IN ASSOCIATION WITH:
RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: Digital Transformation and Student Engagement in Higher Education
INTRODUCTION Challenged with digital disruption and generational behavior shifts, the higher education sector has not been immune to the upheavals of our age, but it has been generally slower to adopt technological responses to them. 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. Add in declining enrollment trends and changing demands around flexible coursework and online delivery, and itâ€™s clear educational insti- tutions can no longer afford to ignore digital transformation.
As a term, digital transformation can be broadly applied to anything from organizational change and culture to product development and design, but in higher education there are two categories relevant to this industry. 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 mes- sages, emails, mobile apps and more. The second category enables the first: a foundation of data where student informationâ€”gleaned through website clicks and visits, academic performance tracking as well as other sourcesâ€”can be used to determine how and when that communication should occur.
This brief will touch on both categories and outline practical examples of their application to improve the student experience.
THE RIGHT MESSAGE, AT THE RIGHT TIME Taking a cue from the commercial sector, 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 where they can support student needs digitally by providing relevant information, and therefore deepen engagement. â€œAt the end of the day, youâ€™re dealing with people and emotions,â€ says Andy Moy, director of strategic solutions at Pitney Bowes. â€œWhether youâ€™re a bank or a university, understanding what the people you deal with are going throughâ€”and being able to intervene with the right message at the right timeâ€”is important.â€
â€œAt the end of the day, youâ€™re dealing with people and emotions.â€¦Understanding what the people you deal with are going throughâ€”and being able to intervene with the right message at the right timeâ€”is important.â€
ANDY MOY DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC SOLUTIONS, PITNEY BOWES
COPYRIGHT Â© 2017 FORBES INSIGHTS | 2
The personalized videos improve the emotional connection we have with prospective students.â€
HELEN NOLAN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND STUDENT ATTRACTION,
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH QUEENSLAND
DEEPENING ENGAGEMENT WITH INTERACTIVE, PERSONALIZED VIDEO Australiaâ€™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.1
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. After greeting students by name, the video played clips relevant to the student's learning interests and expressed the value proposition of that faculty.
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. â€œThe personalized videos improve the emotional connection we have with prospective students,â€ says Helen Nolan, executive director of marketing and student attraction for USQ. â€œAt the same time, weâ€™re showing students that we are interested in helping with their career decisions and in the ultimate outcome of their education.â€
1 Case study: Personalized videos enhance student engagement for University of Southern Queensland, Pitney Bowes. https://www.pitneybowes.com/us/customer-engagement-marketing/case-studies/university-of-southern-queensland.html
3 | RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
A SINGLE VIEW OF THE STUDENT 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 at a given time, 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, and todayâ€™s technology means that it can be attained much more simply than in the past. While data should always be of a high qualityâ€”de-duplicated and validated for accuracy and completenessâ€”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 may 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.
DATA AND INSIGHTS Another facet to digital transformation: Data and insights can be used to enhance student experience or direct marketing efforts, a potential that becomes clear with graph databases. Unlike traditional databases, which store information in a tabular format where relationships aren't immediately obvious, relationships are central to graph databases and look much like a network you might diagram on paper. So, a node of â€œEnglish 101â€ would have spokes representing the â€œstudentâ€ and â€œprofessorâ€ relationships to every person enrolled in that course and one to the professor teaching it, as well as between the students and professor, and so on.
The University of Wollongong took advantage of this technology when it wanted to understand which other universities and researchers were influential in particular fields, data it could then use to direct its relationship-building efforts to generate more prestige and collaboration opportunities for research. Using metadata culled from published academic papers, including authorsâ€™ names, collaborators, citations and references, the university was able to easily visualize where the nodes of influence were. â€œSo you can model this whole network of academic papers and research work, see the connections and start to see who are the kingpins in all of this, whose work is particularly influential,â€ says Moy. â€œThat then allows a university to see who they should build relationships with and where.â€
CONCLUSION Higher education institutions can rise to the challenge of disruptive digital and generational trends by focusing on deepening student engagement and delivering the right messaging at the right time. While journey mapping and data can help pinpoint those moments, technology allows institutions to act on the insights, utilizing communication channels with the most impact and reach. A strong foundation of data underpins the approach, allowing institutions to build holistic views of each student and design outreach that matches expectations and improves overall experience.
4 | RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION AND STUDENT ENGAGEMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION
ABOUT FORBES INSIGHTS
Forbes Insights is the strategic research and thought leadership practice of Forbes Media, a global media, branding and technology company whose combined platforms reach nearly 94 million business decision makers worldwide on a monthly basis. By leveraging proprietary databases of senior-level executives in the Forbes community, Forbes Insights conducts research on a wide range of topics to position brands as thought leaders and drive stakeholder engagement. Research findings are delivered through a variety of digital, print and live executions, and amplified across Forbesâ€™ social and media platforms.
499 Washington Blvd. Jersey City, NJ 07310 | 212.367.2662 | www.forbes.com/forbes-insights
Bruce Rogers CHIEF INSIGHTS OFFICER
Erika Maguire PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Casey Clifford DIRECTOR, ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT
Kasia Wandycz Moreno DIRECTOR
Hugo S. Moreno DIRECTOR
Lynda Brendish REPORT AUTHOR
Zehava Pasternak DESIGNER
Ross Gagnon DIRECTOR
Kimberly Kurata SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST
Sara Chin RESEARCH ANALYST
North America Brian McLeod EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR email@example.com
Matthew Muszala DIRECTOR firstname.lastname@example.org
William Thompson MANAGER email@example.com
EMEA Tibor Fuchsel MANAGER firstname.lastname@example.org
APAC Serene Lee EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR email@example.com