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Survey Results: How Has COVID-19 Impacted Education Providers?

Covid-19 has made for a challenging year in the education sector. With changes in the way that teaching is delivered and recruitment is occuring, we can all relate to the importance of adapting our capabilities and resources to accomodate for the current climate.

With this, we endeavoured to investigate what the education community has done in response to the pandemic, what challenges they face and more importantly what’s working. So we sent out a survey and received some amazing feedback on how the sector has been responding. Thank you to everyone involved!

In short, the industry is looking at a full transfer of delivery to digital platforms. We have never been pushed to ‘go digital’ to this extent before. With Covid propelling many institutions forward in scaling digital and online presence – this situation is an opportunity for providers to move alongside or above their competitors.

At Social Garden, we’ve been lucky enough to continue working with our amazing clients in education marketing, learning and adapting with the changing needs of providers throughout the pandemic.

Let’s break down some of the key findings from our survey…

 

Virtual is the way forward for recruitment events (#breakingnews)

What this means

With the inability for students to physically attend open day events or campus tours, they no longer have the luxury of face-to-face conversations to seek advice on courses, let alone experience what it’s like to be on campus. Prospective students are missing out some crucial steps in their decision making process. Providers have been quick to utilise virtual experiences and technologies to re-create this phase in the student journey. However, it’s been really interesting to see the variance in approaches to virtual recruitment and student experiences.

How others are responding

Providers are innovating event experiences so that students can get a feel for what it means to study with them from the comfort of home, through digital or virtual delivery. With stretched budgets, many providers are finding ways to introduce students to their world of learning at a low cost level. Providers are focused on creating a ‘real-life’ experience, developing easy-to-use and accessible platforms to curate an introspective view of study life.

An example of this is Kangan Institute’s Virtual Open Day – with live webinars, recorded seminars and video content covering course material, live tours and run throughs, and online Q&A sessions.

Griffith University’s Open House is running from 14 July to 1 October – meaning students no longer need to commit to one time or day to learn more, and offers more flexibility as a traditional event.

We’re also loving Deakin Uni’s open day online schedule builder, it’s great UX for planning a students day.

Organisations are also mapping out ways to communicate with students through social touch points – so that it’s easier to reach prospective students. This is including past student take-overs on Instagram, automation through Facebook messenger, and live seminars delivered through Instagram & Facebook.

 

International recruitment needs to innovate, adapt or be put on hold

What this means

With travel-bans in place and confusion over the Australian government’s response to international students, there has been some uncertainty as to when international students will return to Australian classrooms.

The pipeline for international students in the short-term is relatively empty with a small pool of options to recruit from. Therefore efforts in recruitment at an international level are being revised. We’ve seen campaigns put on hold, budgets cut, and communication plans being remapped.

With an increase in competition at a domestic level, effort is largely being focused on this. We’ve spoken to international recruitment staff who have been helping domestic or current student teams, while planning for the next wave of offshore students.

How others are responding

Survey respondents highlighted that they are returning their efforts to domestic students in hope of filling classes at a local level. For most, this has meant going back to the ‘drawing-board’, thinking outside of the conventional way of engaging with students through schools, developing a more direct approach to engagement with potential students via social media, SEM, native advertising, lead nurtures, and more.

There are however, many students eagerly waiting to get into the country! The demand is there, and especially comparing Australia’s Covid figures to the likes of the UK and the US, it may mean students will feel safer here – when they can get in. Along with this, survey respondents have been considering new scholarships or incentives to study for students to help Australia bounce back quickly.

A few of our clients have also decided to play the long game, and double down in the international recruitment space, with plans to pick up more onshore international students, or increase their email marketing activity to prepare and educate leads on why they should stick with their institution when they can come.

 

Students are demanding stability, flexibility and communication

What this means

  1. Stability
    Students want a sense of stability, they want to feel reassured that their provider is looking after them, with certainty that opportunities will open-up from studies after an online course has been completed. Students also want to know that providers can deliver the course effectively and consistently online throughout the semester – without issues through assessment.
  2. Flexibility
    No two students are the same, and each individual is handling the situation quite differently. With this they’re asking for empathy, an understanding of the differences in capabilities, and accessibility to resources and classes. There is demand for flexibility in timing, assessment delivery and channels of communications.
  3. Connection and communication
    In the consideration phase, students want to engage in meaningful and inspiring conversations with someone that can understand their needs and point them in the right direction. Investing in additional calling resources & optimising the sales process may give your organisation the edge through the recruitment period.

Further down in the funnel, students need to be well connected to their peers and their mentors. Without the luxury of interacting with staff, teachers and friends – prodivers could leverage online social networking and platforms for students to interact and communicate around their studies. This might mean quick response frameworks from teachers, video calls, chat platforms, mobile accessible moodle sites and more.

How others are responding

For most respondents in our survey, they felt their organisations needed to update their digital resources for communicating with their students – especially in the recruitment space. People said there was a need to ensure all stages of the student journey were covered, and they wanted investment in content to reassure students that the online experience is up-to scratch. From chatbots to email nurtures, video content or online video tours, providers responded with a need for their ability to develop this type of content.

Others responded highlighting that before going live with any form of ad campaign, they spent time and focus on re-shaping courses to suit digital delivery – to maximise student value. Some said that they strategically focused on rebuilding and improving their course delivery across digital platforms. For example updating the accessibility to online support services or improving speed and ease of site use.

 

Providers need to invest in themselves

What this means

The user experience is dominating how students interact with and learn from providers. If one provider can create a user experience that is seamless, interactive and engaging – they will champion against all their competitors.

Investing in enhancing students’ user experiences and online learning capabilities, weighed heavily on most of our respondents’ budgets. Interestingly, survey results highlighted that less than a quarter of the respondents rated themselves with a 5 out 5 in confidence of their online learning platform. This itself highlights the importance of developing and investing in resourcing to help develop and elevate each student’s online experience.

How others are responding

Providers are investing in ways to enhance their online recruitment strategies, digital advertising capabilities and individual online user experiences.

A vast majority of respondents highlighted that currently their focus was on developing their technology in automation and improving CRM functionality. Investment in these areas focused on an effort to improve user visibility and support personalisation of digital content and activities. Working with the right digital team and specialists has become a big part of the ‘shift to online’ for many providers.

Investment in digital advertising and native advertising, was another focus point for many providers, with effort to increase awareness of initiatives, events and course intakes that would normally be established in person.

In summary

Covid-19 has provided an opportunity – and need – for education providers to re-think and re-strategise the approaches to recruitment and retention. The market is changing, and quickly. It’s been amazing to work with & watch the sector adapt.

The three key things we’d recommend to focus on are:

  1. If you’re struggling to keep up with the scale of your efforts—think about automating CRM functionality to create a seamless process for communications.
  2. Increase your video content and digital output to create an experience as close to ‘real life’ as possible. Video walk-throughs, user generated content, student testimonials and online ‘how-to’ guides are great!
  3. Push your point of difference. For most students, social media will be flooded with brand awareness campaigns. So make sure to establish how your offering is different from everyone else!

Want to read more? Check out our blog written in May 2020 on How we’ve seen the Education market respond to Covid-19.

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