Best in Class: Finding Answers to Higher Education’s Top Engagement Challenges Amidst COVID-19

Every challenge is an opportunity, they say and the outbreak of the COVID‐19 pandemic has turned tides of the education system in more ways than ever. The way our governments, institutions and people think and function will change radically and perhaps for good. Among many economic sectors, the higher education sector is undergoing a tectonic shift right now. What several thinkers and education technologists have been forecasting for a while, is now happening. COVID-19 has brought home the reality that education technology that delivers great and engaging content for both students and teachers has always been the need of the hour.

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, students and professors in large numbers across the globe have been displaced from universities and have been confined to their homes. Thus, higher education stands disintegrated leaving faculty and students to struggle with the new norm of complete online teaching and learning. In situations like these, it becomes all the more relevant to maintain strong relationships with students to uphold the trust and confidence which can to some extent be a difficult assignment. However, if the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected. Let’s explore some of these challenges and look at key recommendations to help your student experience make the grade in the post COVID-19 era.

Career Readiness

The goal of any institution should be to produce graduates that are prepared and ready to join the workforce. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, only 60 percent of all college students graduate with a Bachelor’s, Associate’s, or Certificate degree within eight years. Making matters worse, this number might lower further as a vast number of students have been limited to home during the crucial months of February- April, when most of the curriculum and assessment activities take place or is the beginning of a new curriculum year. Both students and institutions are under tremendous pressure to not lose academic time and revive their teaching- learning in the only possible way- online learning. Another dilemma faced by students is that employers today often require new and varied skill sets that aren’t always offered at traditional universities. This trend will continue as industries like manufacturing and engineering seek new individuals to fill depleting roles. To help students compete in the real world, higher education institutes should partner with trade schools to make a smooth transition from the learning environment to the job. Additionally, they should offer digital badges, certificates, and micro-credentials – and, they should help students complete these credentials in less time and at a lower cost. Focusing on real-world learning not only leads to greater employability but also fosters loyalty for intuitions offering solutions that match student wants or needs.

Online and Blended Learning

Why do we need a crisis to rethink education and how it functions? But technology changes the role the teacher plays right from directing to supporting and guiding. At the end of the day, no matter where the students are and how old they are, they should be able to make the most of education with the benefit of great technical innovations that can easily and swiftly identify, respond and expose them to in-depth learning. Other busy schedules that consist of work, family, and other activities leave little room to pursue an education. That’s why more students are going back to school later in life and looking for institutions that help them meet their educational goals in ways that fit their lifestyles and needs. In a recent Lumina Foundation report, 38% of undergraduates were over the age of 25 and that number is expected to increase through 2025. Even in online and blended learning environments, it’s imperative that institutions provide each student with a personalized and engaging learning experience. Simply providing online webinars doesn’t cut it. Students crave engaging, rigorous online learning programs that incorporate tailored services with innovative digital solutions.

Data, Analytics, and the Student Journey

Businesses today use actionable insights to improve the customer experience and business success metrics such as customer satisfaction, retention, and Net Promoter Score. These tools are equally important in higher education to attract and retain students as well as improve the performance of individual learners. Yet many institutions struggle operationally to connect infrastructure, instruction, and assessment to create a holistic view of students, faculty, and alumni. This can be detrimental to an institution’s bottom line when it comes to loss of funding or harm to reputation because of poor performance. Best-in-class institutions are redefining the student experience and leveraging comprehensive data and analytics to make a measurable impact on student learning and success. This includes assessing the current student experience, mapping the desired experience across all phases of the student journey, and creating personalized learning paths for every student. When higher education institutions treat students as unique individuals, they will attract and retain a more diverse and inclusive student body.

One thing’s for sure that, even in the post COVID-19 era, traditional or in-classroom education models will not get outmoded. They will survive. However, an amalgamation of classroom and online modes will be the norm. Institutions and teachers will combine the two wisely according to the context and the content. Only institutions that will put the student experience first will be uniquely equipped to serve the generations to come. For more information on Startek’s CX solutions for higher education, please visit our contact us page.