How to get higher ed students’ attention during COVID-19

Online learning for students at colleges and universities has become an absolute necessity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But let’s face it, online learning can be extremely booooooring. That’s why it’s imperative that institutions think more creatively about what attracts students and how they make “online learning” not just bearable but engaging and even fun.

In an online article for Forbes Magazine, Khasadyahu Zarbabal, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Finance & Economics at Medgar Evers College in New York, talked about the importance of engaging students with individuals who are already working in the students’ chosen field.

In the article, Zarbabal said, “Engaging my students has required a lot of trial and error over the years—this isn’t a unique challenge to COVID-19. For example, online discussion forums haven’t worked for my students, it was just an extra to-do. Today’s students are juggling multiple responsibilities. They want to focus on the material, and in a certain way, on practice more so than theory. So, I brought in people from Wall Street, non-profit leaders, and those in marketing, to give a different perspective to help students show different paths to finance.”

Online learning experts say institutions should also find creative ways to help students stay focused, such as shorter sequences and engaging activities like polls and breakout sessions.

Other ways college and universities can add some zing to their online learning environments include:

  • Recording lectures and adding captions and other audio content to support the lessons and improve accessibility for all students.
  • Adopt more flexible approaches to student participation by moving away from traditional two or three-hour lectures to more project-based assignments.
  • Integrate animated responses into your websites using software such as PowToon or Storybird. These resources allow students to respond to content in an interactive way using voice-over characters, cartoons and creative story-telling.
  • Create interactive lessons using software like Nearpod that engage with colorful questions, surveys and quick student-response opportunities.

Administrators aren’t just being challenged by their online learning environment. They also seek to enhance recruiting potential students amid COVID-19, especially in light of a decade-long downward enrollment trend.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment nationwide fell 11% between 2011 and 2019. Due to COVID-19, enrollment fell another 3.6% from 2019 to 2020.

To offset that trend, recruitment-based activities like Welcome Day and even campus tours have morphed into online activities through the dynamic use of technology, creativity and videos. These kinds of updates will continue to serve institutions long after the pandemic has passed.

Some universities like Indiana University tap into pandemic slice-of-life experiences by sharing videos on social media of what students are doing in their off time.

If institutions want to not just survive the pandemic but also thrive, they’ll have to be creative and pivot when it comes to engaging students online in both the classroom and through recruitment.

Want to talk more about how your website can better engage current and potential students? Contact us!