Reputation and COVID-19: Far More than Academics
COVID-19 is changing the way colleges and universities operate — and it will soon impact reputation rankings and student enrollment.
Academics were once the key factor in student enrollment at higher education institutions across the United States. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way colleges and universities operate. The pandemic will also likely change the way these institutions are viewed now and in the future.
For today’s colleges and universities, it is paramount to look beyond academics to maintain a strong reputation in the midst of the pandemic. If you prioritize your digital strategy, you will be well-equipped to enhance your school’s reputation as a hub of safe learning and thrive in the “new normal.”
How will COVID-19 impact higher education institution ratings?
In the short-term, many higher education institutions are still figuring out how to cope with COVID-19. Some schools are letting teachers use remote learning platforms to engage students outside of a traditional classroom. Meanwhile, other schools are deploying a hybrid model that allows students to complete classes both in-person and remotely. Various schools are exclusively using in-person classes as well.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guiding principles for colleges and universities to maintain safe campuses during the pandemic. It also provides tips to help schools test for COVID-19, along with other recommendations to ensure students can avoid inadvertently contracting or spreading the coronavirus.
How colleges and universities approach remote and in-person learning in light of the CDC recommendations will have far-flung effects on their ratings. If schools can effectively protect students against COVID-19, they may show prospective students that they prioritize safety. As a result, these schools will improve their reputations and boost the likelihood that prospective students may be drawn to them for reasons beyond academics.
On the other hand, colleges and universities that fail to take the proper safeguards during the pandemic will put students, and their own reputations, in danger. These schools are likely to have high volumes of COVID-19 cases as well as the brand damage associated with them.
Ultimately, colleges and universities must act now to protect their reputation both during the pandemic and after it ends. If schools are proactive in their efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, they can safeguard students against the coronavirus. At the same time, they can show potential students that they are willing to do what it takes to ensure students remain safe — and bolster their reputation accordingly.
4 ways to boost your reputation during the pandemic
The pandemic is ongoing, and it may seem virtually impossible for colleges and universities to improve their reputations during this challenging time. But, if your institution looks beyond academics, there are many opportunities to make sure your brand is known for keeping students safe even while it helps them build the educational foundation for a better future.
1. Collect and evaluate COVID-19 data
Be proactive in your efforts to combat COVID-19. Retrieve COVID-19 data related to any on-campus cases and monitor this information. Over time, you can use this information to understand the spread of COVID-19 across the campus and tailor your safety efforts accordingly.
As you collect COVID-19 data, it can be helpful to work with public health agencies to assess this information. With public health experts at your side, you can gain the insights you need to protect students against COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.
Once the pandemic ends, use that COVID-19 data to understand your institution’s response to the crisis. If you were successful in your efforts to prevent the spread at your college or university, you may use some of this data to highlight your ability to keep students safe during the pandemic. As such, your data can help attract new students in the years after the crisis.
2. Offer remote learning
Give students an option to collaborate with teachers and peers via remote learning. This ensures students can continue to learn during the pandemic and shows that your college or university is willing to do what it can to keep students safe.
Remote learning tools are readily available, and they are already being used by many colleges and universities nationwide. These tools make it simple for students to stay connected to teachers and peers without having to worry about putting their safety at risk.
Of course, remote learning tools alone are insufficient. In addition, your institution must teach students how to use these tools so they can leverage remote learning to the best of their abilities. Plus, your college or university can show prospective students that it is committed to educating them in any way possible, which will help grow future enrollment.
3. Retrieve and analyze student feedback
Find out how students feel about your school’s response to the pandemic. Student surveys and questionnaires can be submitted online, and they allow your institution to check the pulse of its student body. Use this feedback to discover ways to enhance student engagement throughout the pandemic.
Take student feedback seriously and apply it to your COVID-19 response whenever possible. Remember, your institution and its students can work together to limit the spread of COVID-19. By embracing student feedback, your school can show students that it cares about their insights and enhance its reputation going forward.
4. Build your web presence
Use the pandemic as an opportunity to transform your digital marketing. In doing so, you may quickly find new ways to engage with current and prospective students throughout the pandemic.
For instance, you can host virtual tours for students who are interested in your institution but want to avoid an in-person visit due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Or you can host webinars to introduce new students to faculty members and staff. You can even use Instagram and other social media platforms to stay in touch with students and provide them with COVID-19 news and updates.
Ready to enhance your web strategy? KWALL can help
At KWALL, we understand the challenges that colleges and universities are facing due to the pandemic. We recognize that your institution wants to support students as much as possible during this time, but doing so can be exceedingly difficult. Our solution: Deliver the digital experiences that you and your students need to succeed.
We have extensive direct web development experience within higher education and can help you drive traffic through the marketing funnel. Also, we can help you enhance your digital strategy to boost student enrollment and engagement.
Learn how we can help your higher education institution connect with current and prospective students: Contact KWALL for a site audit today!