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HE marketing in a digital age: ‘it’s not so much about the channels that you use, it’s about the questions that you ask’

“My favourite case study is about the University of Nottingham in 2010, before the UK general elections… Almost every article about the election in the significant UK media quoted a University of Nottingham Politics department faculty member”

US higher education marketing expert Michael Stoner talks to Gerrit Bruno Blöss about how universities market themselves in an age of digital technology and social media. Michael Stoner is author of ‘Social Works’, a book about social media marketing in higher education.

Your book features more than two dozen case studies of universities employing social media in their marketing. Which one of those examples is your favourite, and why?

My personal favourite is the one about the University of Nottingham. In 2010, before the general elections in the United Kingdom, they saw an opportunity to position the staff of their Politics department as expert commentators. There are three reasons why that case study is so interesting.

First, none of the things that the University of Nottingham did would be far beyond the scope that an expert PR publisher in 1985 would have done, except for the fact that they used a blog, Twitter, e-mail, and YouTube, which of course did not exist in 1985. A lot of the conceptual framework for the campaign was based on sound PR practice. You identify the people that you need to reach out to and how to reach them, and then you work the channels. It’s different today than in 1985 because we are operating in a different timeframe, but the basic PR principles still hold.

Secondly, they were very careful in identifying the outcomes that they were seeking. They were very SMART in setting goals – measurable, achievable and realistic – and they blew all their goals out of the water. They wanted to involve four Politics department faculty members, and they actually involved eight; they wanted 20 pieces of international coverage and they achieved 466… Almost every article about the election in the significant UK media quoted a University of Nottingham Politics department faculty member.

“If you are thoughtful about the way you construct the campaign, the effects can be even more far-reaching than the original goals”

A third reason is that the campaign had significant impact not only because they achieved their goals – but they demonstrated that if you are thoughtful about the way you construct the campaign, the effects can be even more far-reaching than the original goals. You could say that achieving a 15% bump in applications is significant, and it is, but, in a university environment, having other faculty members look to your department as a success is a really significant achievement that is hard to measure.

This case study shows that it’s not so much about the channels that you use, it’s about the questions that you ask, the needs you have. That’s basic marketing 101.

In some of the case studies, the reason for using social media for marketing was to build the brand while keeping expenses low.

Social media is often about keeping the external spend low. One of my frustrations with higher education and some of our colleagues is that they look at an external spend as a cost, but they don’t view staff time as a cost. To me, as a business person, it’s a huge cost. If I have a developer who is working on an internal project and not working for a client, then that’s a real expense to me, we’re losing income. Just because the higher education institution is booking revenue in a different way than we do it doesn’t mean that staff time shouldn’t be seen as a valuable asset and looked at in the entire picture of costs.

“If I have a developer who is working on an internal project and not working for a client, then that’s a real expense to me”

That’s one of the big challenges when we talk about accounting for these projects: if you’re really using social media effectively, people will be spending time on it. That’s time that they’re not going to be able to do other things. You have to recognise that. If you don’t, the project is not going to be as successful as it otherwise would be. So the advantage of a project like the one at the University of Nottingham is, of course, they had a fixed timeframe; it’s easier to run a project like that because the expenditure of staff time happened in a much shorter timeframe.

How much does a typical US institution spend on marketing?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. I was on a state university’s campus recently and they had a study done that indicated that the institution was spending US$71 million on marketing. But when you looked at the budget that was controlled by the university’s central marketing unit, the spend was about $3 million. What’s the right answer? I can’t really tell you. That institution is having a struggle now how to answer that question. And this kind of fragmented marketing organisation is really typical for universities in the US, but also internationally.

Do you see differences in the approach to social media between Anglo-Saxon countries, where education is expensive for the students, and “cheaper” countries like Germany, where institutions rely more on state funding than tuition fees?

“You want to build buzz around your institution because you want better students… perhaps you want to be the Harvard of Germany”

Many institutions that aren’t very concerned about marketing in terms of recruiting or fundraising are interested in social media because their focus in marketing is to enhance the brand value of the institution, so marketing is focused on the brand. It’s not related to student recruitment or fundraising. That’s something where social media could be very important and an essential tool. You want to build buzz around your institution because you want better students, even though you are as affordable as any other university – but perhaps you want to be the Harvard of Germany.

