Enrolment during coronavirus
Enrolment day is normally a notoriously busy event in the academic calendar. For further education (FE) institutions, campus is alive with activity as learners are welcomed in, perhaps for the first time, to register for their chosen courses. Learners are often required to queue in different locations around college to complete the necessary paperwork, ID and qualification checks and have their photographs taken. Staff Teaching teams, Support Services, Learner records and Admissions staff are busy too, ready to support students and answer questions. It can be an exhausting and chaotic day!
But this year, educational institutions have been confronted with the challenge of rapidly rethinking enrolment to keep their students and staff safe. The government guidelines for education during COVID-19 are clear that social distancing measures should be implemented widely onsite to minimise contact. We will see FE colleges and providers taking actions such as social distancing floor makers, limiting the number of people on campus, and crucially turning to remote, online processes.
How to run a socially distanced enrolment day
The priority right now is to keep all learners and staff safe in the current climate. Here are some of the ways we have reimagined enrolment with technology to make social distancing manageable without jeopardising student experience and enrolment numbers.
Capture data online
Wherever possible, FE institutions should aspire to capture key data online in a centralised, self-serve system. Within a system such as Tribal's ebs, learners can submit their application online right from the beginning (even attend an interview remotely) and staff can record offers accordingly. For some learners, the journey from application to enrolment can be entirely digital - accepting their offers, receiving exam results, and attaching their electronic evidence (such as exam results) online.
Capturing this key data online will reduce the number of people required to travel onto campus to enrol. With reduced numbers, queues will be shorter or even removed and social distancing measures manageable. Staff will also have more time to prioritise helping those learners who need additional support on enrolment day.
At a typical enrolment, data is sometimes inputted into different systems by various people, making it extremely difficult to report on and have valuable oversight. Ensuring data is captured in a single centralised system has the added benefit of stage-by-stage reporting where information is fully auditable. With a full trail of what has been entered where and by who, you can ensure you do not lose any learners on the way. Centralising your data increases efficiencies and has the potential to save considerable time on manual administrative tasks.
Another way to minimise capacity on campus is to enable students to upload their own photographs. Through a self-serve online portal, a student can attach and upload their own photograph to be used on their ID card or perhaps on a learner agreement. This photo is saved centrally within the system with the ability for staff to approve or learners to amend. Photo ID cards can then be distributed remotely removing the need for students to make the journey onto campus.
In line with the ESFA guidelines, learner agreements can be digitally authenticated. In a system like Tribal's ebs, these consent and digital authentication screens can be personalised to your institution. Administrators can also see progress and can convert the applications to enrolments in bulk.
Having the ability to authenticate learner agreements digitally is a game-changer for institutions in socially distanced times. By capturing this essential information digitally, there is no need for many learners to come onto campus to enrol - a safer, and an arguably better experience for learners, without impacting enrolment numbers.
Engage and stay connected with learners
The hustle and bustle of activity on campus at enrolment can create a real buzz for students. But without having everyone on campus this year - how do you maintain the excitement and stay connected with learners remotely?
FE institutions can keep learners engaged by giving them instant online access once enrolled. In Tribal’s ebs this could look like online areas such as Teaching and Learning, and Timetabling access. One of the best ways to keep learners communicating and connected is through your own institution app. The Tribal Engage mobile app is an easy-to-use platform where students can take part in a range of activities such as: join groups that interest them, send messages, stay up to date with news, ask online Q&As, and access their timetable all within a fully safeguarded environment. Importantly the app empowers students to start connecting and developing relationships with other enrolled learners and tutor groups without having to share their personal contact details.
The Office for Students (OfS) has stressed the importance of support services during the coronavirus pandemic stating: ‘Some groups of students may be particularly exposed to mental health and wellbeing problems during this period, both during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond’ (OfS, 2020). With an app, students can easily access and reach out for support they need. In a recent survey one of our customers shared how ‘using the app has been an absolute godsend during lockdown in communicating with and maintaining support for students’.
Using notification style alerts, institutions can also instantly communicate with students and staff through the app, ideal for important COVID-19 updates. The Track and trace functionality that exists through Tribal’s ebs and Engage puts preventive process in place for enrolment and as a new term begins protection for your institution.
Rethinking enrolment day: time for change?
COVID-19 has highlighted some long-standing issues around the way enrolments have been carried out: the reliance on paper and manual processes, data entry inefficiencies and long, tiring enrolment queues. Embracing the move to paperless enrolment such as possible through Tribal’s ebs and Engage, is not only beneficial for enrolment during coronavirus, but foundational for the college of the future.
Being able to gather key data in a centralised system, and keep students engaged and connected throughout their enrolment journey should be the new normal. With this in place, institutions will be able to provide a significantly better experience, not only through these trying times, but for learners and staff for years to come.
Find out more in our recent socially distanced enrolment day recording