How universities can make online learning a competitive advantage

  • Posted on May 7, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Digital Transformation Advantage In Online Learning

This article was originally written by Avanade alum Chris Horton.

As the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown passes, it’s clear to see how student life has changed over the past twelve months. With so many students staying at home, universities have scrambled to update their entire approach to accommodate remote learning.

Even before the pandemic hit, demand for online education and improved digital student services was steadily increasing. In fact, the global online education industry would be worth $350bn by 2025.

But putting lectures online isn’t the where the ‘digital university’ experience ends. What the last 12 months have highlighted is that it’s not just class time that needs to be considered. There needs to be a holistic re-evaluation of the whole student lifecycle.

Universities up and down the country need to be asking some searching questions:

  • Are we in-tune with our student's wants and needs from learning, engagement, and support perspectives?
  • Are we providing our off-campus students with the same engagement and value-for-money as our local students?
  • Do we have a complete 360-degree view of the student’s data?
  • Do we have same process implemented consistently across faculties? Or are we seeing inconsistent outcomes? For example, in complaints handling or coursework marking.
  • Are we engaging with our students in the way that they choose? Do we support the right media platforms?
  • Does our digital strategy allow us to be agile and react quickly and effectively to socio-economic changes?

If your answer to at least half of these is ‘no’, then read on…

A league of their own
Learning, of course is the crux of university life, and engaging students in their studies is paramount to good grades, student retention, league table results and the general running of any academic institution. Plus, with rising tuition costs and an increasingly competitive job market, students are expecting more out of their degrees than ever before.

But when you can’t be in a room together for lectures and seminars, how can you ensure remote students are really tuning in and getting the most out of their online sessions?

Taking video conferencing to the next level
To engage students remotely on a level that they feel they’re getting real bang for their buck, isn’t easy. But combining a student engagement strategy with cutting-edge technology is a great place to start.

Of course, a great deal of emphasis has been put on video conferencing software to facilitate distance learning. For example, lectures conducted over Microsoft Teams can be recorded so students can go back and review material at a later date – perfect when revising for exams. And features such as breakout rooms for smaller group discussions can be used to emulate seminar-style classes.

The software can also be used for one-to-one personal tutor check-ins, buddy systems with older students for both academic and pastoral support, and even society or club meetings that can’t take place in person.

Don’t just go online, go full digital
But to be truly transformative, the right data analytics tools can show where the gaps are in the student life cycle so you can come up with ways to fill them – as well as highlighting areas of success.

With easily accessible and understandable data, you can get a 360-degree view of the student profile at your institution and determine whether it’s necessary to invest in new media platforms, increase off-campus welfare support, provide more communication or deliver alternative learning environments for example.

It’s also possible to see which faculties are performing better and use these as benchmarks to inform strategy across all departments to create a consistent experience for all students – no matter what they choose to study. This can also help staff who might be struggling with the new digital approach, giving them best-practice guidelines to follow.

How can we help?
Avanade can bring holistic end-to-end capabilities to every aspect of a digital life on campus – including academic case work, welfare, facilities management, event management integration, data aggregation and digital insights.

Leveraging the power of CRM and marketing software like Microsoft Dynamics 365 and innovative multi-channel engagement and digital marketing tools like Sitecore, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Power App Portals and Marketo, we can transform the digital student experience together.

Just a few of our real-world solutions include portals where students can see their academic progress and contact advisors; apps to follow applications for scholarships, grants and bursaries; student performance analytics for available courses; partner dashboards for organising external events such as webinars; and much more.

But why choose us?
When embarking on a digital transformation, you want to get it right first time, with a partner who has the expertise to take your institution seamlessly into the future, fast.

We’re tried and tested in the higher education arena, having completed projects for multiple institutions, such as The University of Manchester and Open Universities Australia. So, you know we’re a partner you can trust.

Get in touch
To find out how Avanade can help you enhance your student engagement and the remote experience, contact us today.

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