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This post is written by Terianne Sousa, Director of Education Services and Student Retention at Blackboard.

Students, both traditional and non-traditional, have become accustomed to personalized communication in their everyday lives. We can easily see how personalization has influenced industries we touch frequently: doctors, supermarkets, fast food, hotels, retail, etc. Email and text messages from all industries can be proactive and personalized. Retail outlets and entertainment services send personalized messages making recommendations about apparel, movies, and music that match their consumers’ preferences. Commercial industries go further and ask these consumers to rate the service that was provided.

The reason for this continuous proactive effort is to maintain happy customers and keep them as customers. In an increasingly competitive educational landscape, proactive communication between a school and its students plays a crucial role in student enrollment and retention rates.

Effective, proactive communication with students plays a direct role in making students feel more connected and supported, which, in turn, can lead them to have a more positive experience at their chosen institution. Connected and supported students stay enrolled and your retention rate grows.


Three key strategies colleges can use to improve communication with their students:


Use the data

Today’s students are heavily influenced by the easy access to information, communication, and technology that they have grown accustomed to. When an institution has a firm grasp on who their students are and what they need, they can design a communication plan that suits the individual needs of their campus. Institutions can use data to gain insight into the types of communication students prefer and how much engagement is too much. This data can then be leveraged to communicate more effectively and boost student enrollment.


Personalized Communication

Institutions that wish to improve their communication should focus on personalization. Institutions should communicate in a way that takes the context of the communication into account. Instead of spamming all students in a department or class about low attendance or poor grades, use technology to empower professors and administrators to send a personalized note only to the individuals with low attendance or poor grades. Many institutions have technology such as a learning management system or analytics platform that allows for this level of insight.

Utilizing or updating technology that is already present in new ways can allow for this type of personalized communication without taking more time for the individuals sending it. Students will take more notice of a personalized email or text message. The ultimate result is that the student knows that the institution is truly vested in their success.


Proactive Guidance

A good communication plan includes proactive outreach and guidance for at-risk students in order to provide the support they need from the very beginning of their education. By using research and data collection to determine what factors put students at a higher risk of stopping out, dropping out or transferring out, institutions can create a manageable list of students who will benefit the most from proactive outreach to guide those students to graduation.

Many industries use data, personalized communication, and outreach to encourage their customers to return and to maintain their customers’ loyalty. Higher education can use these same strategies to help students achieve their goals and improve student enrollment numbers term after term.


About the author: Terianne Sousa is the Director of Education Services and Student Retention at Blackboard. She has more than 15 years of experience in education and higher education management in the areas of academic advising, faculty evaluation, career services and online teaching.


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