Best Practices

Fostering Stickiness and Retention in a Changing Educational Landscape

The week of March 16 saw higher education institutions shuttering their campuses, sending students home, and quickly moving to online learning. On the Admissions side, offices went from planning large scale, in-person admitted student days and college fairs to rethinking how to keep students excited and engaged when they couldn’t see the campus for themselves. Current students had to move out of their dorms and professors had to rapidly transition to distance learning.

Suddenly, being a college student looked completely different. As the director of student experiences at Full Measure, a mobile-focused education platform, my job was to make sure our product met our users’ evolving needs and help them succeed through this unprecedented crisis. 

A changing landscape

At Full Measure, we were releasing a Yield Event Experience, a mobile-first communication strategy for admitted student events that were no longer going to take place. After a few days reviewing the landscape and talking with our partners, it became clear that the challenge of communicating with prospective and current students was now greater than ever. Institutions were quickly making decisions regarding policies, information, and guidelines, and students needed to be informed.

After hearing this feedback, we decided to expand the use of our platform for our current partners, at no cost. This meant many of our users went from using our platform only within the Admissions department to expanding use across departments. Others went from communicating around one moment in the student journey to setting up resource pages accessible for any student. As a result, our user base grew significantly, which meant we needed to substantially scale our onboarding and training from our client services team. By expanding the usage of the platform, our users began to discover features that they may not otherwise have known about. They were also able to uncover additional use cases in an organic way. 

A momentous occasion, now virtual

As it became clear that students were unlikely to return to campuses for the end of the semester, our thoughts turned to graduation. Large, crowded, in-person events that weren’t feasible in the current landscape. However, they represent such a momentous occasion in a student’s journey. We knew the Class of 2020 deserved a rich, exciting graduation experience that they could celebrate with their friends and family. This led us to develop the Graduation Celebration Experience. Up until that point, the majority of our user base was on the prospective student side, so this experience introduced a new set of users from various departments across the institution. 

Since graduation is a distinct moment, we needed a way to continue to engage these users after their graduation date. How do you foster and continue relationships with users that have an end-point to the moment they are using the platform for? What’s the best way to get users within the Office of Special Events or the Alumni Office to engage with the platform beyond that single occasion? To answer this question, we went back to our mission. 

Our guiding philosophy

Our mission at Full Measure has always been to improve student outcomes by enabling institutions to best leverage the power of mobile. In a world where students, both prospective and current, are not stepping foot on campus, communicating with them through the channel they know best and rely on most is more crucial than ever. Creating champions from the users who utilized the platform to celebrate their graduating students didn’t just create stickiness for those particular users to envision how the platform could be used across the student lifecycle. It also allowed us to leverage these relationships to build new ones with other departments within the institution. Having a champion who can easily explain the platform to their colleagues is invaluable. It takes the mystery out of using a new piece of software. 

We also knew that changing or adding software, particularly in the midst of a pandemic and facing budget cuts, is a daunting task for any department. That’s why we break down our platform into experiences. Experiences are one defined moment in the student journey, such as graduation, the moment of acceptance, or submitting an application. Experiences are easy to implement, require little human capital, and allow users to see value quickly. It’s a lot less daunting to implement one or two mobile-first communications than it is to launch an entire communications plan. By stacking experiences like Legos, institutions can easily leverage the platform, onboard users at their own pace, and see a return on investment quickly, which is a great recipe for fostering stickiness. 

Adapting to the new normal

Higher education is facing a set of vast challenges and constant uncertainty. Plans are changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis. As institutions make the decision to do virtual learning, on-campus, or a hybrid model for the fall semester, communicating changes, restrictions, and guidelines to their students has never been more important.

At Full Measure, we need to be as flexible as our institutions are, and talk about the different ways in which our platform can help educators solve the problems they’re facing. That might mean the product team highlighting new experiences to showcase the power of mobile and helping existing users see the platform beyond their initial use case. On the client services side, the team might give users the tools to not only launch the experience they started with but also the ways in which they can bring other communications to life.

Institutions need solutions now. And when users can apply the platform to various needs with ease, flexibility, and speed, the end result is high levels of retention and stickiness.