Importance of International Student Satisfaction in Marketing Communications

IEAA International Education Association of Australia has released a report by Ravichandran Ammigan PhD and Debra Langton looking at four dimensions of the student experience arrival, learning, living and support services; an extract of the report follows below.

In summary, the very useful report finds important to focus upon satisfied students who then spread positive word of mouth to prospective students; this is supported by previous research.

However, the use of the traditional expression ‘marketing materials’ does not seem to match the language of international students who are ‘digital natives’ and would most likely use social media under the umbrella of digital marketing.  Further, related to marketing, and contrary to the report, Australia does have issues in developing diversity outside of PRC and India, for which effective digital marketing system (not a one off strategy) should be a solution.

Nonetheless, it does focus upon the need to have students as central in marketing and one could suggest that in addition to maintaining quality for satisfied students, also involving students in creating customer generated media that can be used in digital marketing.

International student experience in Australia

In today’s increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain international students, it is critical that higher education institutions stay current on student perceptions, preferences and experiences with various aspects of the university environment. Ensuring students have the right level of support and resources can contribute to their academic, social and cultural success. It can also directly influence their overall institutional satisfaction and whether they would recommend their institution to prospective applicants.

This paper investigates the experience of international university students in Australia with respect to arrival, learning, living and support services. It is based on previous research by Ammigan and Jones (2018) and uses data from the International Student Barometer (ISB), to examine the relationship between student satisfaction and institutional recommendation for over 21,000 international students at 34 Australian institutions.

This paper provides guidance for university administrators and support staff on how to adjust and improve resources and services for international students, which can be an important component for enhancing institutional recruitment and retention strategies.

International students in Australia

As with other leading destination countries around the world, the higher education student population in Australia is culturally diverse, which presents opportunities for both international and domestic students to interact with peers from different cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds (Arkoudis et al., 2013).

According to the Australian Government’s Department of Education and Training (2017), more than 600,000 international students chose Australia in 2017. This is a record high and represents a 13 per cent increase since 2016. International students now make up more than a quarter of all students at certain universities.

In 2017, the international student sector generated over AUD30 billion, making it the country’s third-largest export (ICEF Monitor, 2017). It is predicted that Australia will overtake the UK to become the world’s second highest destination for international students in 2019 (Marginson, 2018).

International student satisfaction Improving student satisfaction is a major goal for universities – a satisfied student population can be a source of competitive advantage with outcomes such as student retention, recruitment and alumni relations (Arambewela & Hall, 2009). Student satisfaction, which generally results from an evaluation of a student’s educational experience, occurs when actual performance meets or exceeds expectations (Elliott & Healy, 2001). In recent years, there has been a growing interest from international educators to gather and utilise international student satisfaction data as a way to influence campus change and strengthen support services for this community (Yu, Isensee, & Kappler, 2016).
This is not surprising as the international student experience can be a critical recruitment and retention strategy for providing a high-quality education and remaining competitive in the global student market and world rankings (Shah & Richardson, 2016).

The Australian Government’s National Strategy for International Education 2025 recognises the importance of student experience. Goal 2 outlines a number of actions that expressly address the delivery of supports that:

  • meet or exceed student needs
  • build capacity for employment; and
  • encourage a strong international student voice to inform continuous improvement.

A study on the attitudes, goals and decision-making processes of over 67,000 prospective
international students from 193 different countries found that course offerings was the main driver of student decisions on institution and location, with the expectation that the course of study would lead to career prospects (QS Enrolment Solutions, 2018).  Reviews and marketing materials showcasing the quality of teaching and experience of academic staff was the second most influential factor in choosing their institution.

The same study found that prospective students were most concerned about the cost of living and being able to afford their tuition fees. Having a relative or friend in a destination country and receiving information about local culture and customs can help reduce concerns and worries about going to study abroad and impact students’ choice of a particular location. Campus safety and a welcoming environment were also important factors in international students’ institutional and destination choice…..

Satisfied students are strong advocates

For international students, choosing an institution is based on a number of ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors, which may influence them to leave their home countries to study abroad (Banjong & Olson, 2016). Such factors include knowledge and awareness of the host country, quality of education, institutional reputation, tuition and living costs, scholarship opportunities, safety and security, university environment, quality of life, visa requirements and post-graduation employment options
(Mazzarol & Soutar, 2002).
Mavondo et al. (2004) suggest that institutional recommendation is closely related to satisfaction, where satisfied students are more likely to recommend their institution to potential or future students.  It is therefore important, especially from a marketing and recruitment perspective, for institutions to understand the factors that impact upon international student satisfaction which in turn drive propensity to recommend.

Reference:

Ammigan, R. & Langton, D (2018). The International student experience in Australia: Implications for administrators and student support staff. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA). Retrieved from www.ieaa.org.au

See original report via https://www.ieaa.org.au/research/student-experience IEAA Student Experience for full list of references.

For further articles and blogs on international education marketing, international students, information seeking journey, WOM word of mouth, student satisfaction and digital marketing click through.

 

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Why students copy, plagiarise, collude or cheat?

