Like any business where highly engaged employees are the most active on staff, generating the most business and serving as ambassadors of your brand, high student engagement leads to improved student experience over time. Especially at this time, we can’t yet call post-COVID. The best brands are positioning themselves differently with technology, administrative automations, re-tooled processes, or work from home models; it’s critical that our educational institutions also take this approach.
Students look for wisdom, empathy, cooperation, and entrepreneurial guidance from smart college campuses. They seek flexible attendance models where they can choose to be in person, hybrid, or online. But a successful transition to this kind of model remains overwhelming for some institutions and, despite the 2+ year runway driving change, are lagging in their remediation of long-term programming.
Raise the Bar to Match Gen Z Expectations
Those born after 1997 are a generation that never knew life before Google. Gen Z are “digital natives” — they’ve never seen an existence without the most advanced, portable technologies on their person full time, use social media as a form of capital and connection, and live in an online world where the separation between work, home, and school is minimal. As a result of the pandemic, they face the most uncertain future of any generation alive, in a world filled with political unrest and a deluge of messages about how they should think and feel. 40% report feeling stressed as a result of politics, with 20% reporting physical ramifications of stress. GenZ is the most likely of the generations to self-identify their mental health concerns.
Building a Campus that Improves Student Experience
There is an urgent need to reinvest to make the academic experience of the younger generation flawless. But it’s not just about convenience. It’s also about the data accessibility, privacy, and collaborative experience that shape the experience of today’s students. The smartest academic institutions will pay close attention to everyday life. Using data, surveys, focus groups, or messaging studies, colleges must strive to spot and analyze the preferences of young students.
Talking About it Isn’t Enough
Most colleges and universities already have planned a new vision for their campuses with student experience at the center. The key is to adapt and embrace changes that create more growth opportunities, allow students to learn better, and improve their academic journey quickly, not waiting for “perfect” but embracing instead the “iterative.”
As marketers in the Education sector, we see many universities adapting with varying degrees of success. Consider these:
Reinvent Learning Programs
Lifelong learning starts in a conventional classroom but attempts at reinvention must be made. Develop and offer custom learning programs and collaborative methods for students. Be sure to ask the students what their own vision might be and what spells success for them. But concentrate on high-quality instruction to render the best student experience, while prioritizing these changes.
Invite compelling speakers to build morale, motivate, and inform.
Having a campus ambassador is not a new phenomenon, but Gen Z views this as a valued initiative. Opt for ambassadors that can raise awareness about campus vision in a friendly tone and train for it. Alumni are a great source for ambassadors, mentoring, student development, and other initiatives. Utilize this group as a grassroots feedback loop, instructing next steps for marketing messaging, and even campus problem-solving.
Invest in Education Innovations
Seek tech-based solutions to improve learning, keep an eye on trends, and expand networking opportunities to offer more structured and flexible programs. Use collected data to analyze and improve the student experience and compete in the market. Consider sharing this data in the classroom, creating change agents within the base of students as they study.
Investing in student experience is not a one-time investment. Instead, it is a continuous and gradual journey that will clear the hurdles that impact student experience over time. Educational institutions can focus on student engagement to improve the student experience, leading to student success.
From the Marketing Pros
College campuses often confuse student engagement with the student experience. Take steps to separate the two, measuring them separately but understanding how one is impacted by the other. Remember, student engagement is the degree of a student’s own investment to participate or learn about an activity. Engagement comes with a high degree of influence on college campuses. The experience is the path or structure set by faculty and staff that make engagement possible. It reflects an individual’s composite interactions and activities through information, physical learning or interacting spaces, and technology.
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