The value of dedicated student communication


Student Experience in 2008 could be summarised as 9am-5pm support, long enrolment queues, paper-based grant applications, and moving from building to building to resolve any issues that may be had. The great hope in 2008 was to be able to enrol from home, ask a question at any time, and receive notifications electronically through email.

Fast-forward a decade to 2018 and students expect a very different kind of experience – but in too many cases, still get the 2008 reality.

In 2018, students now expect their university and college to match the expectations that they have with other brands. If a student was to buy an item online and had a less than satisfactory service, increasingly they would not send a letter or email to the company. Instead, they would look to social media apps such as Facebook or Twitter, to make a complaint directly.

Sharing information is becoming increasingly difficult for education providers, with learners today having access to multiple screens, conversations and messages every day. Many institutions look to their virtual learning environment (VLE) to provide the student experience, however these depositories of content offer little to improving experience and often haven’t been updated in years. Interactions are sporadic and cannot be tracked through the whole student journey, from recruitment to graduation.

"students now expect their university and college to match the expectations that they have with other brands"

Students have voiced that being contacted via their personal social media accounts is a big no-no, with feedback saying that they found it ‘creepy’. This method provides a wide range of problems, from safe-guarding to students feeling like their personal lives are being scrutinised.

Instead, institutions should focus the need to be conversational, convenient and immediate. A good student experience should come from a personalised approach to every individual, as every student has different requirements and expectations.

Research has shown that students do want to communicate with their provider, and their peers, but with a dedicated trusted college or university branded app. Everything they need to know, everyone they might want to speak to, and familiar looking 24/7 access, all in one place, on their smart phone. They would prefer social collaboration groups that complement the structured communication of VLEs.

Yet putting instant 24/7 communication in the palms of students’ and staff hands, inevitably mean a cultural shift within the educational institution. Research suggests that even when there is an organisational appetite for a mobile app, they require a contribution from everyone to make it a success.

"A good student experience should come from a personalised approach to every individual, as every student has different requirements and expectations."

Tribal is starting a communication revolution and giving students the experience they now expect and what they hope for in the future.

Providers that wish to bridge their communication disconnect, or want advice on how to do it should speak to Tribal about Student Engage, a social collaboration app that enables staff and students to communicate and collaborate in a safe and secure environment.

Student Engage integrates with student information systems to provide a seamless experience. We have designed and developed a system that allows you to put the student at the heart of your communication strategy. From improving engagement with class activities, to supporting real-time, relevant interaction through an app - your students will get the support they need and your organisation can work as efficiently as possible.

From recruitment through to employment, we can provide you with a single view of all your communication with a student so that you help increase their engagement, retention and success.

This March we attended Digifest18 to talk about the digital expectations of the connected student. We asked the question Is there more to student digital experience than just the VLE? Here are our top tips we collated from our session:

1. Segment your conversations

Think about your personal life; you wouldn’t have conversations from your friends, family and work colleagues all mixed together in a single feed. Having distinct topic threads means a student or staff member can keep track of what’s going on and it ensures that learning life is separate from social life (even if some individuals might appear in multiple threads).

2. Technology as a supporter

Today’s student knows (inherently) how to use a digital application – it’s the job of staff to teach them how to use it effectively. Digital technology should only ever make life easier and supplement a person’s skillset. What it shouldn’t do is replace basic skills. Many of you told us that simple skills such as the ability to complete an application form with relevant information had been lost and this was attributed to a ‘copy & paste’ culture.

3. Allow students to feel safe

Using private, supervised collaborative spaces that students (and staff) can feel comfortable in, without the fear of discrimination or prejudice. Groups can be monitored, and better learning relationships can be fostered.

4. Listen to the silent majority

We often see very strong opinions both positive and negative for everything these days. But what about everyone else? Be mindful of the many when it comes to choosing the technology. Many people will wait for early adopters to lead the way but a new technology will only be a success if its easy to use for everyone.

5. Support the learner journey

Success is measured not just by a degree. Technology can add value to a student’s experience at university. We here more and more that the relationships born at university and the additional life skills learnt communally can increase employability just as much as the level of degree.

Download the Student Engage Overview