority of students say their main goal is to earn a degree.

Learning and Assessment

Many faculty cite GPA as a key factor incentivizing students, though only 40% of students name GPA as a top goal.

Learning and Assessment

Students and educators agree that homework is the fairest way to assess knowledge. They do, however, differ on the next best options.

Learning and Assessment

Grades get high marks from both learners and faculty as an efficient and effective means to determine how much material a student has retained.

Learning and Assessment

Educators empathize with students on their learning barriers, citing family obligations and work as the factors most likely to hinder success. Though students do bring up a more diverse palette of issues, such as the need for more detailed breakdowns, and more personalized instruction.

Learning and Assessment

And finally, educators and students are at odds about the types of academic support that best drive student success. Faculty aren’t convinced about the value of online study resources, expressing their desire for students to utilize more traditional methods, like office hours and in-person tutoring. On the other hand, 76% of students prefer to receive support online, and only 13% cite in-person tutoring as a resource they utilize.

So what can these alignments and misalignments teach us about learning and assessment today?

At Course Hero’s recent Educator Summit, Shireen Tofig, Associate UX Researcher at Course Hero presented the data and findings in more detail. We also invited a panel of educators and students to discuss the findings, and asked them to share their perspectives and real life experiences to add context to the data. Watch the full discussion here:


While the Education Summit panel revealed insights on student and educator experiences — and the factors that promote or detract from learning, we also tracked open-ended responses in the survey:

One student notes: “The way students learn now is rapidly evolving – and so should assessment methods.”

An educator voices a similar desire to diversify testing practices: “Assessment should be varied. One can not adequately determine a student’s true understanding of content with one type of assessment.”

Meanwhile, says another instructor, we cannot discount the stress of earth-shaking factors like the pandemic, or political unrest: “stressed students do not perform well on exams/tests/quizzes, and we have all been going through a high-stress time.”

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Andrew Grauer, CEO of Course Hero, sees this moment as a pivotal opportunity for adapting how we learn and assess:

“Faculty are seeing firsthand the implications of the massive demographic and technological shifts in higher education and they’re experimenting with new ways to engage and support an increasingly diverse student population. The findings suggest that there may be common ground among students and educators to re-imagine the role of collaboration and assessment together.”

As higher ed adapts to in-person and hybrid environments this fall, learning and assessment practices will no-doubt evolve. Meanwhile, students and educators will continue to exercise empathy and understanding – to support a hybrid classroom that feels both equitable and inspired.

This research is released as a part of Course Hero’s Research Hub, a resource for data and insights on higher education sourced from its community of millions of students and more than 70,000 verified educators. Discover additional insights on students and educators in higher education here.

What Is Course Hero?

Course Hero is an online learning platform where you can access course-specific study resources contributed by a community of students and educators.