3 Ways to Streamline Higher Ed Tasks

Digital transformation has at last made its way to higher education, and staff need to take advantage of the perks.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jamie Riepe

CREDIT Signal Vine img.jpgIt’s no secret that higher education staff are often spread thin across their many responsibilities – from managing student enrollment to overseeing residential life to directing financial aid and back again. Digital transformation has at last made its way to higher education, and staff need to take advantage of the perks.

From staff organization to student communication to online learning experiences, tools that bring higher education into the digital age are becoming more commonplace.

The benefit?

Streamlined processes, and ultimately, improved staff capacity over time.

From staff organization to student communication to online learning experiences, tools that bring higher education into the digital age are becoming more commonplace.

In the case of uAspire, an organization that helps students find affordable ways to access postsecondary education, staff implemented a student texting strategy that increased advisor capacity from 300 students per advisor to a caseload of more than 1,000 students per advisor.

With all the digital tools available today, it’s important to uncover which ones will be the most beneficial to higher ed staff in areas that need it most. Below are a few key insights your institution can use to effectively embrace digital transformation and streamline processes for staff:

Streamlining staff organization

There is a significant need among higher ed staff for a streamlined system of communication.

With dozens of admin-related deadlines and important student-related events happening at any given time, multiplied by hundreds and even thousands of students, the task of effectively communicating important information across campus quickly becomes overwhelming.

A system that combines automated and personalized messaging is a great way to get important messages out across the board, while still maintaining a one-on-one feel.

This means that email no longer cuts it.

Higher ed staff need to enter the digital age and say goodbye to archaic methods of linear communication, like email, which students delete without reading, and implement a more intuitive system for cross-campus communication. Build in additional support features – like instant message options and tutorial videos for staff – and you’re golden.

Streamlining student communication

We’ve established that email communication is on its way out the door – so what is the best way for higher ed to reach students with messages they will actually listen and respond to?

First of all, messages must be clear and to the point.

If students see paragraphs upon paragraphs of text, they are likely to ignore your message altogether.

Only the most relevant information – who, what, when, how, etc. – is necessary.

Secondly, make sure to personalize your communication.

Students don’t want to feel like you are blasting out blanket messaging – and they’ll be able to tell if you have. A personal touch and being available to respond back quickly will make students much more likely to engage with your message.

Finally, personal touches can go too far if you use too much shorthand. Students want to be spoken to like an adult, so avoid certain abbreviations like “u” for “you” and “2” for “to.”

Streamlining the online learning experience

Online learning has grown in popularity over the last few years – to the point that some universities exist exclusively online.

According to a recent report from Online Learning Consortium, one in four students in higher education is taking an online course.

For students who opt in to online learning, engagement is critical. Staff need a specific plan in place to make sure each student feels connected and appreciated.

To accomplish this, staff should set a specific schedule for checking in with students and stick to it, whether that’s weekly, bi-weekly, or mid-course. Determine what those check-ins will be: touching base to find out how each student is handling the course load, opportunities for feedback about the course, “getting to know you” sessions, etc. And don’t make it all about checking in – help students set goals and motivate them by rewarding their individual successes. The ultimate goal is to recreate the feeling of a classroom virtually.

There are several areas within higher education in which implementing digital tools can help make life easier for staff.

With all the options available, it’s important to be intentional about creating an effective strategy that focuses on the areas that could benefit the most from digital transformation: staff organization, student communication, and online learning environments.

With the right tools in place, higher ed staff capacity has the potential to increase, creating even more opportunities to help students reach their goals. 

Jamie Riepe is Chief Revenue Officer of Signal Vine, an enterprise text messaging platform transforms the way higher education institutions reach and engage students. The company serves more than 200 higher education organizations, including the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, University of New Mexico, and Austin Community College.

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