Remote learning isn’t a new concept, but it’s now in the spotlight as colleges and universities move their traditional on-campus programs to online platforms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has impacted every aspect of running an institution of higher education, and marketing and communications professionals have been charged with communicating hard decisions to the campus community and the general public.
As we all adjust to a new reality, recruitment marketing for new students and retention of current students are top of mind. Universities are also tasked with helping some students navigate the switch to online or hybrid learning for the first time.
Schools that currently have adult learners likely already offer online and hybrid options, but what about students expecting in-class, hands-on experiences? How can universities help those students feel comfortable starting a program in an off-campus environment when they were planning to learn in person?
We are familiar with the convenience and flexibility of online learning, but many students may be new to the modality. At a time when most institutions are moving online, how can universities differentiate themselves from one another and help set student expectations?
There are a few ways to do this, and one is illustrating your differentiators through examples and more storytelling, no matter which medium you use: email, print, website, rich media, social media, and more. Here are a few topics that may help in refocusing your messaging on the remote learning experience or improve your existing efforts in marketing online programs.
Showcase Your Faculty’s Qualifications
Show your prospective students that you understand the remote environment is different than a face-to-face experience. It is important to demonstrate that you are preparing your faculty for online teaching with training specific to distance learning, in both pedagogy and technology. Ways you might do this include videos of live classroom discussions or testimonials from current online students about their experiences with stand-out faculty.
Demonstrate the Course Quality
Students who prefer an in-person learning experience might need to be convinced of an online course’s academic rigor. To achieve this, identify examples of times students were challenged in the online classroom or how an instructor expertly modified the content to fit an online format. Hearing stories about others’ experiences can show students that online courses can provide the same high-quality learning experience as on-campus classes.
Establish Engaging Programs
Focus on highlighting the different ways students can engage with their online courses. Show how a learning management system’s (LMS) discussion platform enables class conversations or illustrate the camaraderie that grows between online classmates to reassure students who are new to remote learning. Create course-specific Facebook groups or online forums to provide opportunities for students to connect with their peers, professors, and classmates.
Acknowledge the Change
If your school is temporarily converting to remote courses, don’t pretend that it’s business as usual – communicate with students so that they know you are responding to the situation and making changes to adjust.
Try utilizing an alert bar or message block that is easy to toggle on and off. This option will let prospective students know a class will be online for at least the next semester without requiring large-scale site updates. You might also create a page with in-depth details about how the online version of a course or program will work. This option can help answer student questions and address their concerns about the move to online learning.
Show Online Students as Community Members
Look for opportunities to show students that while they will be remote, they are still a part of your community. Reassure students who are new to online learning that they will have access to the same resources they did on campuses, such as tutors, a writing center, or campus counseling if they need additional support. Already established or majority online programs can take steps to better highlight existing student resources, such as academic advisors or libraries.
Apply These Tips at Your University
These insights and suggestions enable you to meet the needs of learners in remote environments. Incorporate the tips outlined here to connect with current and future students and show them the benefits your institution offers through remote learning. By enhancing your marketing efforts to tell a story and showcase the unique differentiators you bring to the virtual classroom, you can help students transition seamlessly to their new environment.
Read the original article from Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners here. For more insights into making the shift to virtual learning, visit our Resources page. You can also subscribe to Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners for proven solutions to admit, recruit, and retain high-quality students.