How to Virtually Build a Sense of Community Spirit for Students

The traditional teaching model has changed indefinitely, and there is no guarantee of when students and teachers can resume the full classroom teaching model again. With social distancing measures put in place in response to the dangers of the Coronavirus pandemic, most teaching has moved to the virtual space, through online lectures and video calls. As a result, schools and universities risk losing their personal touch and trusting bonds with students who have grown up accustomed to the physical presence of their teacher.

Research has shown that dropout rates are often 10-20% higher in distance education courses than in traditional courses. Much of this has been attributed to the fact that separation has a tendency to reduce the sense of community, giving rise to feelings of disconnection, isolation, distraction, and lack of personal attention, which could affect student persistence in distance education courses or programmes.

In order to increase students’ levels of satisfaction and the likelihood of persisting in an academic course, institutions must place larger emphasis on community spirit through developing relationships with other members of the learning community.

Despite the barriers posed by not being able to gather in large groups, it is still possible to harness a sense of belonging to boost engagement with schools and universities through virtual measures. If institutions fail to adopt stronger tactics that promote membership to the academic community across the virtual space, not only will they risk losing massive proportion of prospective leads, but they will also see unprecedented dropout rates in the years to come.

Methods of building a sense of community through distanced learning has been outlined by Alfred Rovai through the following dimensions.

Spirit

The dimension of spirit recognises membership in a community and the feelings of friendship, cohesion, and bonding that develop among learners as they enjoy one another and look forward to time spent together.

Schools and universities can help develop a feeling of connectedness through the effective use of online tools, such as social media, to encourage conversation and simulate on-campus community spirit.

A great example of social media being used by a university to promote community spirit is the University of Nottingham promoting the use of the hashtag #WeAreUoN for their online graduation day. Using this hashtag, the university encouraged graduating students to share their celebrations on social media, connecting students, professors, and alumni together from their homes.

Trust

Trust, the second dimension, is the feeling that community members can be trusted and represents a willingness to rely on other members of the community. To foster trust, institutions need to establish credibility so that students feel like they can rely on their learning community.

Cultivating trust requires teachers, lecturers and management teams to provide top quality online resources, such as recorded lectures, detailed slides and up-to-date reading, to minimise concerns that standards will be compromised in the new remote learning environment.

Interaction

Learner interaction is an essential element of, but not the full solution to, the development of a sense of community. In the physical classroom environment, students rely on social cues to establish friendships and facilitate greater group participation.

Two types of group functions to be mindful of are:

  • functions related to the work
  • functions related to building and maintaining the learning community.

Learning platforms or course management systems must be fully optimised to allow for effective interactions between students and teachers, enabling submission of answers and detailed feedback.

In building a sense of community for students, institutions should look to invest in online tools, such as direct messaging and forums as they enable a constant flow of communication and keeps all members of the learning community engaged with each other.

The online overhaul of the educational space means that institutions must adapt their communication strategies to continue to build meaningful relationships with their students, as well as provide effective tools that promote cohesiveness within the student community. Institutions that fail to do so will struggle to maintain strong reputations in the Covid-19 era.

Proodle appreciates that in order to stay on top of the game, we must move forward with the dynamism of technology and customise digital content that the current generation of students can easily engage with.

What Proodle Solutions offers is an innovative and secure personalised mobile platform for the potential student, which introduces institutions and programmes in a whole new way to make an everlasting impression. We help students understand what a university is about, their requirements, the application process and notify them on the latest social events.

If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159

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Kiran Athwal September 30, 2020 0 Comments

Why Universities Will Fail to Recruit International Students

It comes to no surprise that Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on a great number of industries, with Higher Education being one of the largest sectors to be hit financially. A poll conducted by UCU in May found that 1 in 5 students were considering deferring their entry until the following year, which YouthSite stated would incur in a loss of £760m for UK universities. However, what is more frightening is the amount of money UK universities face to lose with 121,000 fewer international first-year students attending UK universities this year, resulting in a £2.5bn funding black hole.

In response to the fears of  declining numbers of international students, The British Council has announced a £1 million boost for the Study UK advertising campaign to promote study in the UK in 16 key markets. The campaign aims to convert late-stage applicants to the UK for enrolment in the UK.

However, despite government-backed schemes, these statistics show that international students are more apprehensive than ever to enrol into a university abroad amidst the global health panic and uncertainties regarding travel restrictions.