Gerrit Bruno Blöss is a Valuation & Business Modelling consultant with Ernst & Young in Stockholm. He assists clients in business plans, financing and business valuations, especially in the technology environment.

This interview was first published by CHIP.DE in German – read the original here.

No longer should languages be dismissed as ‘soft skills’

“As business becomes increasingly borderless in years to come, the language skills and cultural competencies of our business leaders will become critical to our economic health”

Gary Muddyman, CEO of Oxford-based translation agency Conversis, discusses the language skills crisis facing the UK and explains why he believes languages should no longer be seen as a ‘soft skill’.

Last month, I was invited to address The All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages session on behalf of the Globalisation and Localisation Association (GALA), a global trade body representing 27,000 language service providers. I took the opportunity to deliver an important message: the deepening language skills shortage is affecting UK competitiveness abroad. In order for UK businesses to continue to trade successfully in coming years, the nation’s attitude to languages must change.

No longer should languages be dismissed as ‘soft skills’. It is essential that languages are intertwined with the core STEM skills driving the global economy. As business becomes increasingly borderless in years to come, with languages other than English likely to become the lingua franca, the language skills and cultural competencies of our business leaders will become critical to our economic health. Without language the global economy simply can’t function; monolingual cultures will lose out.

It was estimated recently that the language skills deficit costs UK £48bn a year (3.5% of GDP)

The crisis in language education in the UK is well documented: 2013 saw a 40% drop in universities offering language courses and the number of UK students taking language A-Levels hitting an all time low. It was estimated recently that the language skills deficit costs UK £48bn a year (3.5% of GDP).

Whilst the UK is finally making some steps in the right direction (for example, with languages becoming a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary school children aged seven plus from September) I believe this to be too little and too late. It could take between 20 and 40 years in all reality for teachers to be trained, youngsters to be taught and for business people with the right combination of language skills and cultural competencies to emerge to lead our businesses.

At present we simply do not have the linguistic talent in this country to even fill the jobs that currently exist. My business is based in rural Oxfordshire, but only a handful of my staff are British nationals and have come through the British education system. This is for no reason other than we find candidates from Europe generally have stronger skills in the required areas.

However, the point I would like to make is that it is not just the Language Service Industry that has cause for concern here; the language skills deficit is set to affect British competitiveness abroad generally. Considering the seriousness of these consequences it is surprising there is less awareness of the problem or action being taken to address it.

“it is not just the Language Service Industry that has cause for concern here; the language skills deficit is set to affect British competitiveness abroad generally”

Whilst it remains an uphill battle, it is good to know that there are several strong initiatives out there currently making headway. These include ‘Languages for All’: a strategic effort, spearheaded by the University of Maryland and supported by the British Academy to widen language learning, resulting in an advanced language proficiency in the workforce. There is also what has been dubbed the ‘Global Talent Program’, spearheaded by GALA and primarily sponsored by Manpower Group. This sets out to create an environment in both the UK and US where business and education work together toward job growth and economic competitiveness.

Should you be interested in reading more about the language skills deficit and the opportunities and challenges facing the Language Services industry, you can download a PDF of my presentation to the APPG here.

Accreditation for an independent, single-site language school: the advantages still outweigh the disadvantages

This week, the deadline passed for the US’s Intensive English Programs to be accredited in order to issue student visas. Nate Freedman, Campus Director at Boston-based Language Skills, gives a first-person account of the accreditation process of an independent, single-site language school. 

James Stakenburg, Head of Teacher Training at Rennert, recently presented his case study of going through the accreditation process (The PIE News, October 25), stating that “the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages”. And as the accreditation deadline draws closer, we are continuing to hear from both members of the accrediting bodies and the schools they accredit on the challenges and benefits of accreditation.

From the perspective of an independent, single-site language school, where administrators and faculty already “wear many hats”, adding the task of accreditation, which requires a comprehensive review of the entire program, poses so many challenges that during the application process the potential benefits of being accredited can seem distant and unattainable. Throughout our journey to accreditation, we asked ourselves many times: will the advantages of accreditation really outweigh the disadvantages?

