October 04, 2016
Want to attract better students? Then deliver a better student experience…
By: $name

In the UK, apprenticeships are increasingly attractive in light of the competition for places at the very top universities, combined with a near tripling in the cost of a degree in recent years. The nature of the term ‘student’ is also changing: only half of all acceptances to university are 18 year olds, and there are significantly more part-time students, mature students, non-continuous, international, transfers etc. Many of these students desire flexibility and convenience in addition to academic relevance.

With 6% of UK students dropping out of university after their first year, and the average debt for university leavers now at £44,000 – universities are suddenly finding themselves competing harder for a dwindling number of students who expect good value for money. So what’s the answer?

What do students want…?

Just as regular citizens are demanding more digital, personalised experiences from government agencies, university students are demanding more from technology in the classroom and the campus. Digital natives are entering university with greater digital expectations – they want high performing technology in their educational and administrative experience which reflects the connectivity that they experience in their daily personal lives.

The kinds of new technologies emerging have the potential to transform the student learning experience. Universities will have to adapt and become more responsive to these types of technology in order to continue to attract and retain students.

Accenture’s Global Value of Higher Education study found that:

  • 80% of the university students surveyed said that digital capabilities were important when deciding which university to attend.
  • 70% want their institution to use more digital tools, both inside and outside the classroom.
  • 81% want more integration of technology into the classroom experience, online access to materials and online availability of classes.

Yet 44% of students and graduates said their university provides no digital tools for learning.

To remain competitive, universities must attract, engage, satisfy and sustain relationships with their students by enhancing the university experience to include adequate digital methods of learning. There is a challenge to integrate and choose the ‘right level’ of digital into education; it is difficult to choose tools and fully understand what technology concepts will work and succeed when planning for the future, especially as the infrastructure to support futuristic ‘Smart Campus’ technology is not typically in place within the traditional university setting.

‘Anytime’ Learning

Students want efficient learning in real time – not just in the lecture hall or the library. They are naturally familiar with the immediacy and interactivity of online, mobile, video and social tools, and expect on-demand, self-led learning. By evaluating current programmes, assessing technology and digitising aspects of existing course content, universities have the opportunity to improve learning outcomes which can become unbounded by the constraints of time and geography.

This could include allowing students to access pre-course materials easily from a range of supporting technology, and receive instant feedback on post-course evaluations. Online courses, increased social collaboration, simulations, immersive learning, and information delivered in smaller, “bite-sized” portions, then reinforced over time, can engage students and provide a more satisfying, longer-lasting learning experience.

Exploring opportunities along the student journey

Universities can look to assess their digital maturity and digitise current content, but innovating the student experience is not exclusively technology led. Enhancing the student experience requires the balance of face to face learning with appropriate digital tools, as well as looking at influencing factors from an administrative perspective to increase student satisfaction. Universities should be:

  • Embracing digital realities into an existing culture and implementing a digital mindset –preparing for a culture shift and change in leadership behaviours
  • Reinventing teaching, administration and alumni relations for a holistic approach to digital engagement across the entire student journey
  • Implementing targeted analytics across a university and leveraging behavioural and performance data analytics to support and guide student success, while attracting and retaining students.
  • Offering a learning environment with multiple channels for different content thereby increasing personalisation
  • Providing career support, lifelong learning opportunities and digital means to customise engagement and interactions with alumni.

From expanding innovative teaching, using IoT driven insights, proactively recruiting students, offering increased student support, delivering efficient and effective paths to graduation and maintaining lifelong relationships with alumni—there are multiple ways to use digital to graduate to the next level in student engagement.

Tune into the final part in the series and learn how to bridge the gap between expectations and reality to help students to find work after education. 

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