The Digital Campus: The Rising Challenge for Higher Education


Gone are the days of the cold, impersonal lecture halls with rows of students diligently writing note after note long-form in books and files they later go on to lose.  Today’s students are ‘digital natives’ brought up in a world of smart phones, high-speed Wi-Fi and technology on demand. They are used to sophisticated imagery and instant access to valuable resources. And, in-line with the rest of modern society, they have an ever-decreasing attention span needing instant engagement to ensure effective message delivery.  

To stay relevant to their students and deliver leading educational experiences, it’s essential that our bastions of further education that are respected worldwide maintain their reputations and join the rest of our society in its journey of digital transformation. For brands and businesses to be seen and taken seriously today, it is crucial for them to have a mobile, digital and social media presence. And the same is true for Higher Education institutions if they wish to maintain their positions in rankings.

In addition to ensuring that there is a technologically adept infrastructure within a university campus that can deliver all the associated benefits to staff and students alike, another key area that universities should consider is their digital communications—not only as an effective means to communicate with the university population, but also to garner insight from the data captured on the student body by the technology behind it. This data can be used in a variety of ways from guiding students to safety via smart digital signage notifications that can be pushed through to their mobile phones to informing course delivery and student engagement initiatives.

Digital communications have a role to play at all touchpoints through the university experience. From before they have even enrolled at a university, prospective students will be visiting and probably engaging with social media programs and digital signage to inform their decision making – financial information, living arrangements, campus navigation, transportation, course delivery, and perhaps most importantly, the social functions available will be under scrutiny. These are all important areas that prospective students will have questions about and effective, informative technology systems will be essential for delivering this information in a succinct, digestible and engaging manner.  

Having made the decision to attend a particular university, this level of information delivery will continue to be of utmost importance.  However, it will need to be tailored to suit each student’s requirements as time goes on. This is when a sophisticated Content Management System (CMS) can complement broader communications.  Every student will experience a ‘digital visual journey’ that will accompany their day.  Course schedules and daily notifications provide updates about lectures, restaurant menus and daily events guide students through digital signage and are delivered via apps to their mobile phones. Research shows that 87 percent of students think university enables them to become more independent, and it is important that readily available information allows them to be[1].

This level of communication will help engage students in campus life and help deliver a holistic university experience that is most attractive to each student’s needs.  The apps will not only allow students to interact, but also encourage conversation between staff and the student body, building a sense of community and brand advocacy for the university. After students have graduated, they can continue to be brand advocates for the university they attended—continuing to be active in alumni groups and interacting with social networks. 

As universities are continuingly looking for additional revenue streams rather than relying on government funding, smart technology and advocacy for innovation are key ways for Further Education establishments to stand-out against their competitors. 

An infrastructure of effective digital communications will also allow universities to enter into commercial relationships with brands that are relevant to campus life.  This provides partners with the opportunity to engage with a captive audience – when questioned, 91 percent of students said that they use social media every day[2] – proving that it is a valuable commercial resource.

This can also be supported with ‘proximity marketing,’ where brands are able to use cellular technology to send marketing messages to mobile phones when students are in the proximity of certain digital signage.  The right technology even offers the possibility for screen content to change to whatever is most relevant to a person when passing it. Instead of considering this an intrusion, today’s student values the opportunity to receive targeted information that is relevant and specific to them.

There is no doubt that completing a university education today takes a considerable investment. Students are very aware of the long-term commitment they are making when choosing to go to university. Consequently, they are becoming discerning and have high expectations for what they expect their university experience to be. Technological expectations are high on their list of requirements. 

For universities to rise to this challenge and ensure they satisfy this demand, it is essential that they embrace technology and digital communications to deliver a campus experience that is worthy of their students’ investment.





About Author

Joe Rabah has spent the majority of his career with RMG, formerly Symon Communications, in various roles such as systems engineer, quality assurance engineer, QA manager, and director of information technology. He was appointed as RMG’s managing director of the Middle East in 2014, and in 2018, his role was further expanded to include the European region when he became managing director for EMEA.

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