Best Practices for Maintaining a Positive Student Experience During COVID-19
The emergence of COVID-19 has dramatically changed the way colleges and universities provide education and services. It is also challenging higher education to rapidly prepare for a new and different Fall semester as it adheres to guidelines while also preserving the student experience.
The future of higher education is evolving in real-time. Like so many other industries, it finds itself in a crisis-driven response mode – one that has upended the traditional on-campus college experience. While many institutions already have extensive experience providing remote programs and services, few have had to do so on such a massive and immediate scale as we’re seeing today.
Delivering programs and services remotely comes with a variety of unique challenges and considerations. Fortunately, today’s technology makes remote learning, real-time communication, and service delivery not only a possibility but an opportunity for higher education. Now, perhaps more than ever, colleges and universities can demonstrate innovation and lead the way into a new and uncharted future colored by COVID-19.
Maintaining a positive student experience and embracing a growing and necessary virtual community is a priority for higher education and the many auxiliary services it hosts today. Here are timely and effective tactics that are easily implemented by leaders in higher education auxiliary services right now.
Opportunities to Maintain Positive Student Experience
With social distancing and other critical CDC guidance for higher education, it has, arguably, never been more important to stay engaged with your students, as many may be feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, and distanced from higher education opportunities and experiences.
Here’s how you can create positive experiences for your students under these unfortunate circumstances:
Engage Students On Social Platforms
Remote student support is about more than regularly checking an email inbox. You can proactively locate and engage students online!
Accomplishing this requires figuring out which online forums and social platforms your students are using the most. Whether it’s YouTube, Facebook, GroupMe, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, or some other platform. The key is to make yourself available. Specifically, you can host live Q&As for parents and students, monitor and join Reddit discussions, and simply engage with students talking about your college and university.
Remember, students may not initially come to you, but when you find them and can engage with them in a positive and productive way, it can really enhance their experience and help them feel connected and supported – with you and others.
Communicate Timely Information
Everyone wants more information these days. So, make sure your students and staff have the information they need. It’s OK to over-communicate these types of resources, as important and vital information never needs an apology.
Text message announcements, email, social media posts, intranet portal bulletin boards, robocalls… whatever it takes to help your students and faculty to get access to what they need.
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It may also mean reaching out to students and letting them know you’re still there to help and provide services. Fewer students on campus mean far less foot traffic and customers at dining halls, book stores, and other auxiliary services and facilities.
Here, too, technology can play a role in reaching your audiences. By integrating technology such as texting and messaging you can reach students and let them know you’re still there for them to provide services remotely or that you’ll be ready to continue providing services once campus reopens.
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For example, our MarketIT solution can support a wide range of communication efforts across your campus. It is a permission-based mobile-club that allows students to sign-up for SMS alerts that then immediately subscribes them for communications shared by your university or auxiliary service.
24/7 Access and Point of Contact
Questions, issues, or concerns don’t always observe regular business hours, if you’re even operating normal business hours right now.
There have been some noteworthy discussion papers released recently regarding the principles of maintaining student engagement during COVID-19
These principles, as they relate to ensuring students know you care, include having empathy for learners during this time. Additional components include making it easy for students to submit questions and concerns and maintaining open lines of communication. It’s even better if you can provide students with instant access to someone who can help and who will provide an immediate response.
Colleges and universities, for example, can put a system in place that allows students to text their questions or issues to a single number that will then get routed to the appropriate staff members – no matter where they are – so student concerns and needs can be responded to as soon as possible.
As we turn our attention to the long-term outlook for higher education in the wake of COVID-19, it’s unclear whether classes will resume on campus this fall. Regardless, when colleges and universities do open again, it will be important that the systems, processes, and means are in place to ensure compliance with standards and safety for all.
As with any change, being able to implement new systems and policies as smoothly and with as minimal frustration as possible will help ensure you maintain a positive student experience during, and long after, COVID-19.