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Improving student support in Universities during COVID-19

Going to University has always been a daunting experience, especially when moving away from home. However, those starting University in September 2020 have the extra challenges regarding COVID-19 to contend with - alongside the usual concerns associated with beginning a new chapter at University.

Freshers in 2020 won't be attending themed club nights, fayres or other social gatherings, and instead will be settling into University by social distancing, online learning and frequent hand washing. Those who had already begun their University experience in 2019, 2018 or earlier, will have to adjust to new teaching techniques and support systems, following the disruption coronavirus caused to their 2019 academic year. 

The students aren't the only people who will have to adjust to a new University experience, the Universities themselves will also go through a plethora of changes due to the coronavirus pandemic. New hygiene measures will be introduced, with hand sanitiser stations throughout buildings and an increased frequency of cleaning. One-way systems may be in place, and some members of staff may choose to wear face coverings. These changes are becoming what it being referred to as the 'new normal', with face coverings and hand sanitiser quickly becoming essential items. Student accommodation will also change, with potentially reduced capacity and supportive quarantine measures in place that can be tracked using Dynamics 365.

Contrary to popular belief, University is predominantly about education - and not about parties, sports teams and societies - and so the most significant change to the University experience will be the change to teaching methods. The majority of classes are predicted to be online, consisting of webinars, video meetings as well as remote learning. Applications such as Microsoft Teams streamline these processes, by integrating meetings, files and conversations. The University experience isn't cheap, and with tuition fees remaining the same as pre-coronavirus prices for the majority of students, Universities have to demonstrate why their online learning is worth the fees.

COVID-19 has had a negative impact on many aspects of peoples lives - with one significant area being mental health and wellbeing. A study conducted by UCL found that levels of anxiety and depression have been highest among young people throughout the coronavirus pandemic - with 63% of people feeling worried about the future (The Health Foundation, 2020). There has been more and more focus put on student support and wellbeing over recent years and with the pandemic negatively impacting mental health among students, Universities need to ensure the correct level of support is available. Face to face sessions will be less frequent, so student support will rely on the technological capabilities of the University to ensure students get the same support remotely as they would get in person. Students may be struggling financially if they've lost their part-time job, struggling to make friends due to social changes or be concerned about the health of family, friends or themselves. 

Apps such as PowerApps, Chat Bots and Dynamics help to manage, support and keep track of conversations, to both streamline and personalise the process. Dynamics 365 can link to various Microsoft Apps, connecting accommodation, learning and student support information to simplify communications and understand the needs of each student. 

At Crimson, we offer a dedicated Assess2Progress workshop, which helps marketing, IT and student liaison leaders to evaluate the potential of their Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution to attract, retain and engage with students. To find out more get in touch. 

For more information on how Microsoft Dynamics 365 can be applied to Higher Education institutions, watch our latest HE Hub webinar here. 

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