Major @TechnologyOne survey finds tech a major contributor to student churn 

Two in every three students would consider switching universities for a better technology experience, or to a micro-credential rather than a traditional degree, a major survey has found, delivering implications for the way higher education institutions adapt in a post-COVID world.

With universities and technical and further education colleges (TAFEs) forecasting forward budgets and staffing on the assumption that students who enrol will stay, the new 2020 ‘student stickiness’ trend could lead to further adverse impacts on the Australia and New Zealand higher education sectors. 

TechnologyOne’s 2020 Australia and New Zealand Higher Education Student Survey, conducted last year, found learners are now considerably more open to changing their place of study to get a better technology experience. Of the 1,718 students surveyed, almost a third (31%) said they would definitely switch universities or TAFE’s, while a third more would consider it. 

Peter Nikoletatos, global industry general manager of education at TechnologyOne, said 2020 demonstrated technology is a fundamental part of the student experience and a key factor in a student’s ongoing relationship with their institution throughout their post-secondary learning life. 

“Eighteen months ago, when we last conducted our survey, we found a significant gap between students’ expectations of technology at their place of study and their experience of it. 

“Back then though, it wasn’t enough of an issue to cause such an impact, with only 17 percent saying they’d change institution for a better technology experience.

“Fast forward to 2020, and technology became the equivalent of the front gate for many students, especially those in Victoria. The experience has thrown the strengths and weaknesses of institution’s virtual learning and administrative systems into stark relief.  The pass-fail mark has now effectively been raised,” Mr Nikoletatos said

“This is the era of digital natives, with an expectation that technology is seamless, accessible and easy to use,” Mr Nikoletatos said. 

“As students start back at studies for 2021, it is important to recognise the importance that students put on a uni or TAFE’s technology, and continue to change and adjust in line with expectations,” Mr Nikoletatos said

TechnologyOne’s research highlighted a number of areas in which COVID-19 may lead to students becoming more mobile between institutions and less ‘sticky’ to individual institutions.

Two out of three surveyed also said they would now consider micro-credentialling and almost half supported more sub-bachelor degrees. This is largely driven by the expectation that their study will provide employment opportunities in their field and the stackable skills style qualifications may provide that competitive differentiation at recruitment time.

Praise for institutions’ COVID response

On the whole, TechnologyOne’s research found students had a positive view of their institution’s response to COVID-19 with three out of four saying their place of study had handled the shift to remote learning well. 

A similar number said their institution had communicated effectively during the pandemic to-date.

“The higher education sector was hit hard by COVID-19, so, it’s pleasing to see the students who were the end customers of those education services have, as a majority, had a positive experience with their places of study, despite the most challenging circumstances in memory,” Mr Nikoletatos said.

Opportunities for improvement

TechnologyOne’s research points to opportunities for improvement by institutions. While on-line enrolment is now more prevalent and generally easier, a number of students reported ongoing difficulties with the process and the number of steps required varies widely.  

  • While one in three respondents (38%) said the process had been intuitive and easy, with 32% reported moderate or major challenges with their enrolment.
  • For one in five, enrolment involved just five or less steps but one in four (24%) reported it took 20 or more.

“Institutions have invested considerable effort into making the enrolment process easier for students and that’s with good reason. For school leavers especially the enrolment process is often their first direct experience of university life and it is important to start off well,” Mr Nikoletatos said.

Changing attitudes to technology

TechnologyOne’s research also found a number of changes in students’ behaviours to technology.

  • Those surveyed were virtually unanimous (97%) in believing it was important to be able self-manage the enrolment process on-line.
  • Only one in five preferred in-person interaction with their institution’s administration office.

TechnologyOne’s 2020 research looked at the student experience, in particular enrolment and admission, the importance of technology and innovation, and the impact of COVID-19. It followed a similar study done in March 2019. 

The company surveyed 1,718 current students in September 2020 ranging from those enrolled in tertiary-level higher education institutions to vocational students in VET institutes across Australia and New Zealand.

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