Gardens, Growth, and Summer Melt

In addition to the projects like #EMchat, leadpath, and you know, being a new dad, I’ve taken on a new project this summer: turning my patio into a patio farm. I’m about as extroverted as a person can be, but even I need to kick back and take some personal time for 30 minutes each day. My favorite time to do this is at dusk with a good summer brew.

I started my vegetable garden because I’m a vegetable fanatic. Mostly, I’m a food fanatic. But vegetables take the number two spot on my list (crabs win, hands down). My Poppop was a farmer. He grew wheat, soybeans, and corn. And while that filled up a few hundred acres, some of my earliest memories were walking with him in his garden, picking fresh vegetables and fruits to take back to my Gram who would clean, cut, cook, and serve them.

There’s an obvious sense of pride that comes from watching something grow; something that comes from an idea, has to be cultivated, tended to, and refined. I think about this when I’m out there each night watering and caring for the plants. And while I’m there checking on the number of cucumbers growing (something I’m a little obsessive over) or noticing a new tomato that seemingly grew during the day when I wasn’t home, I’m also drawing parallels to all aspects of my life.

garden

I like to think of my life in a perpetual stage of growth, as I’m sure most people do. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve. There are always things to learn and people to meet. And when it comes to people, I’m a cultivator of relationships.

That’s the business of enrollment management.

When I found myself using my garden as a metaphor for higher education, I thought two things: 1) this is really cliché, and 2) I’m supposed to be unplugged and focusing on training the snap peas. But then I just let the thoughts happen. I’m glad I did.

I don’t want a garden that only has squash. I don’t want one type of tomato. I want vegetables that require space. I also want those that can be grown in close quarters. I want the challenge of using support apparatuses (specifically chose not to use the word cage, here J), or figuring out how the plants can make use of the space already available. I don’t want my garden to self-maintain. I want to prune and pluck and refine. I want the challenge of helping my garden to thrive while allowing it to nourish my hunger, both physical and mental.

All of the parallels are there for building a class of students that will not only show up in August, but succeed on your campuses. Melt is an inevitable fact of the summer months and now isn’t the time to stop cultivating the soil. Focus on the foundation of the relationships you’ve built over the last few months and keep them going. My summer garden will end in early October. Yours has about four years to go.

And if you’re looking for some tips on how to combat summer melt, there’s always this.

Digitally Driven Admissions & Data

I’m particularly excited for this week’s #EMchat because it centers on one of the things I love most, modernization and leaning forward.

In the last decade, the enrollment management world has seen a massive shift toward a serious focus on data. As admissions is the starting point for students in the college search, it really makes sense that this portion of the industry is blazing the digital path for all higher education to get on board. That’s not to say that other parts of the higher ed world aren’t on board with data and digital, it’s just my opinion that admissions leads the pack.

And to dissuade anyone from posting that I don’t know what I’m talking about because MOOCs are leading the digital advance of higher ed, my previous post makes it pretty clear that MOOCs (once again, in my opinion) are only a fraction of the #edtech movement.

This week we’ll be talking all things digital.

But, to get us started.....

[polldaddy poll=7955919]

The #EDtech Conversation

I had a really interesting conversation last night with Jake from Carnegie Communications. You all are probably pretty familiar with them by now, but if you’re not, I’d recommend (as an outsider to both the company and actual industry) getting acquainted. It’s a pretty legit team. That’s an aside…more like a forward, I guess.

Regardless, Jake and I were having a conversation about ed tech, and our conversation was (for a moment) focused on the fact that when people think “ed tech,” their minds pretty much jump to MOOCs. That’s all people were talking about in 2013. It’s pretty much all that people are still talking about—7 of the 10 most recent articles on Inside Higher Education’s technology page are on MOOCs and online learning. I get it. But ed tech goes FAR beyond this. Technology that supports education involves student tracking systems, predictive modeling, marketing, search, and an array of other tools.

