Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Acknowledging the Student as the Customer: Inviting Student Input into Course Weights

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Acknowledging the Student as the Customer: Inviting Student Input into Course Weights

Article excerpt


Businesses recognize the necessity of listening to the customer. Small businesses do not have the resources to provide the on-the-job re-education needed to advance this employee understanding. Although higher education providers allow student evaluation of faculty, they have not made the transition to acknowledging the student as the customer in course weighting. In recognition of the student as customer, and who is also frequently a small business employee, two classes of Sam Houston State University graduate students were requested to evaluate theoretical course weights with respect to course grades and career needs. The analyses of these results leads to the conclusion that courses need to be restructured to more adequately address small business owners' and employees' needs.


From the small business perspective, educators should be producing employees who are better equipped with the skills and knowledge to compete in the demanding, diverse business world they are entering. Educators complain that small businesses are criticizing the process but are not providing the insight and assistance needed by educators to produce the training needed by the employer and employee. Both camps agree that students are entering the workforce without the skill sets needed to compete in the increasingly global economy. Inadequate preparation often translates into lower job satisfaction for the employee and reduced earnings for the businesses.

Larger businesses are creating their own in-house universities or creating joint educational programs with universities to overcome this dilemma. Small businesses do not have the financial or human resources for this aggressively proactive solution.

One component that may have so far been ignored as a part of the solution by both universities and employers is the student. Requesting and evaluating student input may alter the equation for a remedy. A number of students are also business owners. This population can provide a unique insight into the education and training issues as they are personally involved from both sides.

An important question discussed in the halls of academia is Who is the customer? Is it the state, the student or the present/future employer? Students being asked to assess faculty through evaluations are prima facia evidence of students being customers from a marketing definition of customers. Students ARE customers; they have the power to affect teaching styles and content which is the essence of customer power. Expanding the initial question, should the customer have input into the end product? If the customer is the student, then it seems logical the customer should be consulted as to the content and content weight for the course.

Another approach to the student participation in course content was put forward by Emery and Tian (2001). Their concept was to visualize the student as being involved in participatory management of course content. The idea was that this would help prepare the student for the work environment via real world activities of participatory management.

As to a specific course content weight study for academic grade versus career requirements, the literature is rather silent. Under the student as customer concept (or participatory management concept), two graduate classes were requested to evaluate class content weight with a view of the importance to the student for grade determination and career/job enhancement. This paper will review the students' perspective on how course content needs to be weighted to best fit a course grade and the current and future needs of the student for employment.


The requirement for university involvement in small business education has been discussed in the literature for decades. Pearson, et al (1987) and Zeitmal and Rice (1987) found a lack of resources directed toward small business education and research to support expanded small business course requirements. …

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