Eduvation Blog

Insider – Marketing Archive

Since March 2020, Eduvation has been publishing a daily newsletter of emerging trends and strategic ideas, the Eduvation Insider. This archive summarizes the stories related to marketing and communications in reverse-chronological order. See archives of the entire newsletter.  Sign up for free emails yourself!


Friday July 3, 2020

Speaking of building community online, I came across several videos this week that I think are worth sharing, just #ICYMI:

Royal Roads U president Philip Steenkamp and his partner Brad Chatwin climb to the top of Hatley Castle to fly the Pride flag for the first time ever. YouTube


NSCC celebrated the class of 2020 with hand-delivered diplomas, bubble wands, chalk drawings, sparklers and cake in this quick tear-jerker. YouTube


The uIllinois System shared a polished, moving video to reassure students that “unprecedented doesn’t mean impossible, and uncertainty just calls for chasing the truth harder.” YouTube


Thursday July 2, 2020

Fanshawe Experience Guarantee

Fanshawe College has unveiled a 4-part “Experience Guarantee” for this Fall. If full-time students are not satisfied with “exceptional online learning,” they can defer their tuition fees and deposit to the next semester. (Not ancillary fees.) Fanshawe is extending all customer service hours to 10am-7pm (and Library Services 6am-12midnight), and commits to responding to all email/phone inquiries within 24 hours. Each student will be assigned a “personal career coach” from the career and co-op team. Fanshawe

MSVU plans to deliver all programs online this Fall, but nonetheless will operate its residences at 54% capacity. (No guests permitted, and students must bring their own PPE.) MSVU has also launched a new “Flourish” website hub featuring student supports. All students will be assigned a Personal Advisor this summer, a senior student “Mount Mentor,” and access to orientation, which begins with the free “Mount 101” online program in July. MSVU


Friday June 26, 2020

McGill’s Dr Don Sheppard released a helpful 6-min video to explain how we can manage risk and coexist with COVID19 going forward. Micro-outbreaks will continue to arise, and unfortunately the risk of infection will be about 10 days before the outbreak is detected. However, the typical person likely needs to inhale several million intact viral particles to receive an infectious dose, so duration and proximity determine your risk. Passing someone in a hallway or passing them in an elevator will in most cases be perfectly safe. Youtube

Memorial is proceeding to open up more on-campus research in phase 2, based on an updated Framework for a Phased Approach. Academic and non-academic units need to develop building-specific health and safety plans before a return is possible. A flowchart explains the forms and approvals required. MUN

BCIT released a 5-min video to clarify their approach to delivering programs this fall, which is “a little bit more complicated” than other BC colleges and universities. 55% of BCIT programs can be delivered fully online, 34% in a blended model, and 8% are still under review. Cleaning and disinfecting, with spray hoses and robot scrubbers, will be increased in frequency. YouTube

Thursday June 25, 2020

Boom Times for Online For-Profits

While public and non-profit institutions face catastrophic finances amid the abrupt shift to online learning, the “winners” in this pandemic appear to be America’s massive for-profit online universities, whose stock valuations are surging. Normally they spend 30 times as much as publics on paid advertising ($400 vs $14 per student), but the 2008 recession boosted their enrolment 24%, and the lockdown makes their online approach ideal. Capella U and Strayer U were quick out of the gate with COVID19 campaigns emphasizing that “Great things can happen at home.” (Strategic Education, their parent company, saw profits rise 27% in Q1.) Ashford U is hiring 200 more “enrolment advisors” to handle incoming queries. American Public Education Inc. (which ironically is not public) saw its Q1 net income double over last year. Hechinger

Dal Braces for $30 M Shortfall

Dalhousie U’s fiscal update, released yesterday, assumes the potential of a decline in tuition revenue of up to $37.8 M for the 2020-21 year, and $12.1 M lost from specialized programs and ancillaries. Enrolment scenarios forecast anywhere from a 14-29% decline in enrolment, but ‘the full impact of the pandemic will only be fully realized at tuition payment deadlines in the fall.” (Enrolment declines will continue to be felt for several more years, as those students are missing from upper-year classes too.) To cover the $30.5 M shortfall for next year, Dal plans to reduce operating expenses by $20 M, and use $12.2 M from its reserves. It has frozen senior admin salaries, restricted hiring, and is negotiating collective agreements and potential changes to pensions and benefits. Notably, a pool of $6 M will nonetheless be invested in strategic priorities, including international outreach, enrolment and recruitment. Dal

