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How COVID-19 and evolving technologies have impacted student expectations

The growing demand for e-learning and self-service portals is accelerating digital adoption in the tertiary education sector.

It is hard to imagine more challenging circumstances in which to study than those we have seen in 2020. On top of the usual challenges students face, many have had to deal with financial stress and uncertainty, as well as a sudden loss of social events, friendships and camaraderie that are so integral to the tertiary education experience. To better understand how students navigated their tertiary education in 2020, TechnologyOne conducted a student survey, polling more than 1700 university and VET students across Australia and New Zealand. We then compared the results to a similar survey run in 2019.

Many institutions have turned to e-learning solutions and digital technologies to make the transition smoother, which have been major influencing factors for students navigating their education goals. In Australia, 29% of students were studying purely online in 2020, compared to 15% in 2019. One of the biggest advantages of the ongoing shift to digital has been the flexibility it has provided students. Remote learning has enabled students from beyond traditional catchment areas to join and attend courses that interest them, and course customisation options have enabled them to learn at their own pace, which has had a positive impact on students’ perceptions about their institution.

Enrolment and admission are becoming digital-led experiences

One of the most significant effects we have observed is a steady increase in a fully online enrolment experience. Self-service portals are now becoming the preferred way staff and students carry out admin tasks. The ability to complete these tasks at your convenience and on any device has been a major drawcard, and for many students, is becoming a baseline expectation for any institution they may be considering. But it is important to understand the role user experience plays in the self-service process. It must be intuitive and easy to use for it to be adopted by students, and that is precisely the area where we are seeing some progress.

This year, 66% of Australian students described the enrolment experience as intuitive and easy, compared to approximately 60% last year. Institutions are clearly realising the value of user-friendly self-service portals, not just for students, but for their own staff as well. Digital technologies like these enable institutions to reduce administrative overheads and free up their staff to focus on tasks beyond routine admin work.

Technology and innovation are becoming key drivers for students

It is no surprise that young people have an affinity for technology, but what’s striking is how much of an influence technology and innovation are having when it comes to choosing which institution to attend. 31% of Australian students said they would switch institutions for a better technology experience, compared to 17% in 2019. In a year of crisis, it is understandable students would gravitate to an education experience that enables them to study on their own terms. And the numbers bear this out: nearly a third of the students surveyed said the ability to access course resources and materials from anywhere, at any time, from any device was extremely important to them. Education has turned into a fragmented, multi-device, multi-location experience, with virtual campuses becoming the norm and students studying on a variety of devices across a variety of locations. Institutions need to respond to this trend, and quickly. Across ANZ, nearly a third of university students said they would switch to a different institution if it offered better technology, with a quarter of VET students feeling the same way.

The impact of COVID-19

Student success invariably depends on three factors - how they are taught, how they are mentored and what they experience. The shift to remote learning due to social distancing has completely changed this equation. Now, to overcome the constraints of social distancing, scheduling and classroom learning, institutions are exploring new ways to supplement face-to-face learning and digitally engage their students. What this means is that digital experiences are becoming the predominant way students experience and interact with their institution. It is fast becoming the default ‘institution experience’. This represents an amazing opportunity for institutions to set themselves apart. By investing in the right digital technologies and experiences, they can find new ways to deliver the world-class education experiences their students expect.

Publish date

15 Jan 2021

Access the report

Student Survey Report 2020

This report from TechnologyOne explores what students expect from their education experience, the impact of COVID-19 and how student preferences are being shaped by new technology trends.

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