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Using technology to support your students during Coronavirus: 5 things institutions are doing

These are extraordinary and unsettling times. Certainty and clarity of what the future holds is as rare as toilet roll. And of course, students will be feeling this too. They need us to rally together, keep calm and try our hardest to carry on as normal.

With university, college and work closures, exam cancellations and financial concerns, now more than ever, we need to support students to stay emotionally strong and focused, whilst we build them a new normal.

Over the last few weeks we've seen a huge spike in the number of messages and notifications being sent via our student app Engage, in some cases with nearly 3x more traffic compared to this time last year.  To support you during these challenging times, we wanted to share some ways our customers have been using  technology to stay connected with their students and to assist their virtual learning.

Keeping students up to date with the latest developments

With many education institutions facing closures for a long period, their apps are providing a quick and easy way to stay in touch with students and each other wherever they are. Even if you're not on site, you can all still stay connected through a safe and secure platform.

It’s a fast changing landscape with new announcements and considerations every day. Principals and senior leaders are sending instant messages through the master account to immediately update everyone on their current stance, sparking dozens of likes, comments and questions from students. Over 80% of colleges using our app have sent notifications to their students about coronavirus. They are using blast messaging with daily updates and have set up dedicated news pages for all the latest guidance and advice.

With a lot of fake news surfacing at times like these, students will know that anything they see on your app is reputable and accurate. Institutions are using the platform to stop the spread of fake news by linking to NHS guidelines and posting messages such as “we can confirm that no students or staff have been diagnosed with covid-19 and we remain open".

Moving to online learning and keeping your students engaged

As institutions prepare to move to online learning, technology will clearly need to play a key part. We've seen 6th form colleges using a combination of Engage and their virtual classroom environments, such as google classroom, to manage all their online teaching.

It's important to make sure all your groups are set up to reflect appropriate class structures and titles so that you can efficiently support your students remotely. During this time, Engage can easily be used to post class materials to all your students, share videos, participate in discussion groups or use more creative methods like quizzes to keep the students engaged throughout their learning.

Having their normal routine disrupted could be very unsettling. If tutors are able to use technology to keep students on track with their studies, it could be just what they need. Providing some structure and focus to your people's lives will help them to keep a sense of order and normality, to feel productive and give them a sense of accomplishment.

Protecting their emotional health

Some students may be in isolation, but that doesn't mean they have to feel isolated. The next few months will be tough on everyone, staying positive and connected in our current world will be hard.

Institutions are using the app to direct students to the support available to help them with  their emotional wellbeing, as well as posting fun memes and good vibes messages to lift their spirits.

It's crucial to maintain human interaction and with a private, social network, the app provides a virtual community and support group for all your students to help each other and to reduce concerns or anxiety. Encourage students to share how they are dealing with social distancing, and offer tips and advice for others.

Tutors can quickly and easily provide praise and celebrate achievements through the app. If the student has concerns, or questions, they can reach out immediately to their tutors for support.

Pastoral Tutors are being used as direct information points for worried students, with other institutions setting up virtual weekly Q&As with a member of student support.

Identifying students at risk

Staff can see in the app whether students are opening their messages. If a learner hasn't engaged with anything for a while they may be experiencing difficulties, or may be worried or bored.

The profanity filters in Engage are also being used to inform safeguarding staff of students who are showing signs of being particularly worried about the situation. Either of these could trigger a tutor to reach out to an individual with additional support.

Supporting your staff too

With staff working from home, just as with students they don’t have the support network physically around them as they do usually at work. Online staff only groups are being created to support online learning. Staff are using the app to share best practice examples of creating engaging online learning lessons, and educational technology such as quiz tools, paperless planning tools, presentation tools, maths tools and video sharing.

If you’d like to talk to our team about how you can use your app to support your students during these challenging times, do get in touch, we’d be happy to chat. Or if you don’t yet have an student app in your institution download our brochure to find out more.