Admissions & Marketing Manager (Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad)
Effective communication in admissions remains a challenge in many international schools, hence many aim to become digital from a communications and admissions perspective. This leads to a range of mobile applications, online forms, chatbots and so on, ensuring improved engagement with parents. In today’s world when everyone is so dependent on technology, it is ideal for schools to adopt technology in their day-to-day activities and make technology an integral part of communications. From recording parent enquiries, which is extremely important for market research, through to keeping parents updated with the happenings in the school, every school should facilitate smooth communication which leads to consistency in their messaging. Let me walk you through various aspects of communications technology that we have introduced at Edify International School, an upcoming IB school in Pune, India.
The majority of international schools in India still use paper based enquiry forms. At Edify, since our admission numbers are still growing and we are not yet large enough to consider moving to an online system such as OpenApply, I had to source an alternative form to record data. Our solution has been to use the simplest option available – Google forms. When a parent calls to schedule a visit, we email them the link to fill out and record their enquiry. Also when a new parent walks in directly, our admissions officer gives them a tablet to fill out the form online. As soon as a parent completes the enquiry form, the system updates the linked spreadsheet leading to any kind of analytics that the admissions officer might want to access. I have in the past used OpenApply for admissions and look forward to transitioning to the same platform in my current school once the number of students increases.
All schools have to keep upgrading their strategies to ensure smooth and effective communication. Admissions officers accept the fact that follow up is highly essential and a lot of parents are not keen to pick up follow up phone calls. At Edify, we have used WhatsApp for follow ups and the majority of parents who do not respond to phone calls reply to our WhatsApp messages. Also, Edify uses WhatsApp to keep the parents updated on various activities by sharing pictures, videos and audio clips regularly with them. The official number of the school is saved by all the parents in their phone and the school uses the broadcast list feature to send updates to up to 250 parents in one go. It also allows you to analyze whether the parent has read your message or not. Welcome messages, along with an accurate location also are sent to prospective and new parents via WhatsApp to ensure they don’t have any difficulty in reaching the school.
Fee structure password:
Market research states that the top 3 priorities for parents while making school decisions are the quality of teachers, sports/extracurricular activities and the school fees. The majority of parents visit a school’s website to check the school fee structure and often won’t contact the school if they find the fee structure to be unaffordable. In order to engage parents seeking fee information, EIS Pune introduced a one-time password on its website in order for parents to access the fee structure. As soon as parents try to download and open the fee structure, they are asked to register their mobile number in order to receive a one-time password. The Admissions team is then able to either call or WhatsApp the parent and invite them to the school for a visit which potentially increases the chance of conversion.
Edify International School also uses chatbots, which have the potential to change the admissions process in more ways than we can imagine. Education has traditionally been a sector where innovation moves slowly. However; over the last few years there has been a lot of hype over innovative tools to enhance the admissions experience in the education sector. We therefore decided to introduce chatbots and artificial intelligence on our website. The chatbot can answer questions related to life on campus, school timings, and information on the admissions procedure effectively lowering the burden on stressed out admissions officers who no longer have to explain the same things over and over to different parents over the phone.
I’d finally like to conclude that even though technology is advancing at a rapid rate and it can perform most tasks efficiently, it still lacks the human ability to cater to individual needs. School selection is a parent’s most important decision and technology should be used only to improve the overall experience of the parent as it can never replace the human touch. An example from medicine works perfectly well in this article – We are going to continue meeting the doctor even when there are machines helping our doctors come up with the proper diagnosis and treatment. Even if a machine could determine an appropriate plan — and as we know there are few absolutes in medicine — we still want to work with a doctor who has been trained to talk us through the options and administer the treatment protocol and who understands the art in the science. Similarly, technology should be used to administer and improve the customer experience, but the human touch should never be lost.
About Edify International School
Edify International School is an upcoming IB School in Hinjewadi, Pune, India catering to students from Pre Primary to Grade 8. Edify’s vision is to be the preferred school for learners, parents and educators who seek excellence in the field through intercultural understanding within an active, creative and respectful learning community. Edify emphasizes its sports program and offers facilities to explore volleyball, tennis, skating, basketball and football along with a temperature controlled swimming pool and badminton. Understanding the importance of technology in IB education, Edify has set up Windows and Mac driven IT labs along with STEM and Innovations labs to encourage integrated learning and ensure students have a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering and math.