Contactless: The new student journey
Engineering a ‘contactless’ student journey can enable education and training providers to minimise in-person contact and safeguard student activity during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Here’s an overview of the ReadyTech technology that can make contactless education a reality.
A contactless student journey is an achievable reality for today’s education providers. Despite the understandable focus on face-to-face learning and management that has dominated our sector’s delivery to date, technology now exists to allow providers to ‘switch on’ a contactless experience.
This capability responds to the needs of the moment. With providers forced to be creative in the way they adapt and deliver learning to students in a socially distant environment, creating contactless education can support provider continuity through this challenging period and beyond.
ReadyTech Education Head of Product, Alison Ritchie, says in many ways this shift had already begun. “For years educators have been working to understand their end-to-end processes, the touchpoints they have with students, to transition all of those into a paperless environment.
Thanks to all that hard work, educators are now in a strong position to activate a contactless education, with all the advantages that brings for servicing students remotely right now, as well as for delivering a strong digital offering for students well into the future beyond 2020.”
1 Getting your students through the gate
The student acquisition and enrolment process has traditionally involved some form of in-person interaction. Whether that is an enquiry at a provider’s physical reception desk, formal open days and tours of learning facilities, or the filling in of paper enrolment forms, contact has often played a role.
That was already changing prior to the coronavirus. With the realisation that technology platforms, tools and smarter communication could be used to attract and shepherd students through the gate more efficiently while still engaging students, providers saw the ability to remove contact altogether.
JR Plus or VETtrak, for example, allow full-spectrum contactless onboarding. Beginning with posting courses online and receiving applications for courses by capturing student data in online forms, providers can move through to approving applications, accepting payments and enrolling students.
Fully integrated with the broader student management system architecture they sit within, VETtrak’s VETenrol functionality and JR Plus’ Online Enrolment Portal can remove the in-person contact elements of acquisition and enrolment while maintaining a quality onboarding experience.
2 Give your students a room with a view
Students will always be more than a name or a number. For that reason, creating a contactless experience for students from the moment they are enrolled needs to include a place for them to manage their own education and to engage in communication with their education provider.
This is where student portals come in. A personalised self-service gateway or ‘window’ into their journey, it allows students to access and manage all of the relevant information and details they will need along the way. It also gives their provider a vehicle for communication and engagement.
From communications functionality like cohort notifications and updates, student direct messaging or delivering YouTube content, through to the uploading and downloading of documents like assessments (very useful right now), portals can provide rich and seamless student experiences.
The beauty of creating these ‘rooms with a view’ for students is that it is nothing like fitting out a physical office space or building something with bricks and mortar. In JR Plus and VETtrak, student portals can be spun up relatively quickly for providers who need to have them available fast.
“In our experience, what commonly acts as a barrier to a student portal rollout is providers thinking it’s a difficult process; it’s not,” Ritchie says. “While there are many pressing concerns right now, the access is actually right in front of them and ready to go – now’s as good a time as any to roll it out.”
3 Opening the doorway to your (virtual) classroom
The rise of online learning platforms has already caused many providers in the education and training sector to ask how online learning can complement their delivery. While the preference for many is still for blended learning, can the classroom be turned truly contactless?
The short answer is yes – and some are moving out of necessity. ReadyTech Senior Solutions Architect, Brett Dalton, says the education market has evolved into an era where – should educators invest the effort – they can make a wholesale move into a flourishing online learning world.
“In the current environment, providers have moved to use online tools as a substitute for face-to-face learning – for example, some providers are using Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, and some are taking advantage of the free versions of these types of conferencing tools,” he says.
However, more sustainable solutions like LMS integrations through JR Plus and VETtrak, including Canvas and Moodle, allow providers to take advantage of ‘best-of-breed’ systems built by learning specialists over many years specifically to supply the solution that providers now need.
These fully fledged LMS systems include all of the powerful learning tools that students have come to expect in a real-world classroom, from the delivery of online lectures and the supply of course materials, through to group collaboration rooms and learner-teacher communications and chat.
Combined with integrations like Cloud Assess (which can accommodate the monumental spike in online assessment needs in 2020) and ReadyTech’s own My Profiling (designed to make evidence collection simple, mobile and compliant), providers are in a position to move learning online.
“One of the key things in VET are compliance requirements. If you are assessing students remotely – and we have customers doing this – then using an LMS allows you to gather evidence from anywhere – written, audio or video – without needing to see that in person,” Dalton says.
“What I tend to advise is, while going ‘contactless’ with an LMS can be done quickly, it’s important not to underestimate the effort involved if you plan to move all your learning online. However, you don’t need to do everything immediately –you can start by getting an online LMS integration set up.
Dalton says this can be done fairly rapidly – especially when you are taking advantage of a SaaS integration like Canvas LMS – so that you can begin teaching out of it almost immediately. He adds that having an LMS in place can future-proof providers as they seek to grow in the years ahead.
4 Providing the power to train from anywhere
The final plank in a contactless education operation isn’t really about the student. It’s about the trainer. By providing tailored online access for trainers to support the management of their students from anywhere in a remote environment, the need for in-person contact can be removed.
This gateway is provided by trainer portals. From the trainer portal of a student management system, a trainer is able to manage anything to do with their students and course content. This could be anything from updating key student information, recording ‘attendance’ and logging unit results to communicating with students by email or SMS or creating a new online meeting or event.
The power to enable trainers online – even in the unfortunate event they should be confined to their own homes – means two things. Firstly, that educators can continue to create a 360-degree contactless student experience and journey that includes the trainer. Secondly, that staff continue to feel supported and engaged. With the world of learning suddenly becoming more distant, trainers too need to be connected to the tools and support they need to keep doing their jobs well.
Connection is the key to contactless education
Retrofitting education for a contactless world could be simpler than many providers of education had realised. With the impetus of COVID-19 now asking more of us all, providers are seeking solutions to the problems of distance – and are finding many of these problems already solved.
However, the success of contactless education depends on connection. From a JR Plus and VETtrak perspective, we believe part of that is ensuring you have a suite of technology that works seamlessly together to manage everything from enrolment, right through to learning and compliance.
But underneath the systems, the true connections that need to be nurtured are between providers, students and trainers. By bringing all of these people together and engaging them through technology, we can still create learning experiences and outcomes – even in a contactless world.
Visit ReadyTech’s Remote Control Centre for more advice and support on contactless educatio