Learner success today requires always-on, holistic support. Just as we expect consumer-facing companies to know our preferences and provide a tailored buying experience, today’s learners expect more from their college or university. During a time when student enrollment and persistence rates are in flux, it’s more important now than ever before to create a connected experience from recruitment and admissions to enrollment and retention.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some key findings from the second edition of the Connected Student Report and suggest three key ways to drive learner success from anywhere.
1. Attract Prospective Students With Compelling Digital Content
The top resource for prospective students to gather information on a college or university is a school’s website, according to 65% of students surveyed globally. In addition to the website, online communities are another important tool for prospective students (27%), as highlighted in the second edition of the Connected Student Report.
This means that it’s especially important for colleges and universities to create tailored digital experiences comparable to consumer brands. With the pandemic continuing to curtail campus visits, it’s important to reach students when and where they are researching schools: online. Strategic SEO campaigns, digital ads, and personalized emails can attract prospective students with the right message delivered at the right time during the college search process. The fact that over a quarter of students surveyed globally are using an online community to connect with other prospective students means that a feeling of belonging has to start before a student even steps foot on campus.
One great example of helping create a sense of belonging even before students arrive on campus is Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Using Education Cloud, the marketing team deployed marketing strategies and tactics that broadened its audience, identified prospective students earlier, discerned where each prospective student was in the recruitment and admissions lifecycle, and nurtured them to take the next step towards enrollment. The community college successfully launched numerous prospective student campaigns. And at a time when public, two-year schools on average were experiencing a 7.5% decrease in enrollment, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, NOVA benefited from an enrollment increase.
Another example of a school using technology effectively to attract prospective students is Texas Tech University (TTU). Using Salesforce, TTU was able to target and segment constituents by population set and move from a one-size-fits-all marketing approach to highly personalized communications and messaging. Through segmented communication, TTU began identifying and communicating with prospective students on a personal level earlier in the recruiting process. This helped attract more honors college students and recruit a record number of Presidential Merit Scholars and National Merit Finalists. In five years, the number of Presidential Scholars grew from 1,733 to 3,966 and National Merit Finalists increased 10-fold to 72. In 10 years, the university saw a six-fold increase in Black students and an eight-fold increase in Hispanic students. Thanks to their improved communications, TTU improved the quantity, quality, and diversity of its student body.
2. Use Consolidated, Personalized Communications to Engage Students
Communications are critical to setting students up for success and building trust. Meaningful engagement not only means strengthening how your institution communicates with students, but also what you say. According to the second edition of the Connected Student Report nearly 9-in-10 students would like their college or university to communicate with them the same amount or more via email, personalized communications, and reminders/alerts. When asked how their university could improve its communications, 42% of students said more personalization. Students are relatively split on the values they think are most important for their institutions to communicate, with the top values being wellbeing (28% say this is most important) and listening to student feedback (27% say this is most important).
It’s extremely difficult to deliver personalized communications at scale with batch-and-blast email tools, so consider leveraging a more integrated platform like Marketing Cloud to create a connected experience for student communications across channels. Indiana University (IU) is one example of how to consolidate communications. Prior to using Marketing Cloud, units and schools across IU had been sending an unknown number of unbranded, inconsistent emails everyday using disparate email-blasting tools.
IU consolidated more than 400 separate email solution instances into a single instance powered by Marketing Cloud. Now, messages can be sent to student, faculty, and staff lists that are updated daily, which dramatically improves targeting. About 70% of the 35 million emails sent university-wide in the first year with Salesforce were properly branded based on email templates, strengthening the university’s brand identity without having to rely on IT.
3. Retain Students by Making it Easy to Get Questions Answered
A key element in retaining students is making it easy for them to succeed from anywhere. The second edition of the Connected Student Report highlighted areas of opportunity for colleges and universities to reimagine how they support students from anywhere with helpful tools like chatbots. The research found that only 29% of students surveyed globally can easily get their questions answered at their college or university.
Additionally, only 27% of students can easily sign up for an advising appointment — something that could be easily automated with a conversational chatbot to help close the gap. And last but not least, over a quarter of students say they have to sign in to two or more different platforms to find answers and access what they need to be successful every day. These use cases are an opportunity for conversational chatbots to get students’ questions answered 24/7, helping them get support fast while freeing up time for other commitments like caregiving or a job.
Ready to take your learner success efforts to the next level? Learn more with these resources:
Check out the highlights of the Connected Student Report
Learn about the power of chatbots from the Chronicle of Higher Education
Join us on October 12th for a chatbot webinar with Southern Methodist University
About the Author
Director, Education Cloud Product Marketing, Salesforce.org
Manager, Research Content at Salesforce.org