Student copying, plagiarism and collusion challenge academic integrity and ethics, but why does it exist?

The following article from The Conversation outlines issues but does not address those related to cross cultural or social issues, pedagogy of top down content and encouraging teacher or lecturer centred rote learning and regurgitation of content with only lower to mid-level skills or outcomes according to Bloom’s taxonomy.

15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?

October 18, 2018 3.55pm AEDT

New research on plagiarism at university has revealed students are surprisingly unconcerned about a practice known as “contract cheating”.

The term “contract cheating” was coined in 2006, and describes students paying for completed assessments. At that time, concerns over the outsourcing of assessments were in their infancy, but today, contract cheating is big business.

In 2017 alone, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported more than 20,000 students had bought professionally written essays from the country’s two largest essay-writing services.

According to a 2018 study, as many as 31 million university students worldwide are paying third parties to complete their assessments. This staggering figure was drawn by reviewing 65 studies on contract cheating. Since 2014, as many as 15.7% of surveyed students admitted to outsourcing their assignments and essays.

The growth in contract cheating speaks volumes about the modern view of education as a commodity…..

…..One key problem for overhauling assessment design is the troubling proliferation of casual labour in universities. The development of assessments is rarely, if ever, accounted for in casual teaching rates.

Turnitin works to reduce students’ work into patterns and algorithms, weeding out supposed cheats and frauds. But a more considered response must take into account the complex reasons students turn to these services in the first place.

Understanding why students are willing to pay for assessments might also illuminate a problem at the heart of tertiary education – one that is related to our present repackaging of knowledge as a resource to be bought, rather than an ennobling pursuit that is worthy of all the energy, time, and attention teachers and students can devote to it.’

 

In the case of many international students it’s having them relearning how to learn, through eliciting content, building knowledge and developing higher level skills through student centred interaction and collaboration supported by personal responsibility, i.e. ‘andragogy’ for adult learners.

For more articles about andragogy for adult learning click through.

 

 

ID Instructional Design Models in Education

Cognitivism and Connectivism Learning Theory page as part of an EdX Instructional Design course.

Cognitivism is student centred learning via an existing knowledge base and building upon it according to learner preferences, how they organise memory, how information is linked, learning how to learn, problem-solving and the student learning journey is supported by clear instructions and information (Hanna, 2017).

Further, there is the Three-Stage Information Processing Model including Sensory Register to assess inputs, Short-Term Memory where input can be stored e.g. 20 seconds and then Long-Term Memory and Storage retrievable by linkages that have been developed (Mergel, 1998).

Application of andragogy for adult learning versus pedagogy for school.

Adult Learning Theories in Higher Education (Image copyright Pexels)

Connectivism is like social learning through others or networks, identify patterns, knowledge based round networks and exemplified in complex learning e.g. round information and technology (Ibid.).

Both can be used for the same education and exemplars, by using both theories to support instructional design, student centred activity and learning, building upon knowledge and experience for inexact outcomes; as opposed to behavioural focus.

In the first case, cognitivism using a course e.g. ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’,  focus upon one learning outcome, ‘ability to analyse (digital) marketing and communication’

Rather than present information or content activities which maybe new and/or overwhelming, assess the knowledge level before training, then drive instruction and achievement of learning objectives via learners and learner centred activity (but monitored an assessed closely).

Instructional Design for Adult Learners in ‘Introduction to Digital or e-Marketing for Small Business’:

Preview by using images to elicit key words, channels etc. related to conventional marketing and communication.

Presentation repeat preview to include digital also and elicit the elements.

Practice by learners listing both types of elements in a small business example marketing and communications; report back to class.

Production in pairs for their own business, assist each other, compare notes then present to each other/class.

Wrap-up Class discussion and/or milling activity to compare with other learners’ ‘production’ and feedback on key points, rules or issues.

Connectivism can be applied to the same course area and learning outcome, not just in the direct learning environment but post learning, i.e. back in the workplace and business environment.  Accordingly, if learners are mostly small business people, already responsible for marketing and communications and sharing a desire to improve application of digital in their business practice, they should be motivated for connectivism.

Within the formal learning, connectivism would fit cognitivism approach above, with symmetry in each phase, but especially with increase in learner interactivity with production and wrap up or review.  Connectivism can then also be followed up informally by learners remaining in communication with each other (e.g. WhatsApp or LinkedIn Group), industry sector networking opportunities and/or local chamber of commerce.

Andrew Smith Melbourne LinkedIn Profile

 

Reference List (Harvard):

 

Hanna, M. (2017) Learning Theory Matrix. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/8d28/2833c35fb8b9ea74bf2c930cea22fb1e0fad.pdf (Accessed on: 16 November 2017).

Mergel, B. (1998) Instructional Design & Learning Theory.  Available at: http://etad.usask.ca/802papers/mergel/brenda.htm#Cognitivism(Accessed on: 17 November 2017).

 

International Education Market Research

Recently there have been articles about international students’ motivations and well-being on their journey of discovery through international education, a significant industry.

