COVID has affected almost every sector of the world economy, including education. The ever-existent system of conventional learning is slowly depleting in popularity. As a result, one can say that the need to revamp the educational setup is now being felt more than ever.
As of fall 2021, enrollment into higher education programs dropped by 2.6% compared to 2020, and a total of 5.8% since 2019. With more and more learners moving towards online coaching and on-site working, institutions struggle to retain their students during the pandemic.
The trend of remote learning has been in the ranks for the last two years, and it’s only projected to increase. It would be fair to state that students worldwide have grown accustomed to online learning today and tend to prefer it.
This tilt towards online learning has been one of the major reasons for the growing disconnect between universities and students. Students now have multiple online learning platforms to choose from to gather education right from the comfort of their homes. College doesn’t seem to be a necessity anymore for modern-day learners.
Therefore, it is exceptionally challenging for universities nowadays to make students believe that college is worth their time and money. The only way out is to keep up with the evolving technology to maximize student retention and recruitment.
Since some things just can’t be replicated in a digital setup such as the presence of a human touch to learning, on-field research, and more, that an institution has to offer, is why we bring to you this article.
In this blog, we dive into some strategies that you can use to retain current students and attract prospective learners to your institution during the pandemic.
Let’s get started!
1. Adopt a Student-Centric Approach
Developing a student-centered learning program provides them with the opportunity of creating their own learning paradigm. It allows room for them to be flexible on the what, when, and where aspects of learning.
Additionally, such an approach helps them develop self-direction, curiosity, creativity, and collaboration skills.
Every successful institution defines its approach to teaching differently. However, some key features should definitely be included in your program such as:
- Prioritizing project-based interdisciplinary learning
- A rooted connection between the curriculum and learner’s interest
- Regular assessments designed to track the growth of your students
- Expert feedback platforms for students as well as their parents
- Customized learning plans for each individual
- Flexibility with regards to the shift towards online learning
Some people may argue that a student-centric approach can be ambiguous and chaotic. However, there is nothing that can’t be fixed with the help of a few adjustments from both sides. You must remember the key is to gradually embrace different learning techniques one at a time, rather than all at once.
2. Form Personal Connections
One in seven students worldwide has a mental disorder. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst in the deteriorating mental health of all, especially the younger generation. In such times, every individual will appreciate a personal human connection rather than a conventional and doctored regime.
If there was ever a time for institutions to invest in personalized learning techniques, it is now. The key here is to realize that small things go a long way in developing a personal connection.
Here are some of the things you can keep in mind to make learners feel at home in your institution:
- Make your Courses for Humans
An ideal course should aim at including personalized messages to foster an instant connection with the learners. Especially in these uncertain times, it is best to prioritize human connection in your curriculum rather than textbooks and prototype answers.
- Develop a Connection between Faculty and Learners
In the age of virtual learning, it may often get difficult for students to approach the faculty with their problems. To combat this, the faculty must ensure smooth communication between them and learners to maintain an efficient learning environment.
- Messages from Authorities
If a person of authority, like the president, reaches out to students to acknowledge their hardships, it makes them feel valued. It is vital to make them feel that the institution understands how severe the pandemic has been for them. Moreover, such messages can provide a feeling of calmness in such turbulent times to learners as well as their families.
3. Shift From Traditional Marketing To Digital
With people looking at the world today through their phones, it is only logical to ditch the traditional marketing setup and prioritize the digital image of your institution. Imagine how cool it would be if one of your students finds out that their institution has an active presence of TikTok and Instagram.
As far as the school/university website is concerned, you can invest in an esteemed development company that provides you with a seamless user interface.
A digital marketing setup has to be the culmination of various platforms. Gather information and partner up with different online portals to tap varied markets. You can use this information to good effect by curating it to students’ needs on an individual level and providing them with exactly what they are looking for.
Find the platforms on which your prospective and current students are most active and invest in specific channels marketing. Try to personalize your promotion content by monitoring the preferences of different users. For example, if a student is interested in business courses, they should get ads and promotions regarding the same course from your university.
You can use several content authoring tools that serve as a package of e-learning deliverables to your students. Examples of some of the most used storylines include Articulate Storyline, Composica, Camtasia, and Adobe Authorware.
Another major part of your digital marketing strategy can be web accessibility for design and content. It is a way of designing websites so that everyone, even people with disabilities can navigate through the content easily.
Some of the disabilities that you should consider while designing accessible websites and social content are as follows:
- Blindness and low vision
- Deafness and hearing loss
- Speech disabilities
- Cognitive disabilities
- Neurological Limitations
Additionally, investing in search engine optimization practices can help you gain traffic and traction on your website. Thus, with a seamless website and a neat social media presence, you will be able to get better results than any billboard or banner.
4. Enhance your Email Marketing and Digital Communication
This point can be considered as an extension of the previous strategy. Developing a personalized email marketing strategy with the help of market automation can allow you to widen your reach and enhance your promotional capabilities.
The market automation program develops tailored emails, campaigns, and more from the collected data of leads and potential applicants. Additionally, it also serves to provide you with a better conversion rate and helps you take some load off your marketing team to focus on practical strategies to approach potential students.
A fitting example of a market automation tool for universities can be Mautic, an open-source automation project that develops strategic campaigns for institutions.
