Communications technology is dramatically changing the playing field for educators, opening up new opportunities to promote institutional learning agendas by delivering the right information to the right people at the right time to inspire postive action.
The educational technology (EdTech) sector is booming, with an array of solutions growing to support these opportunities and is expected to be worth more than US$93.76 Billion by 2020 (2)
Balancing competing cost and innovation priorities is challenging though, and we’ve previously looked at the growth of the educational cloud (software, platform or infrastructure as a service) as an efficient way of sourcing these new capabilities.
Let's take a closer look at the some practial ways you can implement new capabilities through effective communications technology:
- Redesigning communications workflows;
- Practical steps to follow for implementing communications enablement platforms; and
- Operational communications in action - the Monash University Case Study
Redesigning enterprise communications workflows
The concept of Business Process Re-engineering, which involves radically redesigning core operational processes for dramatic productivity improvements, has been practiced for over a quarter of century.
The challenges with this approach are typically the scale of the projects involved, and the time, resources and skills required to effectively prosecute the change management activities.
This is the key advantage of SaaS deployed capabilities, as the appropriate solution can be adopted with no development lead time, and API integration typically allows these services to connected rapidly and securely to existing systems, to leverage their functionality and data.
Synchronising a SaaS Communications platform to HR data for example, and connecting the system to IT incident monitoring tools, provides a level of certainty that all staff and students can be reached in a timely way, with information relevant to their roles.
The full potential of modern communication systems can be realised when workflows are redesigned in a planned and automated fashion that fully exploits the potential of these tools.
Transitioning to communication automation requires rethinking traditional operating processes, starting with a foundation of proactive scenario planning and innovating around operations and interactions with staff, suppliers, parents, students and the wider community.
Factors to consider when adopting communication enablement platforms include:
Proactive scenario planning: Having a clearly defined plan in place for communicating in different situations cuts down response time, improves accuracy of contact, and ensures the right people are able to be reached in a timely manner.
Targeted, multi-channel messaging: Send messages to your staff and community in the way that suits them, whether that’s voice, SMS, Social Media, Rich Messages or email, to improve the rates of delivery. Knowing they will almost always have their mobiles close allows organisations to provide messages on all these channels. Geolocation can segment communications even further, such as providing multilingual messages appropriate to the recipient’s location or pre-defined contact preferences.
Pre-prepared, interchangeable message templates: Message templates should be prepared with specifics which can be rapidly altered to suit the appropriate services or situations being targeted, thereby saving time with pre-planned communication and response options.
Timing is essential: When urgent communication is required, SMS accelerates the speed of notification. Whereas half of all emails aren’t opened for at least six hours, the average text message is accessed within a few minutes and responded to within 30 minutes. Voice calls to mobile and fixed lines generate an even faster response, and can be created to trigger automatically from the communications platform.
Scalability and consistency: Look for solutions that can be scaled not only to other operational parts of the business, but can also scale internationally, and comply with regulatory requirements in differing jurisdictions.
Unified communications: Combining all of these communications streams into a single platform, with a central reporting dashboard improves cut-through in the delivery of messages and provides a mechanism for tracking all critical communications, giving recipients a way to respond appropriately. This allows informed, real time decisions to be made from these conversations.
Streamlined education communications in action - Monash University case study
Background: Monash University, the largest Australian university by numbers, identified a need to improve their IT Service Management capabilities (ITSM) to ensure stakeholders - staff and students - could receive accurate and timely notifications of any disruptions to service on different devices or channels of their choice.
Solution: Whispir was chosen to provide a modern, robust ITSM solution, in keeping with the university’s core requirements of resilience, reliability and high availability.
Being cloud hosted, with globally distributed high availability architecture, the system is secure and independent of existing infrastructure, guaranteeing service continuity during times of IT disruption.
- Targeted Communications: The University can now target communications that best fit the audience preference, and have the most suitability for reach, engagement and cost effectiveness. Examples include:
- SMS for urgent advisories, such as to IT responders, if a critical system issue is identified.
- Email notifications to academic and administrative staff for all planned outages or system maintenance, which are cost effective and wide reaching.
- Social media announcements through Twitter and Facebook to alert students and staff to any upcoming outages. This has been shown to produce the highest engagement levels with students, who rarely check emails, meaning important information is at risk of being missed.
- Message consistency: eSolutions can create standardised message templates, and workflow rules for different scenarios, which can then be deployed by the relevant departments who need access to the platform for their specific communications.
The advantage is that communications best practice can be established centrally, while still giving the respective departments the autonomy to publish information that they need quickly and directly.
-Reduced call volume: having information published in the right places has lowered the number of calls to the service desk, lowering the cost of responding to IT service queries.
- Greater user engagement: publishing notifications through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter has been more effective in reaching students, resulting in a higher number of reads, retweets and shares.
With a full suite of mobile-integrated tools, Whispir is uniquely placed to help your school benefit from these new advancements in education. If you're ready to explore more ways to improve your operations with effective communications, get in touch with one of our team members today.