Time to Stop Honouring Racists

For years, student protests and petitions have been largely ignored, and storied institutions have insisted on retaining the names of historical figures on campus buildings, colleges, plaques and statues. In the past month, though, the #BLM protests seem to have finally reached a tipping point around the world. The Clemson U board finally dropped Calhoun College and voted to rename Tillman Hall. uAlbama has removed 3 confederate plaques. James Madison U is renaming Jackson, Ashby, and Maury Halls. Monmouth U is renaming Woodrow Wilson Hall. uOregon is renaming Deady Hall. uVirginia has renamed Ruffner Hall in honour of its first African American PhD grad. uCincinnati is removing Marge Schott’s name from the baseball stadium. Even many HBCUs have buildings named for slavers or slave-defenders; Alabama State has begun to remove the names of KKK members from their buildings. And hundreds of other institutions have struck committees to consider building and college names, like the 26 institutions in the University System of Georgia. UNC Chapel Hill has lifted a moratorium on name changes that was imposed in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2031. In Canada, UNB is renaming Ludlow Hall. In Britain, uLiverpool is renaming Gladstone Hall. London Metropolitan U is renaming the Cass School. Even Oxford’s Oriel College is finally removing the statue of Cecil Rhodes. (In 2015 they argued that they would lose Ł100 M in donations should the statue be taken down.)

We may never see Yale or McGill change their names, but at least removing offensive statues and plaques is a symbolic gesture that eliminates some of the daily, passive microaggressions for students of colour. More significant will be efforts at affirmative action in faculty hiring, research centres, curriculum and student financial aid.



Wednesday June 24, 2020

Algoma U is working to diversify its international enrolment from a heavy reliance on India, to focus on 5 other countries including China and Nigeria. Algoma also hopes to attract greater Indigenous enrolment, and to draw 20% more students from its pathway agreements with Sault, Cambrian, and Northern Colleges this Fall. Sault Star

UoGuelph reports that a grad student conducting essential, time-sensitive research on campus tested positive for COVID19. The student started showing symptoms 3 days after his or her last visit to campus. UoGuelph

SFU has added a 6-level colour-coded “COVID19 impact scale” to its website, with implications for 10 areas of the university at each level. Currently at “High (H1)” is still largely essential teaching, meetings, and services, with on-campus research. The library has shifted from “curbside” to “contactless” pickup. SFU

Here are a few notable videos from the past few days…

BCIT has a new video showcasing the social distancing, physical barriers and PPE precautions being taken to return automotive students to the School of Transportation.

Loughborough U has a pretty effective video tour of their Aeronautical and Automotive Engineering labs, from motion simulators, wind tunnels and echo chambers to racecars and drones. (And apparently they’ve designed every World Cup “football” since 2006!)

uLethbridge’s mascot, Luxie the Pronghorn, receives his “convocation in a box” celebration kit, and performs an unboxing for us (with plenty of selfies for social media, of course).


Friday June 19, 2020

Dalhousie ­­­revamped its COVID19 information pages yesterday, with an upbeat theme, “Forward. Focused.” Dal is “spending more than $1 M” on new technology, including “new online environments… so students can connect with classmates from where they are.” “Together@Dal” matches new students with upper-year mentors, one-on-one and in groups, and “Dal Student Life” is a hub gathering stories, events and announcements, created by students on the “Dal Student Life Street Team.” Dal has also “doubled the amount of financial aid” with an additional $3M for undergrads. Dal

Humber Virtual Grad 2020

Humber College launched its virtual grad celebration yesterday, including video greetings, a poem for grads, alumni shout-outs, and musical performances. The website includes a grad list, social media links, “words of wisdom,” and a Grad Shop with diploma frames, class rings, and gift combos. Oh, and a collection of “digital swag” including giphy stickers, frames, banners and stories for Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and more. Humber

Running A-Fowl at uWaterloo

6 Deans at the University of Waterloo participate in a fun, 38-sec video speculating about “what our geese have been up to on campus.” YouTube–7EQ



Wednesday June 17, 2020

Positivity for Incoming Frosh

Kudos to Moira, a student and campus tour guide at uVic, for a polished, compassionate and entertaining 2-min video to address incoming student anxieties about safety, boredom, and student supports in the Fall. “This is temporary, and the things you learn now, both in your classes and about your own strength, will change your life.” YouTube


