We truly live in transformational times. Many of us have gone from listening to the radio to the occasional TV programme to the non-stop informational juggernaut that is the internet, all within the span of our adult lives. Contrast that with the incoming class of 2012, a “digital native” who is at ease with online collaboration and an information-everywhere lifestyle, one that forgoes the pen and notebook for a dazzling array of gadgetry. Isn’t it about time your Campus 1.0 got a 2.0 upgrade as well?
It isn’t easy, as is evinced by the scores of half-baked greatmerely- on-paper technology initiatives we’ve seen in institutes of all shapes and sizes across the country. Beyond the mere installation and acquisition of technology, institutes need to today look closer at integrating its use throughout the entire fabric of the institution, while at the same time balancing the twin challenges of rising information technology (IT) costs and the need to avoid technological obsolescence. Most campuses approach the problem on a piecemeal basis, bringing some domains upto par with the best of the industry, while forgoing modernisation in others. What’s sorely needed are individuals at the helm, typically a CTO/CIO, who understand the dynamics of each of the technology domains we’ve discussed over the course of this story, and how their interplay affects each stage of the education lifecycle.
For most institutions looking to leverage technology, especially young institutions started over the past few years, the challenge will be to attract and retain such talent — a skill made rarer so, by the lure the core IT sector has for exceptionally talented technologists.
Over the course of this special issue, we’ve tried to delve deeper into each of the elements of a higher education institute — right from marketing, admissions and college administration to teaching, placements and alumni relations — to bring to you the key considerations that keep CIOs at top institutes awake at night. Add to that the insights of several leading academicians and technologists about the impact of technology across the higher education landscape, and you have in your hands a primer for your own technology roadmap for 2012 and beyond.
Technology Strategy: Marketing
Use online tools
Numerous online platforms can help you spread the word
There used to be a time, not so long ago, when information came to our target audiences via a handful of newspapers/magazines and a solitary TV and radio network. Today, the very same people you wish to reach out could be SMSing, emailing, chatting online, playing online games, reading up from an aggregated news feed, and to make matters worse, all of these could be happening at once!
At EDU, we have highlighted in the recent past the importance of getting the marketing communications right by way of social media and your web presence. A recent study by Noel Levitz and National Research Center for College and University Admissions titled the “2011 e-Expectations Report: Students and Parents” (available at http://bit.ly/ug9JFR) reveals some telling facts, many of which are highly applicable in the Indian context. For instance, many students removed a university from consideration because of a bad experience on the college’s web site. Or that a high percentage of prospects will provide their email addresses, but more critically, it helps to ask them directly for it in your communications/ website. Or that students zero in on the academic courses section of your website, often ignoring the other sections altogether. Or even that parents play a key role in research and final decision-making. What impact do these insights have for your outbound communications and web presence?
To begin with, strive to design with your target groups in mind — parents, families and students. If that means putting your academic programme front-and-centre on your website or at least via a simplified navigation, so be it. Ensure that your website shows up high on the Google rankings for your specialty subject areas and areas of research. Pepper your web initiatives with videos of alumni and the campus experience, and don’t forget to collect contact information from your web visitors when they arrive. From there on, start a gradual lead generation process — construct automatic emails that go out with the intent of informing rather than pure ‘admission conversion’. Guide the student, be generous with information,without immediately focusing on the RoI. And beware of being ‘spammy’ in nature — it is too easy to mass-blast email using modern mass email software, but it is equally easy to be marked as a sender of spam. Curate the lists based on expressed interests, and segment the communications accordingly.