The current generation of digitally savvy students have been passively trained by years of social media, e-commerce and online entertainment to expect a high-level user experience in all their digital interactions, with no exception for their educational institutions.
In higher education, there are two categories relevant to digital transformation. The first relates to engagement, where what is known about a student is utilized to deliver relevant communications at the right time, in the right manner. Ideally that can be done across a number of channels, depending on the context, including chatbots, text messages, emails, mobile apps and more. The second category enables the first: a foundation of data where student information – gleaned through website clicks and visits, academic performance tracking as well as other sources – can be used to determine how and when that communication should occur.
A Forbes Insights executive brief, “Rising to the Challenge: Digital Transformation and Student Engagement in Higher Education,” sponsored by Pitney Bowes, touches on both categories and outlines practical examples of their application to improve the student experience.
Many educational institutions are now turning to customer experience firms to map the student journey and life cycle. That allows them to zero in on the moments when they can support student needs digitally by providing relevant information, and therefore deepen engagement.
Australia’s University of South Queensland (USQ) is one institution that did just that, using interactive, personalized video technology to deepen engagement and reach prospective students at a time when they were narrowing down their final university choices.
Internet-based recruitment is particularly important at USQ, where 70% of students attend at least some classes online and 20% are international students. In addition to using more traditional recruitment strategies, the university decided to email interactive videos to a segment of interested students, personalized with information regarding university programs and course selection.
Because this video technology is dynamic, it can pull from known data about the viewers to help them navigate complex issues and make informed decisions. The videos bring together prerecorded segments with information like a student’s name, language preference and course interests, which creates a customized viewing experience that is relevant to their needs.
With this strategy, the university achieved impressive open and click-through rates that were far above benchmarks for similar emails in the sector.
Powering these engagement efforts requires a strong foundation in data. People and programs both need to be able to access known information about a student, regardless of where it is stored, and use it to either help the student or trigger some sort of automated response. This can be called the single view of the student. While data should always be of a high quality – de-duplicated and validated for accuracy and completeness – a single view can be achieved without having to move or centralize the data it pulls from, ultimately minimizing time and effort.
In a big data environment, this single view can be extremely useful in designing engagements. So, for example, if a university wanted to reduce the number of dropouts during the year, it might be able to pull together data from learning management systems, grades and attendance records, along with student geographic and demographic profiles, to build a model that indicates when a student is likely to drop out. Using that, it may be able to target students meeting those criteria for communications, informing them of additional tutoring or resources that could make their learning experience smoother and ultimately keep them on track for their degree.