Tuesday June 16, 2020

Virtual Student Wellness

Emily Carr University of Art + Design is piloting new weekly student wellness groups online, including “Cook & Connect Live, Small Space Gardening Club, Mindfulness Meditation, Time Management Workshops, Craft & Connect, and Skillshare Workshops facilitated by students.” Individual wellness coaching is also available by phone, on navigating university policies, COVID19 benefits, loneliness, new technologies, and more. ECUAD

Glimpses of Online Science at UBC

UBC Science has released a series of high-quality videos to welcome incoming first-year students and introduce the online experience they can expect this Fall. Karen Smith describes the breakout rooms, lectures, clicker questions and ultimately the real people teaching Biology. Elisa Baniassad describes informal social connections and boundaries at home with her students in CompSci. James Charbonneau shares his passion for explaining ideas in Physics, and some online demonstrations, simulations, chat and interactions.


Friday June 12, 2020

Fanshawe College launched an “FAQ” interview video series yesterday (“Fanshawe Answers Questions”), by tackling some key student questions about fees and tuition, student services, and program delivery this Fall. Fanshawe has extended the fee payment deadline to Jul 22, and is encouraging online payment by credit card or Flywire. Students will have the option to defer enrolment to the January intake. YouTube

As usual, I try to share some noteworthy marketing examples with you on Fridays.  Today, a couple of brand new, moving and effective spots, and a visual history of COVID19 on a campus…  

U Western Australia released several new spots this week in the “Seek Wisdom” campaign, like this 1:00 min ad, “What is Wisdom?” “Boy, do we need some right now… While the smart are talking, the wise are listening… Wisdom is our shared journey…” YouTube

Sault College released a moving :30 sec recruitment spot this week: “The World Needs You. Now, More than Ever.” YouTube


Centennial College has published an infographic depicting the college’s “Journey through COVID19” (so far). Infographic

uWindsor has launched a comprehensive news and FAQ page for the Fall term at

Thursday June 11, 2020

Sheridan is budgeting based on a potential 21% decline in domestic enrolment this Fall, and 42% decline internationally. They have identified 4 enrolment recovery strategies: 1) launching flexible microcredentials and grad certificates; 2) engaging stakeholders “to co-create a forward-thinking vision for what higher education needs to become”; 3) creating an array of supports for faculty, staff and students to thrive in remote environments; and 4) establishing a “Fall Promise” or “experience guarantee” and “aggressive marketing and communications campaign.” Students will be offered reduced fees, half the deposit, flexible payment plans, and the option to withdraw without financial penalty until Oct 9. Sheridan

McMaster has published a detailed rationale about “Tuition in the Age of COVID19,” explaining that fees for online learning are not being reduced because of the significant investment in “instructors, technology and experts.” Each Faculty will be assigned educational developers “to provide training and consultation on pedagogy, course design and educational technologies.” McMaster


Wednesday June 10, 2020


UK Universities Losing Prestige

Thanks to Brexit and budget cuts, declining research impact and student:faculty ratios, and declining international student numbers, three-quarters of UK universities have slipped in the QS World University Rankings for the fourth year running (since the Brexit vote). MIT, Stanford, and Harvard held on to the top 3 spots, but other US institutions have lost ground. 26 Asian universities (in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan) have risen into the top 100, contributing to the dislocation of others. Guardian

International Deferrals – An Update

QS has released updated results from their survey of 30,000 prospective international students, as of the end of May, with 4 months of trend data on some questions. Although 61% claimed COVID19 had notaffected their plans back in February, by May only 12% could say the same. The latest stats show that 64% of prospective international students have changed their study abroad plans because of COVID, and 60% of those plan to delay/defer a year. 40% are “not at all interested” in studying online, while 46% would be willing to start online – but largely they would expect a 20-50% discount on tuition fees. QS


Campus Updates

JIBC launched a “dynamic and informative” new website on Monday, with a responsive, modular, mobile-friendly design, streamlined navigation, and colourful images of diverse students in training scenarios. ENC

Institutions are starting to produce videos to help their students imagine what classes may be like this Fall, online or under social distancing restrictions. A couple of them are really helpful for us all:


One of the most helpful videos shows how BCIT Carpentry students have already returned to the campus with enhanced social distancing, hand hygiene, sneeze guards, outdoor shop classes, and smaller projects to be built in 8×8′ cubicles. YouTube

Last month I shared an illuminating 6-min video from McGill demonstrating a range of remote hands-on learning experiences. YouTube

And if you’re looking for some other examples:

NBCC seemed to announce its Fall semester plans for blended delivery first via a slick 1-min video. YouTube