The Problem on the Student’s Side:

If the UK government are placing such heavy emphasis on the recruitment of international students and are actively showcasing a desire to integrate them into the fabric of their Higher Education system, why are prospects still rejecting or deferring their offers?

The answer lies in the fact that universities are failing to effectively communicate relevant information to students abroad and as a result, they are reluctant to proceed with their applications further in the current climate.

In a study conducted by QS, they found that prospective international students had a range of concerns that they needed addressing from universities if they were to consider studying abroad. These concerns included changes to application deadlines (53%), changes to the application process (51%), and changes to the dates of any entrance exams (44%).

 

 

Regarding how international prospects wanted to see this information communicated to them, the range of channels included online newsletters (51%), dedicated sections on university websites (45%), and online forums and discussion groups (32%).

 

What is evident from these findings is that there is a greater emphasis on the importance of establishing a strong online presence and making all relevant information easily accessible. Currently, there is no single platform that streamlines all relevant university application information and nurtures prospective students right from the stage of enquiry to enrolment. Consequentially, prospects are finding it increasingly more difficult to justify their study abroad when they cannot find consistent guidance at each stage of their enrolment journey.

The Problem on the University’s side:

Universities want to grow their international numbers now as they know in the next five years, it is going to be a bigger challenge for them. They want a digital change in the recruitment activities they currently do but they want to do it with low risk and high return in investment due to budget cuts.

In a poll conducted by QS assessing the biggest student recruitment pains during this time, respondents claimed these were their shortfalls:

  • Conversion from enquiry to enrolled (41%)
  • Knowing which digital marketing platform to focus on (23%)
  • Identifying target markets (15%)
  • Lead generation (7%)
  • Other (14%)

The biggest pain in tracking and converting prospective international students is that universities have not got a conversion platform that nurtures them throughout the entire enrolment process.

The process from enquiry to enrolment takes around 10 months and in that time, leads are often lost or are stuck at a certain stage because there is not enough guidance regarding what steps to take next.

Additionally, university information is far too dispersed and not only is this a problem for the current cohort of Gen-Z students who demand information quickly and easily, but it means that university student recruitment staff are constantly having to check and update information across various channels including their university website, UCAS, emails, external forums etc.

With current student recruitment methods, which include endless emails and automated responses, universities will fail to convert prospective international students who are already tired of being bombarded with information irrelevant to them and are seeking a personalised experience which will make them feel especially wanted at institutions abroad.

To prevent a catastrophic decline in international student numbers, institutions should consider centralising their communications on a personalised platform which is easy for students to navigate and for universities to track the behaviour of their leads. With marketing budgets shrinking, recruitment teams must think of a way to focus expenditure on as few avenues as possible, whilst maintaining the high-quality standard they have worked so hard to achieve already.

How Proodle Can Save Declining International Student Numbers:

Numbers of international students enrolling into universities in the UK are falling.

It’s time to shake up student recruitment plans and breathe fresh air into the way universities market themselves, standing out as world-class institutions ready to reassert their presence as global powerhouses.

At Proodle Solutions, we have designed the latest innovative product in education technology to completely transform the international student enrolment experience for both higher education marketing and recruitment teams, as well as the next batch of intelligent prospective students.

Proodle’s state-of-the-art technological solution streamlines student application and enrolment processes and empowers student recruiters to carry out operational activities entirely facilitated by a mobile app. From online forums to virtual reality interaction, Proodle removes uncertainties about missing out on the authenticity of face-to-face interactions and brings it to life on a virtual platform. Proodle simplifies the process of creating opportunities for recruitment advisors to engage with prospective students, so they can manage peer interactions and configure page content that will be updated on users’ devices.

During uncertain times such as this, it is key that universities take the opportunity to embrace the digital resources available to ensure they maintain an effective flow of operations and stay connected to their students. Ed-tech is the way forward. Capitalising on digital strategies now will only reap greater rewards in the long run.

Proodle appreciates that in order to stay on top of the game, we must move forward with the dynamism of technology and customise digital content that the current generation of students can easily engage with.

What Proodle Solutions offers is an innovative and secure personalised mobile platform for the potential student, which introduces institutions and programmes in a whole new way to make an everlasting impression. We help students understand what a university is about, their requirements, the application process and notify them on the latest social events.