Well, now that Language Skills has received initial accreditation with CEA, the benefits are becoming clear, and I can begin to reflect on the question of whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

Advantages: Our faculty loves the improvements to the program. Clearly written syllabi and curricula with relevant course goals and student learning outcomes make their jobs easier and more enjoyable. Improved faculty orientation and ongoing professional development provides greater job satisfaction. Upon hiring our newest instructors, we heard a lot of, “wow, I am so impressed with how organized you guys are!”

Students also enjoy the increased structure and relevancy of their courses, and it allows us to market the program with greater confidence. No longer do we believe our quality is on-par with international and multi-site programs, but we have evidence to show it.

Disadvantages: Along with being a language school, we can’t forget that we are also a small business! Maintaining a healthy small business requires the careful allocation of resources, and finding the resources to go through and now maintain accreditation was and continues to be our biggest challenge. Mr. Stakenburg admitted that Rennert “took someone off their regular job full-time for three months and most staff had extra work to do as well” to prepare for accreditation. We too had to find creative ways to meet the demands of accreditation with limited resources.

Yet, as I’m sure many of The PIE News readers can attest to, working with limited resources is not something only schools of our size and model face, and that all US language schools facing the December deadline of accreditation will see unique challenges and benefits.

In our case, accreditation has already opened new marketing channels and increased employee and student satisfaction, and we have managed to do it all with our own internal resources. It appears that Mr. Stakenburg’s claim was right: even for independent, single-site language schools like ours, the advantages of accreditation still outweigh the disadvantages.

Are pig trotters the best we have to offer China?

“Providing young people with opportunities to live and work in the UK is likely to do far more to build an appreciation of ‘British norms and values’ than bungled conversations between the prime minister and Chinese officials”

“Nothing says ‘declining international influence’ like heralding a deal to export pig semen and trotters as ‘doing all we can to ensure that businesses up and down the country reap the rewards from our relationship with China’.

In the week that David Cameron led the UK’s largest ever trade visit to Beijing, new research by IPPR shows the UK has a much better export offer to make.  China sends out more international students than any other country in the world. And as China’s economy grows, so does demand for international education.

Using such trips to encourage more Chinese students to study in the UK would be a ‘win-win’ for China and the UK. The UK’s education sector is globally renowned. But its funding structures are in a mess. Billions of pounds in student loans are likely to go unpaid. Last week the government had to stop some universities offering places to UK students due to a lack of funding. The government pledged in the autumn statement to lift the overall cap on UK students in 2015. But there are serious question marks over how this will be funded. In this context, international students provide vital revenue. The Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) estimate that they contribute over £13 billion to the UK economy each year, generating 70,000 jobs and keeping courses like maths and engineering viable. And there is room for growth: BIS estimates that the number of international students in UK higher education can increase by 15-20 percent over the next five years. In addition, providing young people with opportunities to live and work in the UK is likely to do far more to build an appreciation of ‘British norms and values’ than bungled conversations between the prime minister and Chinese officials.

Yet we heard nothing from David Cameron about this. The UK’s competitors, such as Australia and France have streamlined their visa processes and put together packages such as improved work rights to entice globally mobile Chinese people to study in their institutions. But the UK has done the opposite. The UK’s ‘post-study work’ route was closed in 2011. Application requirements have been made more convoluted. Education providers are being forced out by the cost of meeting strict regulations. Despite significant global growth, the overall number of international students coming to the UK to study has dropped from 245,000 a year in 2010 to just 176,000 a year.

The Government claims that the lower numbers are a result of tough action against ‘bogus students’. But the Home Office’s own analysis shows that ‘bogus students’ only account for a small part of this reduction. Rather, the reductions in student numbers are because of the government’s commitment to reduce net migration to the UK. International students comprise one third of all immigrants to the UK. In order to reduce immigration, the government have to drastically reduce the number of international students. While there is an argument to be had about reducing migration for other reasons, reducing the number of genuine students is directly against the UK’s best interests and is causing profound damage to a vital export industry. Importantly, this is an issue on which government, the education sector and public all agree on: 68% of British people want to see the number of migrants coming to study at UK universities maintained or increased.

The government faces a difficult problem balancing support for the education sector with responding to public concern about immigration. However, the policies the Coalition is pursuing are achieving neither. Instead, the government need to commit to increasing international student numbers by implementing a package of measures to attract the brightest and best while clamping down on abuse and ensuring that students contribute to life in the UK. Not to mention, promoting the UK’s colleges internationally. This will allow the UK to retain its reputation as a world leader in quality education, as well as provider of porcine products.”

