How to improve enrollment, engage students, and retain them through graduation and beyond

For students and faculty across the US, a life on campus is far from guaranteed as schools continue to experience coronavirus outbreaks. Compounding the issue is the disruptive challenge of online education for which a number of colleges and universities may be ill-prepared

You can achieve what seems impossible right now.

Online learning has put as many as half these institutions in the US at risk of closure in the next couple of decades with remote students able get comparable educations over the internet – and, unless institutions move quickly to transform themselves, they risk becoming obsolete.

Modernizing to match the new landscape can take many forms and there is no shortage of options all being touted as ‘the answer’. A surge in virtual open days, use of Zoom lectures and a rapid increase in technology use worldwide has seen some colleges and universities transform digitally to build connections and deliver personalized learning experiences to many, but numerous are also still struggling to adapt.

Meeting the challenges of 2020 and the new normal can seem daunting. Adaptations can be difficult to effect and impossible to gauge from a cost-to-benefit standpoint. Knowing where to start and understand what solution to implement is a growing concern as many solutions old and new are claiming to provide the needs of a struggling school and the choice can be overwhelming.

Which providers should I be listening to?

The answer is quite simply, only those you need to – and you may not need to replace any at all! As a priority you need to understand the student journey for your institution and review all steps in the eyes of a student and consider whether they are on campus or connecting remotely. What does that step look like for them, whether on or off campus? Can you accommodate their location? How do they participate? And, most importantly, how do you get the response you need?

Most software providers have already introduced new provisions for off-campus students due to the pandemic and the overwhelming demand from educational institutes for solutions to be in place. You may not need to replace any of the software that you have currently but want to put a greater emphasis on communications tools and the promotion of those to your students. Effective communications is vital for student success.

There are multiple ways to help students feel like they are a part of a university or college community and that they can ask for, and receive, help easily. It is well documented that communicating early and often with advisors and faculty is key to retaining students.

Implementing the tools to assist in communications and the digitization of your campus doesn’t have to mean a large financial investment.

Digitizing your campus is a more affordable solution that you might think

Increasing the use of existing provisions, understanding which software solutions you can retire, reducing costly SMS communications and removing the reliance on a crowded student inbox can all lead to significant cost savings which can fund a student-centered digital campus. A decision many colleges understand and have started to explore. Institutions who are succeeding already understand that digitizing their campus via platforms such as myday delivers improved student engagement, both quickly and cost-effectively.

Your decision on whether to ‘build or buy’ your student platform will ultimately come down to cost. Cost to build, affordability of the time taken from the initial investment made to the expected returns realized, and, lastly, the ongoing maintenance expenses. Infinite money and resources internally would enable a successful in-house implementation but would not seem prudent in today’s cost-cutting environment. It would still prove difficult, slow and be unproven in its objectives.

Where should I start?

Your institution needs to review every step of a student’s academic journey and ensure you can support that step just as effectively online as you would should your student be on campus. Knowing each step from the very first contact you have with a prospect.

The student lifecycle starts with a prospect student, nurturing the relationship from first contact to successful enrollment through to creating the optimum learning environment, and seeing them through as alumnus. All steps must be understood from the student’s perspective and effectively managing that lifecycle is the key to great learning outcomes.

As an example, understanding that a significant number of modern prospective students consume information and preserve important relationships via their mobile devices is key to successful attraction of prospects and keeping them engaged with your institute. This may seem like an obvious consideration but it is clear that many educational institutions have not taken this into account even when faced with the challenges of Covid-19.

Once you understand your students and the barriers to success they face, your next consideration is how you will deliver the service and education that best meets demand and expectation. It is in this way that you will overcome your own barriers to success.

Students need to have a connected experience and feel a sense of belonging to a university community. In a time of location uncertainty, the institutions that prioritize the needs of prospective and off campus students will be more likely to succeed.

For more detail on the above, and helpful guidance on what you should consider, download the free guide

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