Such articles are relevant in that they do not criticise or dog whistle international students by describing them as ‘immigrants’ or suggesting they purposely short visa and immigration systems for long term or permanent residency.

In addition to reflecting increased international mobility and prosperity in developing nations, such insights should be imperative for all service-based marketing, especially digital carrying word of mouth or WOM.

Word of mouth is the most influential marketing channel as it is based upon experience of friends, family and peers with a product or service, the most trusted channel.

The message for marketers in any industry, especially services, is never make assumptions or rely upon headline or indirect data, but your customers too.  Marketing brand, reputation etc. requires constant feedback, monitoring of well-being and word of mouth while leveraging the same authentic feedback via social media, couched within a digital marketing strategy.

 

What we know about why Chinese students come to Australia to study

Hannah Song in The Conversation:

In 2016-17 Australia’s third largest export, international education, leapt from A$23.6 billion to a record high of A$28 billion. Within the higher education sector, the highest intake of international students is of Chinese origin.

Behind these statistics are the individual stories and aspirations of Chinese students’ parents who provide them the financial resources and emotional support. Yet, we know so little about why it matters so much to their parents, and what long-term impacts overseas study has on them and their families when they return home…

….Focusing on a shifting landscape of education in Shanghai, I undertook a longitudinal pilot case-study of four bilingual kindergarten-secondary schools to investigate the aspirations Chinese middle-class parents have for their children’s education.

….If Australia is to remain a destination for world-class education, we need to be far more self-reflective and long-sighted about what Australian international education offers: global citizenship and transnational mobility. We need to listen to the voices of an increasing middle-class in China.’

Student journey through international education

International Students (Image copyright Pexels)

‘’It’s stressful being an other’: The mental health woes of international students

Emily Baker in The Conversation:

Moving to Australia has, in Daniel Kang’s words, been a mix of challenges and little blessings. The Australian National University student has found room to breathe and develop. Walks through the abundant bush help clear his head. Generally, the experience has exceeded his expectations.

But moving from Singapore to Canberra has also carried difficulties. It can be stressful being an “other”, he said. The 22-year-old has at times been very lonely…

The most recent student experience survey from the federal government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching found undergraduate international students rated their experience at Australian universities 75 out of 100 per cent – slightly below the 79 per cent awarded by domestic students.

But separately, many international students report stress. They report social isolation. The very fact of being an international student in Australia – the experience of being alone in a new country, subject to financial pressures, navigating a new culture, and adjusting to a new academic system – is considered to make an individual at greater risk of mental ill-health.’

 

Any institution, business or organisation that neglects its existing customers to inform quality and marketing strategy development, maybe asking for trouble while relying upon PR and sales?

In the case of international education the most valuable resources are accessible onshore and on campus, i.e. enrolled students and their networks.

Focus Group Research then Survey for Digital e-Marketing Strategy Development

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Digital or e-Marketing Research for Strategy Development

 

Conducting Qualitative and Quantitative Feedback – Focus Respondent Interviews for Survey Instrument Development

 

Following outlines steps in applying research techniques for marketing using a MBA cohort of professionals of diverse backgrounds mostly based in Europe.

Limited interviews, both face to face and email based, were conducted with selected former students and industry stakeholders for experiential feedback to ascertain or confirm important factors.  After analysis of feedback, this led onto the development of a simple survey instrument with the factors or clusters of elicited, making up dimensions or phases (Saunders et al., 2009).  One could then measure or relate the importance of each factor in the information search amongst a related population or student cohort, then drawing inferences, but neither correlations nor causal relationships.

 

While optimal language and communication skills are important for questionnaires, there must be a process of researching, identifying and forming the questions to be included in a survey, that leads to valid and reliable data for analysis; one cannot go back after collecting survey data.

 

Ordinal Likert scales can be used to assess the strength of perceptions on relevant factors, on a three, five or seven-point range and can indicate order e.g. not very important through neutral to very important.  Ideally scales are applied to many factors or questions leading to inference of a construct explaining the research focus.  In this study, simply assessing relevance of each factor grouped as phases or dimensions for inclusion e.g. if deemed to be important or very important by students (Bell, 2005).

 

While the quantitative data collection or survey was a ‘probability sample’ or ‘representative sampling’ i.e. all from the same online MBA cohort, to allow inferences to be made about the population, the ‘Focus Respondents’ informing the survey development represented ‘non-probability’ sampling for convenience or streamlining.

 

By accessing ‘Focus Respondents’ and gaining input from potential population, also including informed input from industry personnel, industry and scholastic research; a valid survey instrument could be developed (Saunders at al., 2009).

 

The sample population of university students surveyed represent the population’s ‘information seeking’ behaviour, through collecting quantitative data from this representative sample of enrolled European University students in online MBA program.

 

Ideally this could have been expanded further amongst other sample populations for comparison and cross tabulation, but the scope of this study precluded inclusion, however actual colleges, public organisations and SME business workplaces can replicate the process.

 

Reference List:

 

Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project. (4th Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

 

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2009) Research Methods for Business Students. (5th Ed.) Harlow UK: Pearson Education Ltd.