If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159

 

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Kiran Athwal August 20, 2020 0 Comments

The Importance of Diversification in Universities in the UK

The global coronavirus crisis has spotlighted just how dependent UK Higher Education Institutions are on international students. Aside from the financial risks posed by the lower influx of international students in the following year, which the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) project will cause a loss of more than £100 million in income, the diversification of the student body will be hugely affected.

According to 2018/2019 data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), Chinese students currently comprise 35% of all non-EU international students at 120,385 students. However, recent statistics show that numbers of Chinese students applying to study abroad were already declining before Covid-19.

The growing percentage of students considering studying domestically could be due to the economic strain of an aging population, greater affordability in Chinese higher education, or impressive rankings growth (China now boasts 19 of the world’s top 200 research universities, increasing from 12 in 2016, in the QS World University Rankings 2020).

Benefits of international students to UK Universities:

Aside from the fiscal profits that universities benefit from, the acceptance of international students to UK universities is conducive to increasing domestic students’ awareness of different cultures beyond their own.

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education identifies “global citizenship” as a key feature of 21st century higher education; this is described as ‘encouraging a capacity to thrive in a globalised society and economy, and an awareness of cultures beyond and different to one’s own’.

In addition, international students have long been the heart of innovation and research at UK institutions. Overseas researchers and PhD students play a vital role in continually refreshing the UK’s research base, and in developing our position as a world-leading research nation.

Focusing on greater diversity:

With more and more prospective international students looking to cancel or defer their study abroad, universities must revitalise their strategy for more inclusivity if they are to maintain their global standing. Currently, the biggest international markets for incoming students to the UK are China, India and USA.

However, with the threat to the number of international intakes next year, universities should look to diversify their international student recruitment rather than relying on certain outsized regions.  Underestimating the impact of socioeconomic trends and population forecasts, as many higher education experts have agreed, can affect an institution’s revenue outcome.

Additionally, universities that fail to diversify the country of origin of their next cohort of international students miss an opportunity to diversify their campus, enriching the student experience for all.

In understanding the motivations of the next cohort of international students, QS consultant, Kesh Patel, states that, “establishing why they want to study abroad, what they’re looking for in an institution, course, and career, and post-graduation plans are important factors when deciding if you can offer them an attractive proposition.”

What do international students expect from UK institutions?

A mistake that can be easy to make is assuming that all international students are one homogenous group when in fact, their interests, motivations, and goals vary between different areas.

QS’s recent study outlines what prospective students from different regions of the world expect from Higher Education institutions when it comes to choosing their study abroad destinations.

North American students interested in studying in the UK state that these are the most important factors in choosing a host country: culture and lifestyle (56%), quality teaching (49%), and affordable tuition (46%).

In Southeast Asia, students state that these are their most important factors: it’s welcoming to international students (63%), universities have quality teaching (48%), and affordable cost of living (48%).

The study also investigated student trends in West Africa; while students from Africa make up a smaller proportion of the international student pool, Nigerian students made it to the top 10 source countries for the UK with 10,645 students for the 2018/2019 school year, according to HESA.

African students interested in studying in the UK state that these are the most important factors in choosing a host country: it’s welcoming to international students (68%), high quality teaching (53%), and affordable cost of living (48%).

Evidently, all three regions discussed show a trend in students considering high quality teaching and affordability as priority factors when choosing a host country for their study abroad. Using these statistics, universities can tailor their recruitment and marketing activities to showcase the best that the UK has to offer to attract a more diverse cohort of students.

A globalised student body offers UK universities the opportunity to maximise their appeal in the Higher Education market as they bring a plethora of benefits with them, such as increased research power, in-demand skills, and an enrichening cultural experience for all. Diversification is what makes UK universities a melting pot for global success and with the challenges posed by Coronavirus for the following year, it is imperative that UK institutions maintain strong relationships with their international partners and students.

Proodle appreciates that in order to stay on top of the game, we must move forward with the dynamism of technology and customise digital content that the current generation of students can easily engage with.

What Proodle Solutions offers is an innovative and secure personalised mobile platform for the potential student, which introduces institutions and programmes in a whole new way to make an everlasting impression. We help students understand what a university is about, their requirements, the application process and notify them on the latest social events on one streamlined platform.

If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159

Read More
Kiran Athwal July 30, 2020 0 Comments