Student experience


This quasi-experimental research design surveyed 688 students through a self-administered online survey to specifically explore relations between student self-assessed capabilities (Lizzio Five Senses, 2006), overall program satisfaction, withdrawal behaviours, demographics and year of study in their university courses during an emergency COVID-19 lockdown experience. Importantly, this research offers a more nuanced view of the Five Senses and confirms their importance as a university strategy for student success. These findings offer further granularity into the complex set of relations that impact decisions around satisfaction, persistence, and capability in higher education and support previous research by Lizzio and Wilson (2008) indicating students’ perceptions of purpose is the strongest predictor of satisfaction, lower anxiety and lower course withdrawal. Ultimately, the paper suggests as higher education looks towards future possible disruptions due to climate, health or political realities, equipping and fostering a strong sense of purpose, connectedness, and resourcefulness as well as sense of capability and academic culture will buffer and support students to persevere. In addition, this research suggests that those students who may have weak associations with these senses merit additional attention.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Overall students transitioned remarkably well during the emergency move to online during the COVID 19 response period.
  2. This research cohort bifurcated into two groups: those who associated strongly with the Five Senses and those who had weaker connections to the Five Senses.
  3. Weak associations were associated with lower satisfaction, higher anxiety, and greater chance of dropping one or all courses.
  4. Surprisingly, cohorts did not change their (high or low) association to the sense assembly – (capacity, resourcefulness, connections, purpose, culture) across first, second and third year.
  5. Developing and explicitly exposing students to these Five Senses early in their degree should increase their satisfaction and resilience during disruptions but also lock in long term associations with the five senses over their degree period.