Jenny Pennington is Researcher at IPPR. She tweets at @JennyIPPR

Paying for an International Education – Expensive: Yes. Easy to Understand: No

An interesting take on HSBC’s research that indicated Australia tops the league of costly study destinations…

“The cost for international students to acquire a degree has become a more and more debated issue.  One reason is that the worldwide revenues attributable to international higher education have reached around USD 120-140 billion.  When schooling, language, and vocational training are added in, total revenues are estimated to exceed USD 200 billion (ICG, 2013).  International education has become a large, global business.

Costs for individual students to participate in international education of course vary widely.  One year of high quality academic language or higher education studies can run from as little as USD 14,000 to more than USD 60,000.  Understanding these costs has attracted attention, most recently in an overview published by HSBC which received widespread media coverage.

Flawed and unrealistic

Unfortunately, the data presented by HSBC appear to be both flawed and unrealistic.  For one, many international students are required to demonstrate a minimum level of funding in order to obtain a study permit.  To indicate student cost of living amounts which run significantly under such thresholds is not helpful, and would clash with legal requirements.

In addition, some cost of living data presented by HSBC simply bears little relation to actual cost of living as established by respective higher education institutions, governmental bodies, and other research.

For example: Germany can be a “cheap” country to study in for international students, but a monthly cost of living level of USD 524 as indicated by HSBC does not map remotely to the reality of living in cities which are home to Germany’s ten largest universities (which include Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Munich).

Rent alone in these cities would reach or exceed this cost level (the average rent for students in Germany is USD 406.  Source: 20. Sozialerhebung by the Studentenwerk (a report sponsored by the German government).

10 institutions hardly representative

HSBC’s tuition research was based on scoping a country’s ten largest institutions by enrollment.  This is hardly a representative sample in a country such as the United States, which is home to more than 4,000 higher education institutions, nor does this relate to international enrollments.

Not surprisingly, the supposed tuition averages indicated for many countries are neither an accurate portrayal of average fees, nor particularly helpful.

International students in the United States can find themselves courted by institutions which will offer full scholarships while most others will be asked to pay annual tuition fees exceeding USD 30,000.  Anyone fortunate enough to be admitted to Columbia University faces a tuition bill of nearly USD 47,000 per year.

Getting it right

Getting it right requires a bit more of an effort.  Earlier this year, ICG completed a commissioned research project on international tuition fees which took nearly 2,200 hours to complete.

Results have been presented at various conferences, including EAIE and AIEC conference in Canberra (the EAIE presentation can be accessed at ICG’s homepage under September Updates,

The outcome of this research is contained in the International Tuition-Based Competition Database (ITBCD) which contains tuition fees for more than 7,000 individual undergraduate and graduate degree programs, added fees per program, and actual cost of living calculations.

The latter alone required 400 hours of research and analysis.  The point is that an international comparison of tuition fees and cost of living requires many data points, a proper methodology, and a recognition that supposed averages can be utterly misleading.

What this research shows is that the total cost of obtaining the most popular degree amongst international students – a Bachelor of Commerce or Business – at a ranked international university ranges from USD 120,000 to nearly 300,000.  Most degrees required an investment of USD 150,000 at minimum.

International students who enroll in non-tuition systems such as universities in Germany will still face a minimum investment of USD 45,000 into cost of living in most major cities.  Clearly, for most international students it is not cheap and possibly very expensive to study away from home.

With the aforementioned caveat of not using averages to make too many assumptions, countries can be broadly characterized as follows.

–       Australia overall is a highly expensive country which nonetheless can provide good outcomes to its graduates.

–       The United States is characterized by the widest spread of costs from quite reasonable to very expensive, and institutions ranging from world leading universities to little more than vocational training institutions.

–       Canada’s international tuition fees are often below the corresponding mean, but cost of living in Vancouver and Toronto has negated this advantage largely.

–       New Zealand offers good value (outside of Auckland) based mostly on its moderate tuition fees, though some program fees appear to be poised for notable upticks.

–       The United Kingdom offers middle-of-the road tuition fees costs with London setting a high cost note for both fees and cost of living.

