Blog #1 for RTOs - Student engagement in a compliance world

Engaging with your students?

And can you prove it? #NeedToKnow

For the last 12 years I’ve been heavily involved in the delivery of technology in the education and training. And over that period, a lot has changed.

After what seemed to be an explosion in private education providers we’re now seeing a significant consolidation and a shift back to public providers. Government policy changes on a regular basis, and now funding which was previously linked to the delivery of training in the private RTO space has been slashed.

A dramatic shift to compliance and proof of student engagement is a challenge that all providers must meet head on.

So, how in today’s world do you ensure student engagement while simultaneously meeting your auditing and compliance requirements? And can technology help?
(The correct answer here is a resounding ‘yes!’).

What is engagement, and why do I care?

Student engagement can look dramatically different depending on the type of training you’re providing, and the setting in which it’s being provided. For example, an electrical apprentice completing their first year of study will engage with their education in a very different way to somebody completing a short course in first aid.

Student engagement is essentially a measure of how curious and attentive a student is in their studies. It indicates how invested they are, and how relevant they feel it is to their lives and future ambitions. It recognises that if a student can’t see the point of what they’re studying, they’re unlikely to participate and engage in that learning.

All education providers care about how engaged their students are – with good reason.

It indicates how well you’re delivering the learning, and whether or not your students are in the right type of education and training. And it most definitely can make your business more successful. An engaged student is likely to do well in their studies and tell their friends and family that’s they enjoying what they’re doing. In today’s world of Google reviews and Facebook ratings this can mean the failure or success of your business.

One of the other compelling reasons that you need to care about engagement is that government and training authorities require that we collect this information.

Anybody who is delivering accredited training in Australia needs to track their students learning activities to some degree. And this goes way beyond just making sure that your students log into an LMS. You need to show that they not only logged in, but also went to the learning material and spent time completing activities. This, along with regular contact from teaching staff (3-4 times a month) is also required in most circumstances. The challenge for training organisations is that you need to ensure you’re doing this and collect proof of this engagement as you may be audited at any time and required to provide evidence.

So, how do I track and capture the proof?

Education and training providers need student management systems to track the student journey from enrolment through to attainment of their qualification. But systems can vary dramatically, as can their usefulness in tracking student engagement. Most systems available today will meet your compliance needs (and some make this job easier than others), but most do a poor job at capturing proof of student engagement.

The big (and hard) questions

There are some critical things you need to look for when evaluating new systems or reviewing your existing system:

  • Does it provide a single point where all information about your training and students can be captured?

    You need to ensure that the system enables you to capture all interactions. That includes emails, SMS messages, surveys, meetings with tutors and phone calls. They all need to be entered into your system and then be reportable. Just putting something in a notes field isn’t going to cut it as finding this evidence at a later stage is going to be nearly impossible. A good system will also allow you to introduce new types of interaction, so you can add social media contact and web chats when and if you introduce these channels of communication.

 

  • Does it provide flexible reporting?

    Student management systems need 3 types or reporting:
      • Compliance reporting to Government. Compliance reporting must be understandable by the users and flexible enough to meet the changing needs of government. You need to be able to easily add data fields and new reporting files without having to adopt a compete re-release of the software.
      • BI Dashboard reporting for executive teams. The CEO/Owner of the training organisation needs to see the level of student engagement and should “know” that all compliance and auditing requirements are being met. At a glance.
      • Operational reporting. Fast and easy access to student information based on parameters that are important for your business. Reporting must be user driven and provided through self-service. You shouldn’t have to get the software vendor involved each time you want to add a new parameter or field to your reports.
    Tip: Look for a system that provides powerful and robust reporting features that allow you to expand and adapt to new business challenges and KPIs

 

  • Does it provide you with a single source of truth?

    A student management system may not be able to provide you with every single feature you want, but it should be able to integrate with other systems that can enhance your business. In recent years, we’ve seen software packages trying to be all things to all people, and generally it hasn’t worked. Integration with social media, learning management systems and email blasting tools can be critical when measuring student engagement. Today, this can be achieved through integration with the likes of Mailchimp, Moodle, Hootsuite etc.

    Tip: Look for a system that gives you with the ability to integrate and create workflows.

Your technology platform should support your student engagement strategy, measure and report on how successful your training and education business is, while also collecting the critical information required by government.

A successful student engagement strategy will produce better outcomes for students and your business. The real challenge is finding a student management platform that can support your strategy.

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