Apart from exciting your students with a flashy new app – have you thought about your endgame? Understanding what you want to achieve by introducing your app will keep your decision-makers focussed on what’s important in your digital student engagement strategy. Here we talk about the eight themes of engagement that are most likely to be of genuine benefit to your students and/or your institution.
The student as a digital consumer
Digital affects every part of a student’s life – from researching which college or university to apply to, how they learn and study, how they interact with tutors and other students, and even how they get support when things are not going well. If an education institution doesn’t support the digital lives of their students, then they are simply not properly engaging with their students.
Technology is even more critical for students studying remotely from home or overseas. Colleges and universities already provide online learning environments, but these need to be supported by wrap-around digital services to provide realistic alternatives to face to face.
Apps can of course be a great way to connect with students, putting everything they need digitally into the palm of their hand. But without a sound digital student engagement strategy to keep decision makers focussed on why you’re implementing new technology, more often than not the default position is to focus on what is being implemented. And then you run the risk of creating ‘just another app’ that students don’t benefit from, and ultimately choose not to use.
What’s your endgame?
There are a number of reasons why digital student engagement may be important to your institution, and no two organisations will be exactly the same. Below are eight possible themes that could be included in a digital engagement strategy:
- Self-service. In the commercial sector, allowing customers to self-serve has been the largest driver for online services and apps. As consumers we are all accustomed to the convenience of performing tasks digitally that in the past would have required a visit or a phone call. Equally, students expect to do many common tasks online rather than always wanting/needing to speak to an advisor or attend an office. The knock on effect of this is that if you support students to self-serve in the right way, your organisation is likely to become more time efficient in the way cross departments interact and operate, opening more effective ways of working and providing more timely Service Level Agreements.
- Recruitment. College and university apps offer the opportunity to start engaging with potential applicants before they decide which offer to accept. Apps can be used to keep a communication channel open with key applicants and positively promote the institution during that critical period between application and offer(s). And when a student has an offer, the app is a great way to help students overcome any potential anxieties about starting college/university, keeping them engaged right up until they step foot on campus.
- Retention. Some students struggle to settle into their new institution, which may result in them not completing their course. By enabling these ‘at risk’ students to liaise better with tutors and study groups, app technology helps build a better sense of belonging and engagement, and can also help signpost students how to get help if they need it. With apps now being so mainstream, some examples have proven that certain student groups will start to apply peer to peer support using this type of technology, enabling professional relationships to form without the need to share any personal details. This approach is enabling tutors and lecturers to take on a more ‘mentorship’ role and simply supervise those developing key skills, which are crucial to a holistic learner.
- Quality of life. Sounds ambitious, but well designed and integrated mobile technology can make hundreds of small improvements that add up to making a student’s life that bit easier. From telling them when their next bus is due to get them to a lecture on time, to what their reading list is and where they can buy their books, you can start to support students in ways that they will find genuinely useful, relevant and personalised
- Expectations. Although there is a reluctance to treat students as customers, students do of course have a choice and so its important to understand what a student is looking for in their place of study. Students expect institutions to have digital services which match their academic reputations, so if your institution positions itself as innovative and forward looking, this needs to be reflected in the way that your technology supports your students as well.
- Communication. Apps can help those students who may otherwise struggle with face to face communication, especially if they are having personal troubles or problems with their course. In this respect, apps can be a powerful tool to help the student welfare and support teams reach a much larger percentage of the student population than traditional resources. Apps of course are even more vital when it comes to supporting any distance/blended learning and or work experience/placement.
- Teaching & Learning. Far from technology for technology’s sake – apps are proven to enhance the quality of learning, teaching and assessment and improve communication between students and teaching staff. Moreover, the ability for students to engage in secure, private social networking can significantly enhance study group engagement and outcomes. Apps also present your institution with an excellent opportunity to embed a platform that will help staff to promote digital skills, implications of digital reputation, and digital footprints.
- Destinations, Alumni and Employability. There is real value in keeping in touch with graduates, both for the institution and the graduate. Encouraging students to keep their college or university app after graduation makes this process much simpler. And apps are a great way to help the college or university match graduates with employment opportunities. Apps also support ‘life-long learning’, helping students feel like they have truly been a part of a community, which can only lead onto supporting your brand through their experiences and loyalty.
Want to know more about these eight themes of engagement, and explore which are the most relevant for your institution’s digital student engagement programme? Get in touch with your account manager who will be happy to arrange a design workshop with our Student Experience and Learning Technology specialists. Or for more information on how Tribal can help improve student engagement contact us today.