–       The Netherlands offers lower-end tuition fees with middling cost of living levels, offering overall a compelling value proposition.

–       Germany offers great value based on its no-tuition fee setting, but much less outcome.

With a consortium of universities having signed on to ITBCD, we expect to publish updated results in the spring of 2014.  In the meantime, the only safe assumption is that being an international student will be more expensive in 2014 than it was in 2013.

Daniel J. Guhr is Managing Director of the Illuminate Consulting Group in the USA. 

The Cultural Value of International Students

From 2008 to 2011, I studied English Literature at the University of East Anglia, an establishment with more than 3,500 international students (or a third of the 2012-13 in take). In the three years I spent there, I met and made friends with students from California, Thailand and Nigeria; Russia, Australia and Malawi; Pakistan, Belgium and Tanzania.

In my first year, I lived on campus in the architectural rarity that is the UEA Ziggurats. My room was small but perfectly formed and I delighted in the rare personal freedom that I was allowed there. Sandwiched by Jao from Portugal, Stacey from Boston – and with Maiko from Japan just down the hall – students from all over the world lived together under one roof.  Above, below and side-by-side, one of the most poignant aspects of this multicultural cohabitation was that everyone was in the same position, on the threshold of a new chapter in life without the apparent prejudices or inequalities of their respective ethnicities. Housed inside our little concrete boxes of opportunity, we took to the task of education like a pack of hungry wolves.

My hallmates and I regularly ate together, taking it in turns to stage themed nights. It was the first time I ate real sushi and the last time I drank copious amounts of Sake. Not since that year have I eaten such a diverse (and boozy) parade of foodstuffs.

As a domestic student, it was a truly multicultural experience and to this day, I have strong connections with people in countries I’ve never been to. Thanks to the wonders of the web, I’ve been able to nurture these friendships and this has inadvertently created cornerstones in a world that I’ve barely started exploring.

Before going to university, my experience of other cultures was limited. Everyone at my state school was born and raised in our home town and aside from holidays to over-populated resorts in Europe (where you’re much more likely to bump into a fellow Brit than a local) I’d never had much contact with “international” people. As such, university taught me important lessons about ethnicity and culture, in that no matter where you’re from, when you’re put into a nurturing learning environment with like-minded people, you’re sure to blossom.

Despite this fortuitous discovery, it has recently been announced that in 2012, there was a 22 per cent drop in the number of foreign students studying in the UK. Following a tightening of VISA controls and a politicised crack down on immigration, official figures showed that in 2012 a net total of 153,000 migrant students came to the UK (down from 242,000 in 2011).

This news came as a shock to me. International students were paramount to my university experience – offering as much of an education as my actual degree, if not more. And yet despite the many opportunities available for international students in the UK, not to mention the hugely beneficial impact they have on the economy, David Cameron has decided to strengthen his policies against them. Oddly, the umbrella term “immigrant” still refers to international students – even though most of the EU does not recognise or practise this categorisation.

Let’s not forget that international students have to pay through the nose for their degrees, sometimes as much as three times the price of domestic students. You’d think that at a time of extreme economic fragility the prime minister would want to encourage one of the country’s most lucrative exports rather than making potential pound signs feel unwelcome. That’s not the half of it. A report by Oxford Economics estimated that the GDP generated by international students at the University of Exeter directly supports 2,480 jobs in the city. And above all else, international students play a vital role in academic research labs, particularly in science, engineering and maths – accounting for around 45% of the UK’s postgraduate students. These bright young things are willingly committing their lives to crucial research and yet UK politicians are trying to discourage them? It doesn’t make sense on any level.

We must not discredit just how valuable immigrants and international students are. They provide a context and a deeper understanding of what is an increasingly multicultural country. To deny that is to pull the wool over your own eyes. Multiculturalism should be embraced and celebrated, not chastised. By opening our minds and our communities to the culture of others, we are given a greater understanding of what it means to be human.

Emily Buchanan is a professional writer living in Norwich, UK. She’s passionate about the environment, education and human rights – subjects you’ll mostly find her writing/ranting about. Follow Emily on Twitter for the latest.

Why we went global when it came to our daughter’s education

 When the latest South African high school graduation exams results were announced in January of this year amid a furore of expert criticism, I felt I’d made the right decision in moving my daughter into an international education system.

