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Is it the combination of human connection and digital that will transform our sector?

The terms ‘tech’ and ‘digital transformation’ are often thrown around in higher education, but what do they mean for the sector, and more importantly, for our students?

Photo: Alamy

The IDP Live app places IDP in the pockets of prospective students

To many, technology and digital innovation serve to enhance the systems and processes within institutions, which help to improve efficiency and ultimately return-on-investment.

Return-on-investment is great. Who is going to argue against getting more from less? But ultimately, what does that mean for the student experience? Is there a way to improve system efficiencies and also create stronger connections and support for students?

We think there is.

The pandemic highlighted how effectively institutions can adopt technological innovations to roll out a wide range of courses online.

These adaptations continue to be a huge learning curve for many institutions, particularly when it comes to mimicking the interpersonal and human elements of the studying experience online.

However, institutions that have taken a more holistic approach to innovation have proven to be most successful in meeting student needs.

The University of Chester won gold for Excellence in Digital Innovation at the 2021 Whatuni Student Choice Awards by delivering digital skills programs to ensure inclusivity among students and staff.

Besides getting their online academic offering right, they also implemented learning systems where social learning and peer interaction are facilitated through chat, video and apps with additional digital skills support.

It is this peer-to-peer support that students appreciated, and University of Chester’s ratings rose because of it.

The pandemic has taught us many lessons around community and our behavior. When our ability to come together in person was taken away, we turned to new ways to connect.

And in the absence of face-to-face interaction, the need for trusted support grew.

This is where ‘tech’ really comes into its own. System efficiencies are only valuable when they free us up to provide closer connections and support.

IDP’s latest innovations are a good example of how technology can be used to support trusted human interactions for counsellors helping prospective students around the world find best-fit courses and institutions.

The creation of the IDP Live app, which places IDP in the pockets of prospective students, gives users the ability to easily understand, filter and compare the study abroad options available to them. They can also connect with education counsellors through the app, or face-to-face, maintaining the human expertise needed to help them find the right course and institution for them.

IDP counsellors can in turn understand student search behaviours, preferences and interests via the app, giving a 360 degree insight into a student’s preferences, aims and ambitions before their first face-to-face meeting – facilitating better and more informed conversations. Also introduced into the app is a course recommendation engine, which gives students and counsellors instant access to filtered courses and institutions based on a student’s preferences.

All of this helps counsellors to deliver more personalised support. When they jump on the phone, they get straight to the burning questions students have, not the administrative tasks like repeating basic details usually required at the start of any counsellor interactions.

“The waiting time for students is now much shorter and I can see that they are happy because of the convenience”

Kei Lye Wong, an IDP education counsellor based in Malaysia, says, “The recommendation engine saves us a lot of time. You can add filters such as tuition fee range, budget and ranking – from there it will filter out programs that do not meet the student’s needs, showing only those most suitable for the student.

“The waiting time for students is now much shorter and I can see that they are happy because of the convenience… they feel cared for and prioritised. I think that’s the benefit of IDP’s latest technology – it’s really useful and it’s working. Its efficacy can be seen from the student’s satisfaction… In this industry, IDP is  really one of a kind in using this type of technology.”

These latest innovations by IDP show how powerful technologies enhance valuable and meaningful human interactions, leading to better outcomes for students and in turn for institutions. By providing a more intelligent and seamless student research experience and by giving internal staff the tools needed to work in more efficient ways digital innovation is leading to more international students at more institutions best suited to their needs.

What remains clear is that successful technologies rely on innovative design that meets practical needs, as well as access to human interactions and trusted council.

 About the author:

This is a sponsored post from Franki Clemens, the B2B Editor at IDP Connect. She has spent the last 3.5 years dissecting student trends and how these impact on the higher education sector across key English-speaking study destinations. Franki has worked as a journalist for over a decade across a range of content-based roles, including newspaper reporting, magazine feature writing, press release writing, corporate copywriting and content strategy. Her work has predominantly focused on higher education, travel, world music and wellbeing.

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