COVID-19 has transformed the face of education, learning and development. The process of digital transformation in education has not been a smooth one. Reduced access to learning facilities, such as libraries, and widespread adoption of virtual teaching have been a source of frustration for both students and educators. This frustration has even led students to question the fees they are being charged – university students in the UK recently demanded a partial refund in tuition fees.
Across higher education, apprenticeships, professional development, and adult learning, the switch from in-person teaching to digital learning has been a structural shift for the entire sector. The pandemic has exposed the need for educators to embrace and accelerate digital transformation – not just in teaching, but across the entire education infrastructure.
If they are to win back student trust, educators must create a deeper digital relationship with their students. The situation calls for full digital transformation. If education providers are to satisfy this new set of student needs, overcome the challenges of pandemic teaching, and maintain their existing revenue streams, they need the depth of insight that digital tools provide.
In-person, relationship-building time with students is becoming less frequent. Office hours, classroom time, even pastoral care is now conducted digitally. Students are completing courses, passing exams, and moving between departments in a digital environment, yet few organisations are gaining any new insights from this process. Student information and data remain fragmented and siloed within organisations, which prevents educators from connecting the dots and identifying student needs. Education providers can no longer rely on their old model of student interaction. Only by making digital tools an integral part of their business model can they effectively identify and respond to student needs.
Education and learning and development providers need to create a rich resource of student data that helps them understand students throughout their learning journey – from the first enrolment to post-course follow-up. Organisations need a single, unified source of truth that encompasses each student’s academic performance, their needs, and their long-term aspirations. Equipped with this data, providers can bridge the gap left by in-person teaching and begin connecting the dots in their digital student experience.
Harnessing student data is especially crucial during the marketing process. If student recruitment and enrolment continue to be primarily digital – from virtual tours to meeting staff on video calls – providers must offer an engaging, effective digital recruitment experience. From the moment a prospective student expresses interest in a course, organisations must be building a deeper understanding of that student. These insights enable the provider to send targeted email marketing campaigns and engagement emails that directly tap into the student’s interests.
As students continue their learning journey, digital tools can continue to provide valuable insight and understanding. Analytics and AI can enable learning providers to notice patterns and be more proactive. If a student’s attendance drops and their academic performance declines, this data is recorded. Analytics can identify the pattern and AI can urge providers to act quickly – alerting staff to reach out and provide greater academic or personal support to prevent the student dropping out.
A digital-first approach can even identify new revenue opportunities. When the provider offers a new course or wishes to promote an existing learning experience, they can tap into their student data and find potential matches based on the student’s past and current course interests. Using this data, educators can offer a tailored learning experience – while also driving revenue growth.
Socially distanced, digital learning is here to stay. The challenge is for education providers to ensure they have a complete picture of their students and their needs – especially when in-person teaching is limited. To meet that challenge, organisations must put digital at the heart of their student relationships. A unified, digital view of every student is the foundation for this new approach to education.
Salesforce’s solutions remove the internal barriers to information sharing, connecting student data across teams and integrating with your existing systems. Using this data, education providers gain a better understanding of their students and become more integral to every student’s learning journey. The result is a more satisfying educational experience for students and an effective, revenue-securing business model for educators.