While these tools might not be directly linked to learning, students won’t get to the learning part of college without many of them. And, if they do, maybe they’re learning at the wrong institution, taking the wrong classes, or are ill-prepared for the course load they’ve signed up for. I’m not suggesting that students can’t make good decisions on their own—they can and they do every day.

What I’m suggesting is that there are so many tools available to institutions that can optimize the student experience. We’re in an age of being able to build and track phenomenal relationships, effectively learn from historical data, and predict future outcomes, thus building more attainable and focused strategies. Institutions have the tools available to recruit, retain, and graduate students at greater rates. It’s just a matter of having the ability to adopt a new mindset and a willingness to try something new—even if it’s just a demo.

It’s time to start shifting the conversation from MOOCs to a more all-encompassing approach to ed tech.

Keep up with technology. Read up on trends and new products. Respect the fact that your CRM is just as important as the seats (or computers) in the classroom that it helps to fill. Spread the knowledge on your campus. Write a blog. Share an article. Take someone to coffee. Share your passion. Above all, keep your mind open—always.

This Week's #EMchat - Customer Service: PointAcross Solutions

This week’s #EMchat guest is Colleen Sheehan, Senior VP at PointAcross Solutions. PointAcross Solutions blends communication technology and design to bridge the communication gap between video and email – all with an eye toward helping partner schools reach their recruitment, retention and revenue goals. This week’s chat focuses on customer service in the enrollment management space and we hope that you’ll join us Thursday night at 9PM EST!

We’ve reblogged one of their posts below that highlights communications with prospective and current students. You can read this post directly on PointAcross Solutions’ blog, along with all sorts of other great pieces.

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 One of the best sessions at the NACUBO Student Financial Services conference this week was a panel with three college students talking about communications, including their preferences and how college administrators can better reach their peers.

Here are three tips on how to reach students more effectively:

1. Email is the best way to reach students.

This has been debated over and over, with many surveys proclaiming email is still relevant and other findings saying email is ineffective. The fact remains most schools require students to check their student email accounts. To make your emails more effective, make sure you:

  • Keep subject lines short, sweet and relevant
  • Edit out fluff, keep action dates and links clear, and don't mix social updates and administrative responsibilities
  • Include tutorials, where possible. Most schools say their phones ring off the hook when they send important emails, so offset some of these calls by helping students (and parents) self-serve more effectively

2. Selectively use Twitter, Facebook and text messaging.

Communicating with students via different channels has its pros and cons, and there’s no clear answer when it comes to whether you should be using these outlets or not. One college Bursar admitted his office has been on Twitter for years, yet with only 80 followers he knows he’s not reaching even 1% of the student body via Twitter.

 The student panelists all said it’s fine to use these channels, but use them selectively. Use Facebook to push messages out, but make it clear you’re not trying to take over students’ social feeds. While Twitter may be a good way to push deadlines, dates and forms, don’t worry about tweeting multiple times a day or about pleasantries like “have a good weekend.” Keep it relevant and simple.

As for text messaging from administrative offices, the students all agreed it had to be personal. “Don’t group text us,” they said, “but if we know it’s something directly related[to us], a text will get our attention.” That means more work on your end segmenting your lists and contacts, but the return will be higher.

3. Video tutorials are helpful, as long as they aren’t on YouTube.

 The students loved the idea of audio-visual tutorials and said some of their schools were creating these for important processes. They all pointed to PowerPoint as helpful to students and parents alike to share screenshots and walk them through next-steps. However, there was a collective and strong caution against putting these tutorials on YouTube. Videos hosted on your site and embedded in email will help both students and parents complete the processes you want with fewer errors and distractions.

 As your school looks to improve communications and create smooth processes related to Student Financial Services, take a cue directly from your target audience and keep these tips in mind. If you’d like to see how our schools are using eMessages to better meet the needs of parents and students, give us a call.