We are students in Northwestern's Medill IMC [Integrated Marketing Communications] program in a Direct and Integrated Marketing course that teaches social marketing. As a part of our assignments, we need to better establish our professional personas and begin writing blogs on key topics which concern our future professional industries. You can also follow us on twitter using the hash tag #NUSocialIMC. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Back to School: 6 Lessons Universities Can Learn From Corporations
We hear all too often that corporate leaders need to be
aware of the latest academic research. On the flip side, university
administrators could learn a thing or two from their corporate
counterparts? What you ask? Well, I’m
here to tell you.
Rapidly changing technology means that the treasure trove of
tools available to higher learning institutions is enormous. The problem is, university administrators and
a lot of faculty members don’t know how to use it as part of a larger goal to turn out more engaged students. Corporations have found technology to be an
essential differentiator in a time when Wall Street standouts are obsessed
with big data and customer behaviors. But research to better understand what is
happening with education technologies, even in private education, is slow
moving and heavily focused on K-12 environments.
In addition, many places of higher learning are still using
the push model to share information with student bodies. Many of the integrated solutions that are
most effective for corporate giants, could be game-changing on a university
campus. As a new generation of learners
comes of age, universities must embrace data-driven, student focused approaches
to drive change. How can century old institutions expect to understand this up
and coming group of learners? These
students will be hard-wired to learn differently. Having grown up using cell
phones and tablets, touch screens and instant communication devices they will
be even more accustomed to instant gratification, and will likely find
traditional teaching approaches stifling and stale. So how do universities innovate change to
Here are a few takeaways that universities can learn from
innovative corporations facing the same uncertain future:
Nowadays, data is power. Uhh…did someone say Google? Like any smart
organization, institutions should stockpile data to understand student needs
and behaviors. The more schools can know about students, how they learn, how
they gather information, how they behave in their dorms, in classrooms, in places
of leisure, the better. Luckily, universities
are well equipped to study their closest specimen, the students themselves.
the Customer…err I mean student.
Where is the customer-focused approach at
the University level? Schools should treat students and parents, to some
extent, as customers. The number one priority should be learning and
corresponding social development of the students.
to Personalize & Engage
Embrace technology to serve the student
body. Allow tools, widgets and online
platforms to enhance the great work already being done. Build user experiences
to allow students to engage in curriculum development. Crowd source campus
planning or allow every student to personalize his/her registrar page. The opportunities here are endless. The point is: The time for pushing curriculum
and programs down the throat of students is over.
Some of the most widely talked about
corporations (Zappos, for instance) are making changes and sharing them
internally with their workforce but also with the general public. Universities should share strategic goals
with faculty, staff and students and invite them to participate in the process.
Let’s ignite the student population and energize the student groundswell to
help craft the college experience.
Sites like Khan Academy prove that
universal access is the wave of the future. Stanford is also experimenting with
universal access by opening up select classes to anyone with a web connection. The publishing and music industry are
experiencing similar trends, with their customers demanding free content,
Once you gather data and implement
programs, make sure to follow up by measuring results. Establish clear metrics
and track university successes and failures. This step is critical to any
organism that seeks to continually improve.
Universities need to institutionalize the use
of technologies to encourage growth and innovation. Just like corporations are quickly developing
frameworks for social, mobile and local, universities should be exploring ways
to share ideas and feedback quickly.
Given these six strategies, any place of higher learning could be more
effective in their ultimate goal of fostering engaged students and
developing contributing members of our society. Together, they will help universities learn from private-sector successes and be more prepared for the wave of the future.
Lesley Albright is a strategic marketing consultant and graduate student in the
Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program. She has spent eight years in interactive
strategy, advertising and public relations. Lesley is passionate about digital education, global brand strategy and coalition building. Follow Lesley on Twitter @LesIoRants or on LinkedIn