As a teacher myself, I have witnessed what many believe to be falling standards in education and the challenges this brings to students in their first year at university. A low pass rate for the graduation exam means that many students qualify to go onto university but discover when they get there, that they do not have the right skills to cope at that higher level. It is a real issue in this country that of every 1,000 children who start out in grade one in national education, only around five make it through tertiary education.

I’m fortunate that in my professional career I was introduced to the educational route that is also proving successful for my daughter. I started my career in government schools, but my teaching style didn’t always suit the official style. A school which offers qualifications from Cambridge International Examinations opened in my local area in 1999 and it didn’t take me long to realise that this was a syllabus I wanted to teach.

My friends teaching at the College persuaded me to join the team in 2001 and it was the best decision I have ever made for my career.  The qualifications suit my teaching style and I thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being able to develop my students and their attributes and interests as part of a bigger picture.

As my daughter approached high school age, she was also increasingly looking for a school environment which would give her more freedom, encourage creativity and prepare her well for university.

With this in mind, in her grade 8 year, we enrolled my daughter at the school where I teach – Ridgeway College in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province.  In recent years, she has studied a number of international qualifications, first Cambridge IGCSE and now Cambridge International AS Level. The benefits of these international qualifications are manifold.

Cambridge qualifications are recognised by universities all over the world – they provide students with skills they need to flourish in tertiary education. Locally, our universities are also becoming increasingly aware of the exceptionally high standard of education that Cambridge students enter into university with. Students are equipped with universal thinking skills, an analytical perspective and an ability to adapt to any change in their environment. They are taught communication skills, self-discipline, independent thinking and the ability to work on their own as well as a level of confidence that makes them stand head and shoulders above their peers in other systems.

Furthermore, international qualifications prepare young people for the world at large, above and beyond university.  I feel my daughter has been provided with a holistic, flexible education that enables her to cope in a workplace that – in today’s world – is fast moving and ever changing. She’ll be able to cope with new situations and be able to face challenges and move beyond her comfort zone. What’s more, emigration is definitely featuring more strongly in young people’s future plans than ever. By providing our children with the opportunity to do an international education, we are enabling them to have a wider choice for career options or studying overseas.

I feel certain that my daughter is much better prepared than her peers to cope with the ever-increasing demands of the outside world, because she has a set of skills that makes her adaptable and able to cope with pressure and large volumes of work.  Her level of confidence has shot up as she has been given the skills to communicate, to analyse and to problem solve in every aspect of her academic and personal, life.

I fully believe that our choice of qualifications have helped my daughter work towards achieving her long-held career dream of becoming an Air Traffic Controller.

In Grade 10, she completed work experience at the Air Force Base, coming home at the end of the first day having memorized the call signs of the fighter aircraft pilots, and being able to read and interpret both the weather station’s data and the radar system. She received a glowing appraisal for her confidence and her ability to analyse, interpret and apply information totally new to her.

As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how an international education can steer a student towards success but it’s really as a mother that I have experienced the full impact of these qualifications on all aspects of a young person’s life and I look forward to watching my daughter continue to reap the benefits for many years to come.

By Annaline Smit, mother and teacher at Ridgeway College, Louis Trichardt, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Technology in teaching – digital natives vs digital immigrants

It was only five years ago that I was teaching English in South Italy using a blackboard and chalk. I never used to wear black to school; to do so would mean to go home covered in patches of white powder.

It was quite a luxury to start teaching in London with a white-board and dry-erase pens; so you can imagine my amazement the first time I encountered an interactive whiteboard. As I sat watching the demonstration, the colours; the lights; the sounds; things whizzing around the board, I thought to myself, “I’ll never be able to do that”. On the contrary, after I had used an IWB a couple of times, I wondered how I had ever lived without it. The chalk days seemed like a hundred years ago.

Finally – no more need for my infantile, unrecognisable drawings of vegetables

Nowadays, in my classroom, the IWB is always switched on. That doesn’t mean it’s always the focus of the action, but it does mean I can use it any time I need to show a visual. Finally – no more need for my infantile, unrecognisable drawings of vegetables (have you any idea how hard it is to draw “aubergine” with chalk?), thanks to Google images.

I am also a big fan of the timer on, the phonetic chart at, and looking at new language in context at Is it too obvious to mention YouTube and the limitless language one short video clip can generate?