Mount Allison provost Jeff Ollerhead describes 3 types of flexible Fall 2020 course delivery in this 5:30 min video. YouTube

Trinity Western U president Mark Husbands spoke with student union president Daniela Diaz Lombardo to clarify details for “Fall expectations.”  YouTube



Tuesday June 9, 2020

UK Trends

$700 M Loss from East Asian Students

Based on a new survey, the British Council projects at least a 20% decline in East Asian students coming to the UK this year. 14,000 fewer students from China, Singapore, Malaysia and 5 other countries would result in a Ł460 M loss for universities in tuition and other fees next year alone (about $700 M Cdn). That doesn’t even include continuing students, or the 40% of Chinese students who have yet to decide: in the worst case, the loss could be Ł2.3 B. The survey of 15,536 students found that 29% of prospective international students were likely to delay or cancel, and the majority would rather postpone than begin online this Fall.  Guardian

Asian PostGrads Most Likely to Defer

The British Council details the results and analysis of their survey in a 12-min video. The survey of 15,536 prospective students in 8 key Asian markets finds that about 40% of Chinese respondents are “on the fence,” and have been so since late March.  Students in Taiwan, Indonesia and Vietnam are most likely to cancel or delay study abroad, particularly those interested in 1-year postgrad programs. Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore applicants are more likely to be undergraduate, who are somewhat lesslikely to defer. New East Asian enrolments may decline anywhere from 12% to 61% – and that is likely an underestimate, because of response bias. Among students likely to change their plans, 48% would study in their own country, while 4% would likely choose Canada. YouTube


Public Trust in Science

Will the pandemic increase or undermine public trust in science, research and higher ed institutions? We can hope, of course, but so far the evidence is discouraging…

Germans Now Trust Science More

Back on May 8, I reported that at least in Germany, a positive side-effect of the COVID19 pandemic was that public trust in science and researchers seemed to be rising. Four times as many Germans “wholeheartedly” trusted science and researchers this year compared to last (although it was still just 36%). A possible explanation for the shift is public anxiety for information about COVID19 has led them to pay closer attention to scientific explanations and methods. THE

French Believe Scientists are Hiding Truth

Surveys in France have found that confidence in scientists has dropped from 84% in mid-March, to 74% in late May, driven in part by policy reversals about wearing face masks (which also caused frustration and confusion in Canada). Moreover, 36% of respondents believe scientists are “hiding information about the coronavirus from the public,” in part because of ongoing debates about the merits of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID19 treatment. Didier Raoult, a populist researcher in Marseilles, has been a vocal advocate in French media, and a study in The Lancet which debunked the drug was retracted last week.  THE

US Democrats Trust Science More

This year, Americans are expressing greater confidence than ever in scientists, doctors and medical researchers to act ethically and in the best interests of the public – but attitudes differ along partisan lines. Those who lean Democrat have increased from 37% to 53% with a great deal of confidence in medical scientists, while Republicans have dropped slightly from 32% to 31%. Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to believe in the importance of social distancing and COVID19 testing, that the US has a higher infection rate than other nations, and that scientists should take an active role in science policy. Some of the difference can be explained by higher levels of education among Democrats. PEW Research

Trusting Science, Scapegoating the Scientists

A new study from the London School of Economics, “Revenge of the Experts,” observes that confidence in science is usually maintained, but trust in scientists themselves is often undermined, for 18-25 year-olds who live through an epidemic. The result is driven in particular by those with “little or no science education,” and influenced by politicians who scapegoat scientists. Those who experience an epidemic before or after their “formative years” do not significantly change their perceptions, based on data from 160 countries since 1970. (FWIW, trust in science and scientists is highest in Canada, the US and Australia.)  THE

Coronavirus Backlash against Scientists

Because politicians find it convenient to “hide behind scientists” as they announce unpleasant news or unpopular restrictions, international policy experts warn of a potential backlash. “Scientists have become the face of a set of policy decisions that have profound implications for people’s freedom.” Scientific advisors have been “subject to death threats, newspaper exposés, and online hate.” Conspiracy theorists blame Anthony Fauci for undermining Donald Trump, who himself likes to suggest that COVID19 originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. In the UK, Neil Ferguson resigned his advisory position after The Daily Telegraph revealed he had broken his own lockdown restrictions. THE


