The most important message we regularly hear from our customers is "We need to improve our student experience". You probably wouldn't expect a student management system to provide all the answers. No surprise. You'd be right. But providing your students with a portal and a good set of engaging online tools is a great start.
But a well-designed student management system with online student portal will get you a long way down the path.
What creates good student engagement?
The psychology of what motivates students to engage with learning materials is complex and well beyond the scope of this article. But its definitely not all about gamification and interactivity. Like many students in the 'olden days', I was greatly inspired by some of the material I read in plain old black and white print. That's not to say gamification has no place in learning, but it's importance can be overstated.
To understand what creates good student engagement, we first need to list to what our students are not happy with. Here are the top reasons.
- Difficult to navigate - I can't find my way around easily
- Unreliable - My course doesn't open when I click to launch
- Poor reporting - It gives no indication of where I am or what I've completed
- Paper-based assignments and resources - too much time downloading, printing sending PDFs
- No access to support or mentoring - I have to phone the college if I need help
- Courses are rote and boring - I can't stay awake
These are all "usability" issues. The experience is painful and acts as a barrier to effective learning. You might argue that apart from the 'boring class' these all relate to Online learning. Firstly, they don't. These issues cn be easily replicated in F2F learning and secondly, why shouldn't we be talking about online learning? If the COVID 19 experience has taught us one big lesson, its that reliance on pure F2F training is risky. COVID 19 has served to hasten the inevitable, i.e. we need the convenience and flexibility of virtual, online and F2F training.
How do you overcome poor student experience?
The simplistic answer is to not do the things that make students unhappy. But your RTO like others is reliant on software and systems that are difficult and expensive to change. Here are some simple and cost-effective ways to track and improve student engagement.
1. Quality Assurance - Set KPIs
You need to be able to measure improvement. You can do that using surveys, interviews, completion rates, reported issues and referrals. If you keep your ear to the ground and monitor the numbers, you'll quickly know if and when you're making progress. Simple Facebook tricks like getting students to LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE course experiences is a great way to get feedback. Let's be honest, no one like filling in survey forms, especially if they're paper based.
2. Make your materials easy to access online
If your students need to complete workbooks and assignments. Give them a portal where they can easily find and download these resources. When they've completed them they should be able to upload them easily. and if possible avoid the Download / Upload process altogether. Use Office 365 online documents or online forms that your students can complete online. These tools invariably use a concept called 'web hooks' to provide notifications to your assessment team and implement complete workflows for student submission, marking, commenting, mentoring and archiving. As long as your Student Management sytem has the ability to respond to web hooks all these workflow opportunities become possible. And they save both your students and your admin team hours of tedious work.
3. Give your students up-to-date progress reports
Much of the data your SMS captures for AVETMISS reporting is invaluable information for your students. and guess what? You're already capturing it anyway. Why not share it with your students? Again your SMS should be able to make the data available via the student portal. You can show your students exactly how many units of their qualification they've achieved, what assessments are completed, due, marked, or in-progress. Let them see their % of course completion. Students who love achieving goals will be hugely motivated by this level of tracking. It answers their daily questions: how many units do I need to complete my qual? When are my assignments due? Where fo I have to turn up next Monday for my assessment? What certificates have I been awarded? All valid question and easy to answer with good reporting through a convenient, easy to use student portal.
4. Consider putting some of your training and assessments online.
If you've always delivered traditional F2F training and assessment, there may be a good reason for that. Not all training and particularly Assessment work in an Online environment. But it is still well worth considering how you can convert some of your material for online consumption via a student portal. This will enhance student experience by making it convenient for students to at least get a head-start. They can ready and perform knowledge quizzes that prepare them for the big day when they start their F2F training. It get's them using their portal. Don't forget that portal gives you a vital 24/7 communications channel with your customers (Learners). There's no better way to centralise your students engagement than by giving them a portal (literally a door way) to your college.
5. Consider Virtual Classroom or Video Conferencing options.
Thanks to the COVID 19 lock-down we've suddenly all become very familiar with these tools. So, you now have a willing and educated customer base ready to accept and engage with your content literally from anywhere in the world. Overnight, your backyard pool has become all the oceans of the world united into one global market at your fingertips. But let's not get carried away and stick with just Australia for now. Giving your customers the flexibility to attend classes in person or virtually extends your reach beyond state borders and costs peanuts to implement.
Today there is no reason not to employ these techniques and every reason why you should.
Here at Bluegem, we've spent the last 30 years refining our Learning management solutions to help you get to this point quickly, reliably and cost effectively. Join our next webinar (same topic as this blog, to learn more.