Over the past 3 years, our blog has become a resource for professionals of a variety of industries including higher education, nonprofit, and corporate.
As we come to the end of the year, we decided to take a look at our most read content over the past year. Below, we counted down our five most popular posts of the year and their most important takeaways.
#5: Higher Education Trends of 2017
The fifth most popular blog post of 2017 was our article on our prediction for higher education trends of 2017. So what were the trends, and how did we do at predicting them? Let’s take a look:
1. Data is here to stay.
There is no doubt that data has been a hot topic of 2017, as well as finding ways to make it more accurate and easier to access. CRMs that cover the 360 lifecycle of students (prospective student to student to alumni) have allowed higher education institutions to capture valuable data about individuals. This data is being used to not only help predict student success, but to allow colleges and universities to step in during times of need and support.
2017 was a year full of security breaches across all industries. From the Equifax breach to the Uber breach, all types of organizations are realizing that security needs to be a number one priority. Because of this, we predicted that the higher education industry would continue to adopt cloud software, which is exactly what happened. Additionally, a number of colleges have started or enhanced their current cyber security program, as it is a very real need that’s here to stay.
3. Tackling Student Debt.
Unfortunately, student debt continued to increase in 2017. However, colleges and universities have been to make it more of a priority to find ways to lower costs for students. Strategies like open-source initiatives, predictive analytics to help students graduate on time, and even networked universities (like to post) have spread across the higher education industry in hopes to help tackle rising student debt.
4. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are here to stay.
When 2016 came to an end, Augmented Reality products like Pokemon Go were at the top of everyone’s minds. However, VR and AR didn’t grow quite as rapidly as we thought it would in 2017. However, as with any new technology, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality may just take some getting used to for the higher education industry. We imagine these will continue to rise in 2018.
#4: How to Support Undocumented Students in Higher Education
Our fourth most popular post tackled the discussion around supporting undocumented students in higher education. This year brought on a lot of uneasy feelings and changes for undocumented students, so we put together a guide on how to support these students in their higher education journey. Countless educators around the country have expressed how beneficial undocumented students are to America’s education system – and that supporting these students is crucial to enhancing learning experiences and creating more opportunities for underserved populations.
Below, we outlined 6 strategies that colleges and universities are taking to support undocumented students.
- Create an orientation program with a special focus on undocumented students.
Focus on specific topics like DACA, free legal resources, financial assistance, scholarships, and mentorship. Since 75% of undocumented students work part-time, make sure your orientation is flexible or offered online.
- Build an ally network.
Institutions can, like the University of Washington, create an ally directory that allows students to search for allies that are available to support them. This can include a variety of different types of allies, including directors, advisors, counselors, professors, and students.
- Provide mentoring dedicated to the unique needs of undocumented students.
Your mentorship program should have mentors that specialize in topics that are relevant to first-generation students like registering for classes, paying for housing, ordering, books, etc.
- Offer referrals for on-campus and off-campus resources.
Resources for things like legal assistance, housing advice, and even counseling can make a huge difference in students’ success.
- Provide scholarship support and resources.
There are a number of programs dedicated to assisting undocumented or first-generation students. Make these programs known to students and offer support along the way by helping them apply.
- Interactive Workshops.
In-person workshops for things like leadership development, navigating the higher education system, and applying to grad school can ensure undocumented students are equipped with what they need to succeed on their higher education path.
#3: Using Technology to Improve Academic Advising
The third most popular post dealt with utilizing technology to improve academic advising. With budget cuts and a common lack of resources among the higher education industry, it’s important to find new ways to increase reach of academic advising, without compromising quality. Below, we went over 5 ways that institutions can leverage technology to improve academic advising.
1. Use data to drive and continually improve your strategy.
Using data to predict student success has been a huge factor in helping advisors identify students in need. Whether it’s through an in-house system or a predictive analytics software program, advisors are now able to utilize important historical data to identify trends among students in need of support, allowing them to step in if necessary.