Monday June 8, 2020

Keeping Current Students Engaged

Institutions have moved the academic experience online, but need to focus on student experience, campus traditions, celebrations and milestone moments for displaced students. If they don’t return to campus, bring experiences to them virtually, like Texas A&M’s “Aggie Muster,” Juilliard’s remote “Bolero” performance, USC’s online workouts, or Dartmouth’s virtual meditation. Video messages, social media templates, and campus livestreams can maintain connections while students are apart. IHE

uManitoba has launched “UM Café,” an online platform powered by Ten Thousand Coffees, to network students, alumni and industry partners, and connect mentors and mentees. (The platform is free for #CdnPSE sponsored by RBC FutureLaunch.)  UM

Friday June 5, 2020

Mount Allison provost Jeff Ollerhead released a 5-min video yesterday explaining Fall term course delivery (a mix of asynchronous online, synchronous online, or blended).  The objective was to be flexible for international or domestic students who cannot get to campus. MTA may still have online courses in the Winter term, but is planning a robust schedule for Summer 2021 and Fall 2021, to allow students to catch up on missed content.  YouTube

If you’re looking for some work-related viewing this afternoon, here are a couple of videos that stood out from thousands in my feed this week:

Tyndale University’s director of distributed learning, James Robertson, discusses “Online Learning at Tyndale” – and in the process, mocks typical shortcomings of remote teaching (and even includes a gratuitous TikTok reference).  YouTube

Vancouver Island U’s recruitment officer Jordan Werezak describes his educational journey with self-deprecatory humour and irreverence. YouTube

Study Texas released a beautiful spot this week to attract international students to its 40 member colleges and universities. It has stunning cinematography, great drone footage of cities and farmland, action shots of galloping horses and a long-horn steer in the sunset, but somehow the script falls a bit short. YouTube



Tuesday June 2, 2020


International recruitment is in some turmoil this summer, as institutions worry about half of their incoming students opting to defer, government policies prove volatile, and small agencies are vulnerable…

Collapse of International Agents

A major consolidation of the international agent sector is expected in the wake of the pandemic. These small businesses manage their cash flow all year, anticipating commissions in the Fall. Now, many are expecting declines of 65-100% in revenue. STB, a Brazilian company, expects mass closures of smaller agencies, and is prepared to buy up 40 more offices within the next 6 months. Agents representing US and UK institutions in particular will be hit hard because of COVID19. PIE

US may Expel Chinese Academics

The Trump Administration is reportedly planning to cancel the visas of up to 3,000 Chinese grad students and researchers with ties to military-affiliated universities in China. Recently Washington has demanded details on financial ties between US universities and foreign governments, and pushed to fire or arrest researchers who failed to disclose those ties. There are 360,000 Chinese students in the US. THE

Centennial College reports that its survey of 2,500 accepted international applicants (Apr 14-24) found that 51% were willing to take classes online, while the other half would rather delay until in-person classes are possible. Centennial




Yesterday social media was flooded with solid black photographs and the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday or #TheShowMustBePaused, and I’m hearing that some PSE accounts will be suspending paid social advertising all week. The movement originated in the music industry, to take a stand against “racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard,” and artists including Quincy Jones and Mick Jagger jumped aboard. USA Today

When Can We Promote Non-COVID Stories?

For 3 months now, news media and consumers have been fixated on gathering up-to-the-minute news about the health and economic impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, and have had little patience for anything else. PR officers may need to hold back on “normal” stories about research funding, donations, etc. if there is no connection to the pandemic. People may be open to “inspirational, positive news” so long as it isn’t “self-serving.” Internal campus audiences in particular need to hear the positive stories now, as distraction, and hope for a return to normalcy (eventually). IHE

Monday June 1, 2020

UPEI president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz celebrated a week since stage 1 of the return to campus, anticipating stage 2 beginning on Jun 15. “PEI is one of the safest places to be in Canada. If this success continues, UPEI will be an attractive destination for our students’ educational journeys, and our scale will enable us to offer high quality in-person and/or virtual face-to-face experiences, along with world-class education and research opportunities come September.” UPEI

New Microsites

Several institutions have shifted from health and safety COVID19 microsites to “Virtual University” or “Fall 2020” sites instead.

uAlberta has launched a COVID19 page specifically for grad students, aggregating news and updates for domestic and international grad students, courses and research. uAlberta

Brock has launched a “Fall 2020” microsite with 6 key points “at a glance,” welcome videos from senior administrators, and links to student resources and the Fall 2020 plan. Brock

Saint Mary’s (Halifax) launched a “Virtual University” landing page back on April 1, with audience-based navigation to further information. SMU

uToronto has launched a new “UTogether2020” microsite to replace its COVID19 page, with updates, a “full roadmap,” and FAQs about the Fall term.



