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Understanding the digital student experience

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Razan Roberts, Senior Director, Strategic Engagement and Communications, Salesforce.org Research findings. Link to PDF for this interim report available. Full report Spring 2021. 

  1. The challenge of providing a sense of belonging when everything is digital and virtual. A community approach is easy to introduce and scale.

    1. In the nordic countries 21%, in the UK 31% and Spain 39%.

    2. A community feeling is easy to implement and scale. 

  2. There is a widening trust gap between institutions. The trust gap was poor before and is widening. 40% between them and the leadership and 50% saying it is getting bigger. 37% staff are feeling this gap. Optimistically institutions have an opportunity to make changes now, to drive with transparency and clear plans to close the gap.

  3. Holistic well-being. Top of mind. 73% maintaining their wellbeing is their top challenge now. 72% financial concerns. 71% just finding a quiet place to work - yet it is such a simple problem to solve. Universities are taking this to heart. E.g. LSE. Community Club or Experience Club service beyond just reviewing assessments. 

  4. Students expect more flexibility in grading, course assessments and course content. So new business models are forming. 

    1. The Immersive hybrid > all the learning is online. Blends digital and the physical. Every single service being reviewed that goes to students. What is best served online, and what is best served in person. 

    2. Subscription model so that people can go in and out of training depending on the life and career plans.

  5. Revisiting career and education plans. 

    1. Students are Looking for learning with internships and direct job opportunities. 

    2. Students are looking for contact with alumni and employers.

What are the barriers to universities?

  1. Online learning, Zoom and others. But more like a bandaid. So they have to rethink the concept of what is online learning, more project based and interactive. 

  2. Digital Transformation. The fuller view of the students who have such a poor experience because they repeatedly find they have to tell one person after another who they are. 

  3. Human interaction and empathy. 

Effective communication. How do we rebuild the trust? The sense that they are looking after staff and student

  1. Frequent personalised communication. Knowing the words to use and the channels to use. Creating the connections. 

  2. Students are not feeling the support, which they could get in the past in person.

  3. Find a way for the interaction and communication to bridge the gap.

  4. Keep the students, and staff - safe and convincing people that this is the priority.

Coming out of Covid we will land somewhere in the middle. Some things will never go back. Many institutions are using data to enrol more students and to find a better match with the right academic programmes for them and help them feel they belong to that institution while opening up new markets - not least for the millions who need to find a way back into employment with further training. With insights and data we  are better able to identify students who are being challenged and need support - and this can be scaled and will be used.

A blended model is the future, rather than all online or all in person.



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Design Museum

From Buzzword to Baseline: Digital Transformation in action

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Debbie McVitty

linkedin.com/in/debbie-mcvitty-59769146 

Debbie McVitty introduced the panel with the following preamble. We would be reflecting on digital transformation: organisations, cultures and practices.

  • That technology imposes on every aspect of our lives.

  • What this means for university cultures and how we teach and communicate with students.

  • A warning that Covid has created a crisis condition that has forced us onto a testbed preemptively - not everyone was ready for it. 

  • And the difficulty of trying to add change to old platforms and practices. (The recommendation is to start again on an entirely different space and then fold the successes into the university online space). 

  • The first speakers were: 

  • Patrick Mullane, Executive Director, Harvard Business School Online

  • Rebecca Galley, Director, Learning Experience and Technology, Open University.

My own reflection on this is that it helps to have an understanding of the 'diffusion of innovations'. Going digital with has been a clear case of innovators and early adopters (The Open University, Coursera, Duke University, Coventry University ), as well as late adopters (Oxford and Cambridge University) and laggards (FE colleges and Secondary Schools?). 

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