Brought up on technology, today’s higher education students expect seamless digital interactions as standard.
In a globally competitive marketplace, universities that can’t make the most of new technological capabilities will be left behind. But becoming digital-first isn’t simply to meet the expectations of demanding prospective students. Embracing emerging technologies improves the entire business and operating model – in higher education just as much as any other sector. It may even be a prerequisite to operating at all in a post-coronavirus world.
New technology offers opportunities to improve teaching and learning, research, and collaboration with global partners. Data collection and advanced analytics can be used to improve academic performance, student retention and employability after study. It makes institutions more agile, efficient, cost-effective, and market-responsive.
The benefits of digital transformation to higher education institutions is the subject of a book in its own right. Looking specifically at the challenge of maintaining and gaining student numbers, a digital-first approach can deliver impressive results.
Personalisation has become the holy grail of marketing – creating customised content and experiences for users based on who they are and what they’re looking for.
Prospective students carry out their higher education research across multiple digital channels. They’re accustomed to slick multi-platform connected experiences that are unique and relevant.
This is the Netflix generation. Today’s students want to be recognised and expect their needs to be predicted.
In higher education, personalised content provides an opportunity for institutions to position themselves as the right choice for an individual student based on the subjects, extracurricular activities or careers that a student is interested in. It allows universities to speak to individual students on a more personal level, delivering tailored information according to their interests, or what point they are in the application process.
Digital solutions make it easy to deliver completely personalised content across multiple channels – emails, blogs, websites, social media and more. From the initial touchpoint right through to application and acceptance, the ability digital technology offers to deliver relevant, timely communication – and to continuously assess its impact – is game-changing for higher education recruitment.
The phrase ‘connected campus’ has become ubiquitous in recent years. In simple terms, it describes technologically advanced universities who are harnessing the latest digital solutions to improve their offering and deliver the best possible student experience.
A connected campus can incorporate any number of cutting-edge tech tools, including interactive classrooms and augmented reality learning. But for many universities, the starting point is a robust CRM platform which enables them to manage the entire lifecycle, tracking and facilitating interactions and improving engagement and communication with past, present and future students.
Platforms like Salesforce offer a 360-degree view of individual students. This makes it easier for both students and staff to process simple administrative tasks – enrolment, paying fees, registering for accommodation and more.
That represents an immediate and sometimes profound resource-saving method which can make it a worthwhile investment in itself for cash-strapped higher education institutions.
CRM platforms also have much more sophisticated uses when it comes to student recruitment and retention. A single, end-to-end record of student interactions offers a wealth of data which can be used to support their academic achievement, to improve students' wellbeing, and increase advocacy.
Joining up data about individual students across the institution and employing predictive analytics make it easy to identify students who need extra support. Whether it is because grades are slipping, attendance has dropped, or they’re facing financial hardship, proactively spotting and then intervening before a student is in trouble can be the difference that enables them to achieve their potential – or even continue studying at all.
With some institutions reporting drop-out rates of up to one fifth, intervening to support students in trouble matters more than ever. Creating and nurturing personal relationships between student and institution is also essential – after all, nobody wants to be just a number.
Almost 80 percent of students say that personal messages help convey that their institution cares about them.
Personal messaging establishes a connection with students from before they arrive at the university. If universities manage it well, this connection will evolve to last a lifetime.
Tailored support throughout the student journey can make a real impact on students’ overall experience and importantly, their sense of belonging – a recognised factor in student drop-outs.
Technology platforms make regular, personalised communication achievable, even where student numbers run to the tens of thousands.
A supportive environment and access to help when it’s needed are all important factors influencing the sense of community and belonging students feel. And if today’s young people wanted the ability to access support whenever and wherever they are before coronavirus shook the world, now it’s crucial.
Again, it is enabled and made easy with the right technology platforms. Online communities, chat tools and text reminders are just part of the solution, helping students to succeed and reinforcing their belonging and attachment to their institution.
Despite being a generation of digital natives, face-to-face learning remains highly valued. However, the rise in alternative methods of delivering higher education means students have expected an element of flexibility in how and where they study for a while now.
The outbreak of coronavirus has magnified that need. While the eventual impact of this global crisis isn’t clear yet, it’s certain that for some time, institutions will need to offer flexible and remote studying options if they want to operate at all. And once students have become accustomed to that flexibility, it’s unlikely they’ll want to lose it – even without the threat of a pandemic.
Online classrooms, augmented reality learning and artificial intelligence are all only just beginning to show their worth in the higher education sector.
Universities that embrace these newer technologies have the potential to keep operating in the face of the pandemic, and in the longer term, to entirely transform the student experience.
Flexible learning on a largescale requires robust digital technology to enable it.
BrightGen is an award-winning Salesforce platinum partner. Our goal is to offer a simpler, more effective way of delivering technology-enabled transformational change.
For over a decade, we have been the partner of choice for higher education institutions undergoing digital transformation. We understand the challenges the sector faces, and we know how technology can equip institutions to excel in a competitive marketplace.
Our experience and expertise in developing fully bespoke customer solutions with Salesforce at the centre means we deliver the results you need at a pace that ensures you grow in line with your expectations.
Get in touch and let us show you how BrightGen could help transform your higher education institution.