The business of running universities has never been as fraught as it is today. Budgets are tight, and economic models are changing as student expectations and the maturation of online course delivery transform the learning experience.
In this environment it’s hardly surprising that many universities are looking to solve budget challenges by looking for what appear to be fast and easy ways to trim budgets. We know something about this, at least from the perspective of our work providing supplemental, online academic support to dozens of university partners.
The pressure to “save money” can lead to short-sighted processes where a “cost per minute” or a “budget expenditure figure” become all-important. “Box-ticking” exercises aside, there are 5 factors that decision makers should be considering that will lead to better outcomes for universities, their students, and their financial bottom line. They are:
1. Outcomes matter more than inputs
Spending on any service is only worthwhile if it is fit for purpose, solves a problem, and meets your needs. When it comes to online academic support, it’s about the provision of learning outcomes that can mean the difference between a confidence-building and a confidence-destroying moment. If you deploy a service that isn’t up to scratch, your staff won’t trust it, your students won’t use it, and you may end up with a mountain of “unused minutes.” We call this the Costco effect. Just because something’s “on special” doesn’t mean you need it, want it, or that it won’t end up in your bin.
A service that isn't up to scratch may lead to a mountain of un-used minutes hummus. Source: globalideas.org.au
2. Quality is essential
We recognise online academic support is an extension of your university’s academic delivery and, indeed, your commitment to the values intrinsic to your brand. When you partner with Studiosity, you’re buying into a local, Australian-owned and Sydney-based organisation that has invested 15 years and millions of dollars into building best-in-class technology, the most sophisticated and professional network of academic specialists, and a nationwide team committed to your success. As a local company, the direction of that investment is heavily influenced by our institutional partners, including through the interactions at our annual partner symposium. Being able to influence our roadmap is enormously valuable to our partners.
3. Personal attention is essential
When you buy a ream of paper, you don’t expect - or need - after sales support. But you wouldn’t buy a car without knowing that the manufacturer stands behind the quality. That’s why we have a team of dedicated partner relationship managers who ensure every university gets the best possible experience, starting with the right technology integration right through to a customised approach to data and analytics.
4. Education is a “long game”
Just like our university partners, we don’t believe in “box-ticking.” We have invested in building Studiosity into an organisation that has as its sole purpose delivering powerful, personalised learning experiences to students, wherever they may be, and whatever their circumstances. It’s why we work with hundreds of low-SES high schools and community libraries, support universities to deliver award-winning widening participation programs and much, much more. It’s part of our DNA - our corporate social responsibility mission - and it’s something we and our partners care enormously about.
5. Return on Investment must be measured
Education is an investment, not an expense. And the same can - and should - be said about all of the inputs that make for the delivery of an academic qualification. Our university partners are measuring the impact of delivering Studiosity on student self-efficacy, grade-point average, unit and subject pass rates, and year-on-year retention. It’s the ‘R’ in RoI that matters most, and a cost without a return is no investment at all.
Old and useless making room for new and useful. Photo: Jon Rawlinson; wisebread.com
Looked at this way, it’s obvious that university decision makers who are focused solely on the “cost” of online academic support see it simply as an expense, a box to be “ticked,” and not an intrinsic part of a modern, holistic student experience. For universities with a longer-term outlook, online academic support is an investment. It delivers a measurable return - quantifiable in the form of increased student retention - as well as immeasurable goodwill in the form of enormously satisfied, relieved, and genuinely happy students. And in the end, that isn’t really a choice at all.