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How to Offer Students and Staff a Better Online Experience in 2022

To say that university life is different nowadays is a pretty big understatement.

Students have, undeniably, borne the brunt of many changes driven by Covid-19, with a university experience that for much of 2020-21 involved studying and liaising with lecturers from behind a screen. However, less attention has been paid to university and teaching staff, and the major challenges they have faced in adjusting to the demands of digital-first higher education.

More than 70% of staff in UK higher education are Gen Xers, aged over 34, born very much before the prevalence of smartphones. When the pandemic hit and students across the globe were forced into lockdown study, university staff were faced with the even harder challenge of shifting entire degree courses – and student experiences – online.

“The model of higher education that’s existed for over 500 years is being challenged by new approaches to teaching and learning.”Caitriona McCusker, Education Lead Partner, PwC

Nick Condon

Written by

Nick Condon
Managing Director - EMEA
20 January 2022

A brave new world for higher ed teaching staff

The pandemic has forced many university staff to adopt a variety of new digital skills and responsibilities alongside their existing teaching roles. The removal of in-person interactions, previously a vital aspect of higher education, has had as much of an impact on teaching staff as on their students.

A recent survey from Surrey University has revealed just how deeply these changes have affected staff, with some respondents claiming not only to ‘feel more distanced this year from their students in comparison to pre-Covid times’, but also to ‘question their profession and what is left of it’.

However, despite the turmoil that can accompany change, there are promising signs that many universities see the opportunities in harnessing digital tools to create more enriching learning experiences for both students and staff. Forty-two percent of university leaders enjoyed their jobs more during the pandemic than pre-Covid; furthermore, 79% of academic staff say that ‘the implementation of digital technology has helped them to explore new and innovative ways to engage students.

Technology that helps, not hinders

“Many academic staff are keen to use digital technologies in teaching and learning, recognise many benefits of it to students, but lack the appropriate strategies and techniques that would support the delivery of desired outcomes.”

It’s clear that universities, on the whole, are ready and willing to embrace digital tools to enhance the student experience; but with many lacking digital maturities, selecting the right technologies will prove crucial. Simplicity is key and, in the rush to keep up with student expectations, higher ed tech leaders must be wary of vendors that sell the dream, rather than the reality of what can be achieved.

For technology platforms to be successfully adopted and embraced by the higher ed teams using them - many of whom are not digital natives but are expected to expertly navigate digital systems - they must be user-friendly and intuitive and, most importantly, make their lives easier. With teaching, tech and admin teams under increasing pressure to do more with less, solutions that can be learnt quickly, used efficiently (by both tech and non-tech staff) and to maximum effect, will bring the biggest wins.

Technology that makes personalisation personal

We know that personalisation is more important to students than ever before. Not only can a personalised online experience influence which university a prospective student selects, it can also impact their level of engagement throughout their study and even the likelihood of completing their course. (See our blog post, How to Reap the Benefits of Website Personalization for more on this topic). But we also know that many organisations have struggled to successfully implement personalisation – a whopping 80%, according to Gartner.

Selecting the right platform that provides tech leaders with the right level of personalisation – out-of-the-box, able to integrate seamlessly with their existing tech stack and using the data and database format that works for them – will enable universities to hit the ground running. As many institutions are prioritising digital transformation in a bid to reach future and current students, technologies that enable teams to adapt and learn, as they go, will build confidence and ensure that both students and staff can reap the benefits of digital.

Personalisation that works – for both students and staff

Higher education has come a long way since March 2020. As we emerge from lockdown life, the tech choices universities make now will significantly impact their digital achievements in the coming months and years. These choices must work for both students and staff.

At Squiz, we cut through the perceived complexities of personalisation, enabling teams to implement simple yet effective personalisation strategies from day one.

If you’d like to learn more about how Squiz can help you to start personalising your student experiences, check out our previous blog posts, Stop Procrastinating, Start Personalising, and Creating a Connected Campus During the Pandemic, or request a demo today.

  1. Talent trends 2019: Upskilling for a digital world, PwC, 2019  
  2. How Coronavirus Dramatically Changed College for Over 14 Million Students, CNBC, March 2020
  3. Digital Leadership Report 2021, Harvey Nash Group, 2021
  4. Web Developers and Digital Designers: Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nov 2021
  5. Harvey Nash Group, 2021
  6. Half of All College Students Take Online Courses, Inside Higher ED, (Oct 2021)
  7. 8 Reasons This Coming Year Could Be The Hardest Yet for Higher Ed, Forbes, July 2021 
  8. The Pandemic Pushed Universities Online. The Change Was Long Overdue., Harvard Business Review, (Sept, 2020)
  9. Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2020)

Nick Condon

Written by

Nick Condon
Managing Director - EMEA
20 January 2022

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