A Consultant’s Perspective: Higher Ed Communication During COVID-19
COVID-19 has introduced large amounts of uncertainty and anxiety for higher education institutions, their students and employers around the world. How universities communicate about COVID-19 should create clarity, resilience and promote a positive change for their students and staff. Research indicates that during times of distress when information about services is unavailable or not communicated regularly, students feel an increased need for transparency and guidance. Catastrophic events like these create an opportunity for universities to establish themselves as great leaders and communicators. Here are six communication best practices that we recommend universities follow during these turbulent times.
1. Use tools for effective communication to students, alumni and employers. Tools such as Symplicity CSM and its mobile functionality can be used for delivering regular newsletters and include the real time chat feature. This provides students with the opportunity to reach out to various channels and diverse communities instantly to have their questions answered. We recommend that communication with students be transparent, clear, simple and frequent as younger audiences tend to have shorter attention spans. Research shows that promoting opinions or interpretation of facts may damage trust towards the institution in the long term.
2. Create opportunities for a dialogue with your students and employers through surveys or the easy to access chat feature. From our experience, we see that stakeholders value initiatives more when they see that they have been involved in the decision-making process. This feedback can also help improve initiatives and make students feel as though their concerns are being addressed.
3. Be proactive and provide students access to online resources and the opportunities they need when they need them. A great approach would be to encourage students looking for jobs, to remain calm, and promote information on industries or sectors that are still hiring such as information technology, health care, and fast-moving consumer goods. Institutions need to continue providing employability opportunities even while students are remotely learning.
4. Provide access to student support services. Some students may be facing financial challenges with covering course fees while others may be facing challenges in receiving the resources they need to succeed in their coursework. Tools like Symplicity Access automate, simplify and monitor the end-to-end delivery process of reasonable adjustments for students. Accessibility should be provided remotely to all students without interruption.
5. Help students establish a pathway or a vision with concrete objectives on how to achieve a certain goal. Many students amidst all of this chaos may feel lost or disoriented, this is the perfect opportunity to form closer relationships with them and set the institution as a mentor and guide. Classes are still being conducted remotely which means institutions should continue to conduct virtual counseling or career mentoring sessions as well.
6. Be positive. Institutions should share the positive achievements of students and alumni with the rest of the community. This is a great way to showcase the measures the university has put into place into dealing with the crisis and appreciate those in the community that are contributing to student success significantly. Studies show that sharing positive news and achievements significantly increases resilience for both staff and students.
If you are already applying these practices using our solutions, we would love to hear from you! For more information about virtualizing student services, email email@example.com or schedule a conversation.