As Director of Studies at Twin English Language Centre in South East London, I set out on a mission to introduce IWBs into our classrooms. It wasn’t at all easy. Firstly, I had to persuade the Finance Director that this was an investment worth making. Secondly, there were choices to be made; interactive projectors or interactive whiteboards, Smart board; Promethean; Epson; or other, which classrooms to start with, which wall to put it on… the list goes on.

For our students, technology isn’t something to be evaluated and appraised; it’s the way they live their lives

Thirdly, the teachers had to be trained, and, in some cases, persuaded to incorporate the technology into their lessons. The variety of reactions to the IWBs was fascinating.

In a recent lesson on inventions, I asked students to identify in what ways the classroom would have been different ten years ago. They immediately identified the IWB as a recent addition.

I am increasingly realising that our students are “digital natives” while we, the older generation of EFL teachers and managers, are “digital immigrants”. For our students, technology isn’t something to be evaluated and appraised; it’s the way they live their lives, they don’t know any different. For us, it’s something we need to fast come to grips with if we want to continue to engage, motivate, and indeed, teach our students.

Sarah Morse is the Principal of Twin English Centres’ English school in London, UK.

Education 2030: A Digital Export

The number of results a Google map search for ‘colleges in London’ pulls up today could easily be mistaken for a coffee shop search. I suspect that a similar search in 2030 will look very different!

Technology has disrupted traditional business models across a range of industries; music and publishing being notable examples. It is going to do the same to education over the next two decades.

The social, cultural, economic and political impact of such an event would be significant, to say the least. We are living in an age where what worked in the past is increasingly losing its relevance in creating our future. So is the idea of a 3-year degree being relevant to a career spanning decades.

The increasing reliance on technology will continue to blur geographical boundaries

As a result the furrows of education as we know are bound to turn into broad learning fields. Learning (not necessarily education) will become a continuous part of our lives, consumed in smaller bytes – based on virtual interaction and available on-demand.

Credit ‘accumulation’ from multiple institutions over a prolonged period of time is expected to be the norm in attaining a qualification with face-to-face pedagogical experience becoming a premium feature and largely restricted to facilitating interaction and discussion.

The increasing reliance on technology will continue to blur geographical boundaries giving learners greater choice and flexibility in what they study and from whom. This is bound to foster fiercer competition and increased level of collaboration between HE institutions, which bodes well for the student of the future.

Pricing models too will reflect the very digital nature of learning; micro-priced but with large amounts of content available for free. In real terms, the cost of learning will reduce as technology gets better entrenched. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are already paving the way towards this new future with free course delivery.

Although there are reservations about their business case and effectiveness as a learning tool, MOOCs such as Coursera and edX have helped online learning break into its next level of development.There is an argument that technology will never be able to replace face-to-face interaction.

Yes, it may not for this generation. However, for the learner of 2030, born into a world of tablets computers, more adept at operating a touch screen than a pencil, technology will be second nature.

Social media addicts amongst us are already experiencing the digitization of interaction with our friends and family, once considered to be impervious to technological advances. Words such as education, learning and interaction will have a very different context to what it is today.

The UK Higher Education sector will need to adapt and fast to respond to the demands of the learner of 2030, who will expect the best, delivered in a manner and at a time of choice. Technology will play a key role in enabling ingenious partnerships between institutions and a differentiated learning experience.

UK institutions that fail to embrace this technology-led future of education risk the same fate as the now long gone manufacturing bastions of England

Some of the Ivy Leagues have already made a head start in this direction, with offerings such as MOOCs, spreading their sphere of reach wider and making it more accessible. They have, in a way, started to define this new future. For others, standing still is just not an option anymore.

UK institutions that fail to embrace this technology-led future of education risk the same fate as the now long gone manufacturing bastions of England. This metamorphosis in education will also create a level playing field for those institutions that do participate. What they do next will be decisive if they want to survive and compete in the digital future of 2030.

UK and India, with their legacy of relationship, have the opportunity to together create and not just follow this new future. The ‘Made in Britain’ brand of education is well placed to cater to the needs of this emerging economic power. The partnership will however require an unrelenting, collaborative Copyright 2013

Education providers on both sides must start to look beyond the often problematic and rarely successful traditional bricks and mortar approach. HE managers in India need to embrace technology for the power it holds in transforming the sector struggling to cope with high demand and low quality of education.

