29 Aug The Importance of Physical Outreach for Universities
The COVID pandemic has grounded university recruitment officers the world over. At a time when they would be traveling all over globe reaching out to international students, they are turning to their screens to make up for lost numbers. Even the students enrolled, are dicey about sticking on with an online-course with many seeking to defer admissions until on-campus teaching resumes. The question that remained was – With volatile situation around the globe, what are students looking for?
In the course of our conversations with our clients the world over, we have come to understand one thing very clearly – students are looking for a tangible means of connecting with the university they enroll with. In the face of the massive investment that the student makes in studying abroad, the students are looking for value in return.
This led us to the common refrain heard among universities and education institutions around the world – How to create value among students especially in a day and age where classes are forced to go online?
The answer, in 3 words – personalized, physical outreach!
Let it be known, we are not talking about plain and simple merchandise, of course, we can never have enough pens around but that’s just scratching the surface. There needs to be a certain sensitivity showcased by the university when reaching out to students. A little empathy can go a long way in helping students grow even closer to the university despite the virtual nature of the classes.
Let’s look at it from the perspective what the students are missing and better understand how universities can fill this gap.
A Personal Touch
This is undeniable. If a student is not going to be on campus, giving them a personal welcome becomes that much more difficult. If on campus, the student would be inundated with activities on campus welcoming them into the grand new world of higher education. This is conspicuous by its absence when it comes to a virtual university experience.
What we need to understand here is that even the students understand the limitations posed by the pandemic on universities. Having said that, students would appreciate whatever efforts a university is putting in to make them feel welcome.
Our Suggestion: Send them Welcome Kits! Nothing too elaborate, a pennant, a customized diary, a soft toy shaped as your mascot, and an elegant personalized postcard welcoming them on board. Whenever we, at Hue, have sent such college welcome kits to students on behalf of our client universities, we have seen reactions ranging from pleasant surprise to jumping in joy. At the end of the day, a student who has just taken admission in their dream university, would be looking to feel welcomed, and these kits help you do just that.
One of the biggest hurdles thrown up by online learning options today, is a lack of learning uniformity. This is not just for the students but also for the teachers to a great extent. Many teachers do not have adequate skills with screen sharing, and many would not have good camera, often compromising quality of learning.
Students, at their end often lack good earphones. With the short lifespan of earphones, chances are many students are missing out on important portions of their classes simply because they are not able to hear things clearly. All of which, directly or indirectly, points to a learning experience that is not up to the mark.
Our Suggestion: A quality learning experience, in the virtual world, is as much about the study material as it is about the visual and aural experience. In the last three months we have shipped earphones, mountable cameras, pen-tabs among other electronic items to students and teachers alike.
When used correctly, these electronics can help make the entire learning experience uniform for all your students. We have also shipped hoodies, blazers and t-shirts to faculties and students, in the absence of being able to see physical branding on-campus, having such apparel encourages teachers and students to wear these during the virtual classes.
In an environment where students are looking for the biggest bang for their buck, it becomes crucial for universities to best showcase how unique their offerings are.
This is where we come in.
Brand loyalty for your prospects in the days before the coronavirus was all about a direct meeting. Face to face interaction would establish the brand’s loyalty, and the same would be succeeded by a virtual follow up. This is not something possible in today’s world, which is why universities need to find ways to create value and retain their brand loyalty.
Our Suggestion: We have created a doorstep delivery model for bi-monthly/monthly/quarterly care packages to be delivered to students throughout the duration they are studying online. These packages are hardly elaborate, but each package brings a whole new set of surprises. And that’s the idea!
If the first package would contain a pair of earphones and a diary, the second could contain a pen-drive and a tee, the third could have a pair of sunglasses and a cap. Students would anyway be receiving a host of merchandise during the course of their time at the university. The idea here is to send these items to students with more frequency and thus create a regular contact between the university and the individual. Each of these packages could have a small postcard updating the students with tasteful images of the campus along with write-ups from the dean or one of the professors.
Show The Students You Care!
If this entire, nearly thousand word article can be boiled down to a gist, it would be that your students are looking for you to show that you care about them. As far as the how goes, just make sure it is something they can hold, feel and keep with them. When a student invests in an international education, she or he is not only committing massive finances but also some of the best years of their life. If you are able to create value for students thanks to regular outreach and you have earned yourself their commitment, pandemic or no pandemic.
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to help you strategize how you can best create value for your students on a limited budget.