College Insights · Article

Research Round-Up: Insights to Take into 2021

2020 higher ed research recap
December 22, 2020

In a year that required higher education to adapt, adjust and pivot in unprecedented ways, seeking out the student voice was more important than ever. Barnes & Noble College Insights conducted proprietary research throughout the year to learn more about students’ thoughts, values and perspectives — and share our insights. Following are key learnings and highlights from our major research initiatives in 2020. The knowledge we’ve gained about short-term impacts and longer-term trends have informed our initiatives this year and are fueling a strong start to 2021. 

COVID & Career Readiness Survey

In the spring, Barnes & Noble College Insights surveyed more than 1,000 students to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 and online learning on their academic and career paths. Their responses helped bring to light how pandemic-related changes have affected them — and how their institutions and college stores can help them be successful. 

Explore the COVID & Career Readiness Survey findings.

2020 National Student Pulse Report

Student Pulse, our annual insights report, provides an overview of what motivates student behaviors, influences their purchasing decisions and helps them learn best. The 2020 National Student Pulse Report takes a deep dive into academic and retail insights, with a special section examining the early effects of COVID-19 on students. 

Research consistently shows that students value and seek out in-person experiences — and the ability to move between physical and digital spaces fluidly. The college store is no exception: 88% of students said having course materials available in store was very important or absolutely necessary, and 90% visit at least once during the semester. As students adjusted to online learning and navigated pandemic-related challenges, they looked to their institution and their college store for academic support.

Students also reinforced that email communications from the college store are both the main driver to the store (50%) and the preferred method of receiving communications for future  events and offers (75%). They shared a range of details on their shopping preferences — and their drivers for purchase.

Read the full 2020 National Student Pulse Report.

Conversations with Gen Z: the 2020 Election 

Gen Z college students represent one of every 10 eligible American voters, so our team conducted a nationwide survey over the summer for a fresh look at their political opinions and behaviors. It was designed to help build a better understanding of the students we serve and uncover new ways to support them.

In addition to insights directly related to the election and voting in 2020, the report covers the highest priority issues for students and looks at where they turn for information. Gen Z is an analytical generation. They want to make their own decisions — and gather information from unbiased sources that equip them to make smart, informed choices. They regularly engage with news media and stay active on social media.


Read the report: Conversations with Gen Z: the 2020 Election.

Pulse Check: Course Material and Retail Insights

During the Fall 2020 term, Barnes & Noble College Insights supplemented the Student Pulse report with two additional quick poll surveys — one focused on course material preferences and academic preparedness, and the other on shopping and purchasing behaviors. 

Professors' Influence_course materials_quick poll

Once again, more than half of students were not prepared on the first day of class — and of those students, 56% found it stressful, and 31% said it was hard to keep up in class. Why weren’t they prepared? Cost was a factor, but professors had a role to play as well, reinforcing the importance of early adoption and clear communication.

On the retail side, students shared that they are still shopping — in store and online — and they’re interested in onsite and digital events as well. While their purchasing habits reveal a sharper focus on necessities, the research also highlighted opportunities for the college store.

Review the Pulse Checks for Course Material Insights and Retail Insights.

Research is one way Barnes & Noble College supports our campus partners, and it informs every solution and service we offer. Stay tuned for fresh data and insights in the new year ahead. 

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