UK institutions on the other hand need to understand the complex and sometime counter intuitive social-economic-technological nuances of India – a country that leaped a generation in technology adoption is most likely to do so in education too. UK institutions would be well advised to start preparing for this leap. India could very well be the catalyst that leads the UK into the digital era of education.

Jasdeep Singh.

Jasdeep Singh is Founder of NineOne in the UK. Twitter: @NineoneIndia

Trend Reporting in International Education: WES Survey Results Can Mislead

by: Anthony O’Donnell and Aleksandar Popovski

In its recent report, “Not All International Students Are the Same: Understanding Segments, Mapping Behavior” (“the WES Report”), World Education Services (WES) proposes a model for segmenting international applicant pools based on a student’s financial resources and levels of academic preparedness.

The WES Report [covered here on The PIE News] is based on survey data taken from 1,600 international students during their application for credential evaluation, one of the services offered by WES.

Although 2,500 students started the survey, 36% “dropped out when asked about their experience with agents,” resulting in the 1,600 results used for the report.  The previous two sentences hint at three common statistical biases briefly acknowledged by WES in the section “Data Limitations.” These biases make most of the claims in the report statistically invalid.

The first limitation is sampling bias.  Ideally, we would like to use reports such as the WES Report to guide substantive policy decisions. To do so, the means of gathering data must conform to the basic statistical requirement of random sampling. If we perform random sampling, the data we collect should be representative of the population we want to study, and should not over-represent, under-represent, or distort the “real” population in question.

WES does not randomly draw from the population of international students; it draws from its own clients. With the data collected, we cannot answer questions about prospective international applicants in general but only answer questions about prospective international applicants who also use WES services.  We cannot make reliable statistical inferences about the overall population of international students based on this data.

Another data limitation is self selection bias, where some respondents are more likely to take the survey than others.  Since the survey was conducted in English, only students with a working knowledge of English could have taken it.  Hence, the group that volunteered for the survey is not representative of all potential students.

Students with low English proficiency may have been excluded from the analysis because they could not complete the survey on language grounds. Incidentally, these students would need the most help to navigate the complicated process for applying to a U.S. university, and are most likely to utilize agent services.

The third limitation is that of missing data. With missing data, WES’ claim that one-sixth of respondents used agents cannot be a reason to conclude that “the use of agents might not be as widespread as previously indicated”. As noted above, 36%, or 900 respondents, dropped out of the survey when asked about their experience with agents. WES notes that those students may have dropped out because they “perceived agent-related questions to be sensitive.”

The only way for missing data to not be an issue is if only one-sixth of the 900 that dropped had used an agent. However, it is possible that anywhere from 0 to 900 used agents. Of the 2,500 original respondents, from 10% to 46% could have used agents.  This, coupled with the possible omission of weak English speakers from the survey (self-selection bias), casts serious doubt on WES’ claim that agents are sparingly used by international students.

Having addressed the statistical issues in the WES Report, we turn to the claim that 62% of agent users “are not fully prepared to tackle the academic challenges of an (sic) U.S. education.” This claim is only valid under random sampling. Without random sampling, we cannot conclude that there are proportionately more academically prepared students among non-agent users than among agent users. Missing data compounds this problem, because of the 900 students who did not answer the survey there may have been a large proportion of highly-qualified agent users. Considering the many problems posed by statistical biases, we should discard this claim.

Finally, we should be cautious of any study that discusses academic preparedness from an a priori perspective. Whether a student is academically prepared to tackle the academic challenges of a U.S. education may be more a function of the admissions/academic standards of universities and less a function of the academic quality of students. What is a good student for some universities may not be a good student for others. Given that U.S. HEI’s form a wide spectrum of institutions from community colleges to big research centers, students may find a place at U.S. HEI’s with huge variations in academic preparedness.

WES presents an interesting strategy for international market analysis. However, given the statistical deficiencies with the survey, the conclusions drawn are of limited value for purposes of policy making in the area of international recruitment.

Aleksandar Popovski ( is Assistant Dean of Admissions and Recruitment for the Graduate School at Binghamton University. Anthony O’Donnell ( is a graduate assistant and data analyst at Binghamton University.