This year has been like no other year educational institutions have faced in more than a century. In 2020, the stakes were higher than they were a hundred years ago, as more people than ever before depend on the quality of their education to take them places they would otherwise never reach.
The coronavirus has had profound and lasting impacts on students, teachers, supporting faculty, and the ways we deliver education. With all this in play, questions about how we should educate and how to retain students now look forward to 2021.
The good news is that vaccines for COVID–19 are on the way. The not so good news is that it may be another four to six months before said vaccines are in the arms of the teachers and students who need them.
Despite the challenges, we must strive for excellence in student retention as we look to 2021. Here are some of the essential truths and trends in student retention to consider in this new year:
Time Waits for No Teacher or Student
In the face of this pandemic, one thing that has become clear is that the educational process cannot stop in its tracks. It would be disastrous for teachers who need their pay. Giving up would also be destructive to students who must keep moving forward in their studies so that they don't fall behind. To this end, enrollment somehow has to keep functioning as successfully as possible.
We should consider using any new and out-of-the-box student retention strategies we can think of as educators. These include online enrollment, enrollment by phone, enrollment through interactive apps, and much more.
To retain existing students and obtain new ones during a global pandemic will, of course, look different—but the future of our institutions depends on its existence in some new form or another. It also means we must continuously review and reassess the ways we enroll, retain, and graduate students every year—pandemic or not.
Student Retention Strategies Require That You Continuously Move Forward
Let's suppose that your school isn’t taking steps toward innovative new strategies in student retention. If that is the case, your students may slip through the cracks and simply drop out altogether.
It's time for your school to innovate—before it's too late. Consider using technology to your advantage.
Targeted and personalized digital marketing: Use a deeply personalized approach to reach out to your existing student body when the time comes to re-enroll, as well as unique digitized methods for enrolling new students.
Stretch your budget as much as possible to make this outreach individualized by reaching out to different demographics in different ways.
Be active on social media: Using channels like Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter can be some of the most effective ways to reach both existing and new students (and their parents) where they live online.
Remind them that you are there, that you are enrolling, and give them any incentives you can to make them more likely to hit that "learn more" button.
Use personalized videos to speak to individual students: This may be the most time-intensive approach, but it may also be the one with the highest payoff.
When you reach out to students during the enrollment process with individualized videos at each step of the process, you are letting them know you are there and that you see them.
Students and their parents will find this encouraging, which makes them more likely to enroll for 2021.
Let Students and Parents Know They Have Options
To continue educating and leading the next generation of young learners, as educators and as those who support educators, we have to accept that how we teach and how students learn is forever changed because of this pandemic. It is not likely that things will ever go back to "normal" as we once knew it. And that means offering more ways for students to obtain the education they want and need to excel.
Students and parents are looking for things like online and distance learning, hybrid teaching methods and classrooms, and social distancing while attending in-person school. These options may be the deciding factor on which school is the most attractive and suitable to their needs.
Student Retention Can be Augmented Through the Use of New Instructional Methods
Offer a combination of learning styles and options for students, including online instruction, hybrid classrooms, in-person instruction, and mixed school weeks. When you make these options available to students and parents, you give them the flexibility they are looking for.
Allowing for diverse learning styles also means you are preparing your students for the world after school. In today’s job market, much of what they do each workday will depend on their technological fluency and ability to switch from one form of communication to another quickly and easily.
What's most critical is that you be honest about why you chose these methods for their education. Be sure to highlight the advantages that these new learning styles offer students later in life.