How educational institutions can stay relevant, competitive and diverse by going digital – FE News

This is one of the most exciting times for education, as widespread and profound fundamental changes chart a new course for learners. and their learning providers.

Drew Castle, senior strategist at design and technology agency Rufus Leonard, explores some of the drivers of change and how digital can be harnessed to help training providers stay relevant, competitive and diverse.:

Learner behaviors, priorities and expectations have changed dramatically, with COVID accelerating the pace of change. From supporting toolkits for home schooling to reverse learning in secondary schools and digital disruptors in higher education, digital underpins and enhances educational experiences throughout the learning journey. throughout life and has become a fundamental expectation. And with a different type of provider to meet every need, a purely physical learning experience – with a large investment, long periods of study and a traditional qualification – is no longer the only option.

Differentiating yourself from the rest of the competition requires an assessment of the specific and unique value you can deliver and installing the right technology infrastructure to meet expectations.

To start this digital transformation, we recommend that you take four initial steps:

1. Conduct audience research with existing and potential learners to understand their most important needs and the opportunities available to you as a supplier.

A research program will uncover the important information your business needs to understand the deep and underlying needs of your audience (s) as well as their expectations of you as a brand and product / service. The best of them has a variety of research methods and several different results, all with a well-defined research objective and expected results.

Start by defining Why the research agenda is important and understand what you would like to get out of it; this will help guide the specific approach. Then start planning and creating your research. To identify audience needs and expectations, a mixed methods approach will work best, combining the strengths of quantitative methods such as surveys – to create statistically meaningful information – with qualitative methods such as focus groups, which reveal deep and honest truths.

To fully understand, try to do it with your and target learners – both those who match your usual ‘type’ and those you don’t normally attract.

2. Examine your brand and its current position against new and traditional competition.

An audit is the best way to gather a full and comprehensive review of your brand, highlighting its current execution across all channels and touchpoints.

To get the most useful and impactful information from these audits, it helps to have a “fresh eye,” or someone who is not involved in the day-to-day management of the brand. Traditionally, an outside agency is best placed to provide this, but it is equally important to have an ongoing internal audit process, so that you always have a view of your brand (and that of your competitors) that allows you to adapt over time, based on relevant and important criteria. preview.

This process should involve a range of disciplines / departments involved, not just the brand team, to create an unbiased and unbiased vision when your brand appears to be stagnating, if you are falling behind competitors / new competition, or when a major change in the market requires a response.

3. Review your current digital experience along the user journey, analyze and learn from the world’s most successful digital learning providers.

By understanding the current state of your brand and audiences, you can assess how your digital experience is meeting expectations. Again, an audit is the best method here and should encompass all channels and touchpoints.

Next, create a strategy to improve your digital experience to better meet customer needs. Also assess the digital experience of leading educational institutions, especially those that prioritize digital or only digital. Look for Quantic online MBA providers, or the Udemy digital learning platform, as well as traditional institutions that have started offering innovative, non-traditional offerings.

By combining an understanding of your current digital experience and the factors that make competitor’s digital experiences dominate the market, you will gain a solid foundation for planning future improvements. The most important thing to do next is to define a vision for the digital experience that guides everything you do, from investment decisions to the specific design of your digital experiences.

This vision should describe the true value your brand brings, as well as your ambitions for the experience. The key to unlocking this is a connected perspective of your business across brand, experience, technology, and company. Only by understanding the complementary (and potentially contrasting) priorities in these four main areas can you begin to refine the way forward for your business.

4. Review, streamline, and plan for upgrades to your technology infrastructure to deliver high-quality, user-centric experiences.

We recommend a “test and learn” approach using prototypes and experiments. You can develop lo-fi prototypes, built with existing, free and open source technologies, or high fidelity prototypes – built with your own proprietary technologies as the first version of the version you want and testable with your audience.

You should only build prototypes when there is a clear strategy, investment and business case, and buy-in from the right people within your organization. To get to this point, experiments are a useful way to study the little “pieces” that would combine to create the most complete prototype. We view the experiences as less formal but equally useful attempts to create solutions to the problems, challenges and opportunities that arise during the information gathering conducted in the first three stages.

As the industry continues to transition in response to changing learner behavior and industry disruptors, training providers must act now to ensure they are not left behind. This process will not happen overnight and requires an investment of time, budget and resources; but the opportunities are incredibly exciting.

By Drew Castle, Senior Strategist, Rufus Leonard

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