2. Work with the financial services department to utilize financial data to assist in your academic advising strategy.
Cross-department collaboration can be difficult to implement in any industry, including higher education. However, colleges are beginning to see the pay-off of sharing data and information across departments. Advising departments have begun utilizing financial aid data to help them identify at risk students, which has directly improved retention rate. Since financial trouble is often the number one reason why low-income students drop out, this data can greatly improve retention rates among the underserved population.
3. Develop an outreach plan that utilizes automatic communication software.
Research has shown that advisors should focus on reaching the “murky middle”, or students that complete their first year with a GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 but still stand a chance to drop out before they graduate. Communication software that allows automatic reminders to be sent through email or text could make the difference in providing that extra level of support that is needed for these students.
4. Utilize videos to make advising accessible to all types of students.
Video conferencing has continued to rise, and utilizing it for academic advising has made advisor more accessible and increased its reach. Students who work part-time with jam-packed schedules no longer have to rely on in-person meetings with advisors. Instead, they can schedule flexible online meetings or watch pre-recorded videos that allow them to receive support when it’s convenient for them – making them much more likely to participate.
5. Establish consistency to support students’ questions and needs.
While some may think the millennial population is “always changing”, consistency is still is important factor to supporting the millennial generation. By developing online advising hubs that students can depend on 24/7, advising departments are able to gain students’ trust, making them more likely to engage with advisors. Just as mentioned above, busy and variable schedules can make advising appointments difficult for students. However, by offering consistent online “chat times”, students can begin to make advising work with their schedule.
#2: A Step-by-Step Process for Developing Online Orientation Content
The second most popular blog post covered a step-by-step process for developing an online orientation. We know that developing an online orientation can be time consuming and resource-intensive. However, with our step-by-step guide, we hope to make it a little less daunting. Here’s a look at the key steps:
- Who will be involved?
Outlining all key stakeholders and who will need to approve content and the final product. Also, determining roles and responsibilities.
- Creating a timeline.
Map out your timeline based on your number of modules, types of multimedia elements, and the amount of people that will be involved.
- Developing Content.
To tackle the challenge of creating content, start by brainstorming, then creating a content online. Once that’s reviewed, you can begin to create a storyboard with one screen depicted per page, showing what assets will be needed for each page.
- Editing and Testing.
Once all content has been reviewed and approved, you’ll want to edit your content, ensuring the grammar and tone is consistent. After all edits have been made and your ready to release your orientation, create a set of Key Performance Indicators that will allow you to measure success once your orientation is live.
#1: Actionable Strategies to Improve Admission Yield Rates
Coming in at #1 this year for the most popular blog post was our how-to guide on improving admissions yield rates. As the higher education landscape continues to get more competitive with the rise of online education and educational “boot camps”, colleges and universities are continuing to look for ways to improve admission yield rates.
In our post, we outlined 4 key strategies to boosting yield rates:
- Know you audience.
Highly tailored communications can be very effective in connecting with students and decision makers. Identify important decision factors like location, job opportunities, or unique programs and create value messages for each factor. You can then utilize these value messages in various communications with different types of admitted students.
- Make your current students your brand ambassadors.
Create a network of ambassadors that you can reference for on-campus events, campus tours, or even admitted student receptions in various cities. Aim to recruit a diverse group of ambassadors, creating a variety of perspectives to be shared with admitted students.
- Reinforce your culture through social media.
Showcase your unique culture of your school by highlighting events on campus, featuring current students on your Facebook and Instagram, host a “student takeover” on Snapchat, or host an “ask me anything” session online.
- Make the tour experience unforgettable.
Make your tour stand out by offering unique features like: a detailed map with specific directions ahead of time, asking for input from parents to help guide the tour beforehand, offering off-campus recommendations for accommodations and restaurants, and giving them something to hold (postcard, brochure, etc.) so they remember you.
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