Moving to university is one of the biggest moments of most of our young lives – and can also be one of the most nerve-wracking, especially if you’re an overseas student.
This is where CampusConnect, the first platform from edtech company StudyBundles, comes in says the company’s co-founder Dan Hinkley.
The platform goes out with students’ offers and lets them set up a profile, ask questions about the university and meet fellow students based on profile matching.
“My co-founder and I were both working in education and noticed international students were struggling with lots of things when they arrived in the UK,” Hinkley told BusinessCloud.
“It’s a big change of scene – a new academic culture, a new everything really. It’s hard enough for the rest of us moving to university.
“The pair of us were involved in inductions and started experimenting to help the process.
“Initially we sent out remote media – little videos about where students were going to be living and the university culture – which gave us the kernel of the idea.”
The platform is free for students to use and universities pay a licence-based fee. It is designed to help institutions keep students once they’re there too.
“At least one in ten students in every UK university drops out in their first year,” says Hinkley.
“Some factors we can’t impact but even if they run out of money maybe it’s because they haven’t had access to support services.
“There are lots of areas when better communication and a stronger network would help.
“We want the transition to be smooth and to have support networks in place before students arrive.”
Currently mainly aimed at overseas students planning to study in the UK and Ireland the platform is available for institutions such as Liverpool John Moores and the University of Manchester, which uses it to connect current students and staff under its wellbeing initiative.
“We look at what unis perceive as their pain point,” said Hinkley.
“Manchester’s a Russell Group university so doesn’t struggle to get applicants but it has such a large campus it can be hard to communicate across the student body.”
Using the platform will also help institutions reduce the large amounts of ‘one-way marketing’ which Hinkley says isn’t helping anyone.
“Universities are desperate for international students so they send marketing videos like drone footage of the campus,” he said.
“They don’t let prospective students have any interaction or sense of community because it’s hard to scale that service.
“We wanted to empower prospects to ask questions and not just be directed to a website for the answer.
“Even if they’re at least reading a real student’s words it can help them know if they’ve made right choice – or even if they haven’t it means they can find out earlier.”
Going forward technology will continue to have a huge impact for universities as long as they continue to have students’ best interests at heart says Hinkley.
“In my experience as a teacher tech has been the single biggest change in the whole sector,” he said.
“From using blackboards to whiteboards to smartboards, iPads and apps that link up what you’re doing to parents, it’s permeated every aspect.
“Like anything it can be fantastic or a real pain and take away from the experience.
“It really depends who’s in charge and in my experience decisions often haven’t been made based on the students’ best interest.”