5. Maintain Contact by Curating Virtual Experiences
In today’s world, it has become easier than ever to stay in touch with your current as well as your prospective candidates virtually. This is one of the great traits of digital learning that you can use to your advantage. With the help of your database, you can host digital meets and conferences to get in touch with your prospective leads. You can even provide them with virtual campus tours and a curriculum summary to help them understand your services better.
As far as freshmen batches are concerned, institutions can arrange for virtual seminars and training to help them learn new skills and concepts. They can also use these digital services to provide one-on-one counseling sessions to both learners and their parents.
Using virtual and augmented reality tools for such services can help develop a productive connection between the institution and learners. Several institutions like Delta State University and Coahoma Community College are using these tools to keep students in touch with their college campuses.
6. Fall Back on Faculty and Alumni for Communication
It is always better to learn from someone who has been through the same experience in their life as you. A connection between alumni and freshmen can help achieve just that. Regular meet-ups between them can help develop meaningful relationships and help the current batch better understand the importance of college.
A mentor-mentee program between them where the alumnus is specialized in the same course as that of the current student can greatly allow efficient learning and future planning.
As far as the faculty is concerned, they are the building blocks of the institution. They should make room in their schedules to also interact with learners about matters beyond college. It will help in guiding the learners for the life that awaits them post-college. Only the institution’s faculty can provide this perfect combination of support and guidance.
7. Create Support Groups
Every individual learner faces hardship in their college life at some point or the other which sometimes can be difficult to fix on their own. A helping hand is hence always appreciated.
As such create a network of students wherein, they can support their peers by helping them out both professionally and personally. A well-made support group also proves beneficial in the following ways:
- Strengthening Social Skills - Isolation cannot foster positive adjustment. College support groups can help with this by making an individual feel more confident and comfortable in social situations. It helps them become more expressive and assertive regarding their opinions and feelings.
- Encourages Independence - As freshmen move out of their houses and away from the supportive care of their parents, a well-valued peer group can help them become self-reliant and independent.
- Provide a Positive Peer Community - Students are susceptible to peer pressure. This phenomenon can often make them engage in self-destructive practices. In such cases, support groups can also provide a positive peer community that can help them negate this toxic peer pressure.
8. Encourage Summer Enrollment
As learners grow more accustomed to virtual learning, they are more inclined towards virtual summer courses. Therefore, colleges and universities must provide summer courses as an opportunity to earn extra credits.
Before the age of digital learning, students spent their summer breaks choosing between internships and co-curricular activities. However, online classes offered a whole new dynamic as they opened the possibility of taking up extra courses while also working on the side to widen their knowledge pools.
For colleges too, summer courses offer an excellent opportunity to fine-tune their system before the inevitable rush of enrollees in the Fall. As such, some institutions even offer tuition reductions in their online summer classes.
Summer is also the prime time for universities to focus on advertising and fall registration. The primary metric for fall enrollment is the advance registration for their future semesters.
Since generation Z is highly inclined towards coaching in person, therefore, providing one-on-one counseling sessions during the Summer can help institutions ensure a good turnout during the Fall semester.
9. Leverage Technology
If there was ever a time to invest in the latest technology of today’s world for your institution, it is now. A succinct IT ecosystem is what separates an elite institution from a subpar one.
A well-rounded course doesn’t guarantee student engagement. To make that happen, you need to rely on modern technology to provide services like training, workshops, leadership conferences, etc. that make learning fun and interactive.
On the topic of technology, something that has gained immense popularity over the last years is the use of AI. There is no reason why you shouldn’t incorporate artificial intelligence in your institution’s setup.
With the help of AI, you can gauge the precise capabilities of an individual student and provide them personalized, and timely support. The prospect of digital experience platforms can help universities in providing students with a more immersive form of learning.
A student-centric web design that provides them with different tools to track their progress and record results in, efficient learning. You can use Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) to provide your students with consistent, secure, and personalized access to study material and online courses across different digital touchpoints.
As they say, data is the new oil. Investing in a good data handling service can not only provide workable insights but reduce redundancy in your marketing efforts.
Moreover, institutions can use technology to maintain records and databases of all their students. You can use artificial intelligence to develop personalized improvement programs for different students using these inputs. You can also provide online access to student support areas, including counseling services, disability support groups, and academic resources.
The scope of using technology for the betterment of your institution is therefore boundless.
With the help of data analytics, institutions can develop an inclusive and financially stable enrollment strategy. This will help them serve the current as well as the new learners by personalizing recruitment, enrollment, and the learning processes.
Thoughtful use of technology can also help build a sustainable ecosystem that augers a seamless experience. Hitting the right note of the user-centered design, process improvement, and system re-engineering can help you reduce redundancy and improve the end-user experience.
The pandemic has forced universities to develop new methods of teaching and marketing to build inquisitivity among students. Institutions are realizing how personalized and student-centric learning can play a pivotal role in upholding the reputation of a university and the importance of providing students with customized resources rather than conventional textbook schemes.
Moreover, using virtual learning opportunities in this digital era has also provided learners with new training options. If used in the proper manner, these platforms can help in improving student interaction and efficiency.
The aim of every institution should be to use its resources to the best. From extensive data analytics to support groups, this article listed all that an institution needs to retain students during the pandemic.
So, get started on working on the blueprint of your new student-centric learning curriculum today!