eLearning Best Practices

3 Tips To Improve Virtual Schools

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Virtual schools offer the promise of choice for families. They can choose to attend, but they can also choose to leave. And yet, much of the time spent on trying to improve the learning experience is centered on two things: instructional design and content.

How To Improve Virtual Schools

While I am not saying those are not important, I do want to offer three ways to improve virtual schools that goes beyond the norm. And, by centering attention on these three, a virtual school can dramatically improve the learning experience without drastic financial investments and technological upgrades (and the content can remain the same).It begins by becoming customer-centric.

3 Tips To Improve Virtual Schools

  1. Be our guest, not our student
    Companies such as Disney, Marriott, Virgin, Starbucks, and Amazon.com understand the vital role of providing excellent customer service. It has established them as leaders in this area, and they continually rank high in customer satisfaction. The importance of this is not to be missed. The higher the customer satisfaction, the greater the retention rates which means less needs to be spent on attracting new guests (students).Imagine a virtual school that followed a Disney model and continually sought ways in which to ‘plus’ the customer experience. Imagine a virtual school that treats their virtual students and families similar to how Marriott does their hotel guests. Homework: Write the word ‘Guest’ in the center of the page and draw a circle around it next time an improvement project is started then build out from there keeping the guest in the center. Watch what changes take place in the thinking process.
  2. Train your virtual teachers
    Did you know the words “Pass the salt” could lead to the wedding aisle? Researchers took forty college students (20 male and 20 female), had them sit across from each other, and allowed them to say only three words to each other. But they had to say those words with as much love, caring, and compassion as possible. Those three words: Pass the salt.Ninety percent of the paired couples began dating and four actually married. Remember, it is how you say it more than what you say.The lesson? Teachers are trained in content and how to provide instruction but what if they were trained in the art of communicating to customers/students? The teacher/student-family dynamic still remains the primary driver to defining the learning experience, even in virtual schools. Why then do virtual schools not provide their virtual teachers (their first line of customer service experts) with the skills necessary to communicate in ways that enhance the experience?Each interaction with the virtual student and family either builds a stronger learning experience or degrades it -- there is no neutral interaction. Homework: Think about each and every interaction that occurs between the virtual teacher and the virtual student/family. Analyze whether these interactions are enhancing or degrading the customer experience. Once you finish you will be able to detect the culture that exists within your school (if you are bold enough, ask the parents to engage with you in this exercise).
  3. Be flexible
    Policies are not meant to be broken, but they must be able to bend. Companies that put the customer first understand when to bend when it comes to enforcing policies. Virtual schools must be willing to do the same if they want to be customer-centric.Instead, policies are often the fallback excuse when it comes to meeting the needs of the virtual student. But, when viewed as a customer or guest, then the policies can become a catalyst for improving the level of service provided. See them as a foundation to build from rather than a barrier.Homework: Analyze the policies you have in place. Assign each one a letter: U = Unbendable, and B = Bendable. Then, take one more pass at the ones you marked U and find at least two more that you can move to the B category. Once you have your list marked with B, you have the foundation from which to improve the learning experience.

Accomplishing these three tips to improve your virtual school takes very little financial investment (if any at all) while providing you an opportunity to dramatically improve the learning experience for your customers. In turn, it will increase your satisfaction ratings and virtual student retention rates. That is a pretty good return on investment.