University loyalty programs in the digital age - Asset Display Page

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By Fernando Silvestre

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January 03, 2018

University loyalty programs in the digital age

The challenge of managing new models in a world without borders

Imagining the future has been a favorite human pastime since the beginning of time. Curiosity has helped the human race evolve. And because of today’s digital transformation we can imagine a future in which every aspect of society is changing - a future reality that is much more than a technological transformation, but a transformation in our way of life enabled by technology.

The transformation is a fundamentally human one, and touches everything we do.

But there are some holdouts, such as education and other traditional knowledge areas that have served society for centuries. Digital transformation is threating the foundations of these knowledge sectors, which, till now, have stubbornly resisted change.

Some of the many challenges facing the education sector are: the changing psychographic profiles of the millennial and Z generations for whom traditional learning paradigms have ceased working; how we will work in the future; the new skills students must learn today; and the changing rules of society and business.

For example, studies have shown that more than 50% of the jobs in the next 20 years haven’t been invented yet. And the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, has outlined a complete list of skills that must be mastered in the coming years.

Managing Individuality

Another top challenge for educational institutions is student retention: dropout rates have risen dramatically.

Under the interactionist theory, students leave an educational institution due to factors involving their individual experience interacting with their school as an organization. Most importantly is the meaning students attribute to their formal and informal relationships with the educational organization (Braxton, 1997).

There are multiple dimensions to this relationship: academic performance, interactions with professors, extracurricular activities, relationships with peers and more.

To stem the attrition and improve the individual interaction with the institution, it’s important to leverage digital technologies to help us move beyond managing student populations or segments as monolithic faceless entities; now we must understand students as individuals and adapt (or create) personalized actions based on their individual interactions with the organization.

Accompanying Experiences

Digital natives represent 98% of the global student population and interact with organizations that deploy state-of-the-art technology to offer personalized experiences.

Amazon, Facebook, Apple and many other organizations have set the tone in their relationships with digital natives. They drive multiple interactions in the daily lives of this generation, reinforcing the perception of their own uniqueness. Institutions of higher learning must follow suit.

But the challenge goes beyond technology: the university management model is entrenched in centuries of tradition. By nature it’s a field that is slow to adapt.

It’s imperative to empower management networks (teachers, tutors, counselors) with the tools that allow students to personalize their learning experience and to generate collaborative spaces in their extended networks (family, friends, influencers), and thus drive retention.

W = F * D, the Formula for Student Success Work Equals Force Times Distance.

In higher education we have traditionally seen student success as a result of the goals that guide their purpose. Translating the above physics formula, retention multiplied by knowledge enables progress.

But understanding the depth of a student’s personal motivations is not enough. We can’t predict global student success based on their individual objectives. We must also consider the influence of school management.

Today, mathematical models and Big Data capabilities that can analyze huge bodies of unstructured data allow educational institutions to detect when students might be at retention risk, so they can act on a timely basis to prevent student attrition.

Through a 360-degree view of each student, university information systems can manage plans for individual student success by identifying risk factors, triggering alerts, monitoring and guiding actions to retain students at risk.

Conclusion

Higher education, one of the last bastions of traditional knowledge, is finally experiencing the rapid change of digital transformation. Student attrition might be the straw that is breaking the camels back, pushing universities and colleges to leverage the accessible technologies that are available today to manage the individual experience of each student, empower their management network, improve student success and ultimately drive retention.

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