Friday May 29, 2020

Getting Graphic

Countering the “Disinfodemic”

UNESCO has released a series of multilingual Media and Information Literacy infographics, “MILclicks,” on Twitter and Facebook under a creative commons license. They emphasize the importance of quality journalism, fact-checking, and parenting for MIL, and address the danger of information overload (“infobesity” and “infoxication”) and conspiracy theories. For parents, they recommend teaching kids about fiction, and signing a social media behavioural contract. MIL MOOCs are also offered, in partnership with Athabasca U and others.  UNESCO


McMaster is making social distancing, directional, and informational floor and wall signage available in a consistent format campus-wide. Signs urge people to keep 6ft apart, keep to the right, wash hands often, and limit themselves to 1-3 passengers per elevator car.  McMaster

Concordia Stingers are polling fans on Twitter and Facebook to choose between 2 options for branded face masks. (So far, the left option is outpolling the right one, 2 to 1, on both platforms.)  Twitter



A Musical Tribute from Humber

In honour of Paramedic Services Week, Humber College’s entire Bachelor of Music class and 4 film students released a slick music video compilation this week, featuring 18 performers singing “O Canada” as a tribute to frontline healthcare workers. The project also allowed students to gain work placement hours, and honoraria. It’s well done and worth a listen!  Humber



Thursday May 28, 2020

International Challenges

As the US passes 100,000 COVID19 deaths, with no sign of a flattened curve, politicians are increasingly demanding that churches, beaches, and college campuses reopen – prompting 68% of Canadians to want our border to stay closed to Americans until at least September, or even next January. Meanwhile the BC Supreme Court’s ruling of “double criminality” against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has outraged Beijing. International geopolitics are getting tumultuous for Canada, which can’t be good for international enrolments going forward. Then again, US recruiters are even more pessimistic…

Major Hurdles to US Enrolment

US colleges are anxious about international enrolment this Fall. Routine visa processing is suspended at US embassies worldwide, travel restrictions affect many countries, and commercial flights are vanishingly few. Even worse, the Trump administration is expected to restrict a popular post-graduate work program. 88% of institutions anticipate a drop in new international students, like uArizona which is projecting an 80% decline. Prospects for current students are more encouraging, since 92% of them are still in the country. IHE

Grad Students More Likely to Defer

A survey of 30,000 international students found that COVID19 has led 48% of undergraduates and 62% of grad students to defer their studies until next year. About 40% of all levels reported they were “not at all” interested in online study, and another 20% were only “slightly” interested. The majority felt that tuition fees for online study should be discounted 20-40%, although research-based grad students were inclined to say more than 40%. The overwhelming majority would like COVID19 email updates from universities either daily or a few times every week. QS


Wednesday May 27, 2020

Pandemic Impacts on Rankings

The Chief Data Officer of the Times Higher Ed World University Rankings expects the impact of COVID19 to be measurable in the 2022 and 2023 rankings. Bibliometric data for the 2022 rankings will be distorted by COVID19 research, and reputation data may shift based on the profile of ongoing research (such as at Johns Hopkins, Oxford, and Imperial College London). By 2023, the rankings will be affected by changes in income and research output this spring, as well as international enrolment, staff and collaborations this fall. THE

Student Guarantees

Many institutions have announced that their first-year student housing guarantees are suspended this Fall, because of occupancy uncertainties due to COVID19. To address applicant anxiety, however, several have unveiled new assurances:

Full Refunds at King’s

For the first time, King’s University College at Western is offering a full refund of student deposits if they change their mind later this summer. Full refunds of residence deposits can also be requested up until Aug 31.  YouTube  |  King’s

Money-Back Guarantee at Ontario Tech

Anticipating largely online Fall and Winter semesters, Ontario Tech has announced a “Student Experience Guarantee” for this Fall. Students “not satisfied with the quality of their university experience” can withdraw by Oct 9 and get a full tuition refund, without penalty. Ontario Tech


Tuesday May 26, 2020

Bite-Sized Courses for Free

Lambton College has already seen thousands of registrations for its collection of 43 free, hour-long self-paced online mini-courses, called “eBits.” These competency-based modules, on topics from Branding to Food Safety and Patient Advocacy, are designed to help learners explore an interest, prepare for the upcoming school year, or further develop professionally, and include a certificate of completion.Lambton

Presidential Vlogs

In times of disruption and anxiety, campus communities appreciate the opportunity to hear accurate information from their leaders, and video messaging is an opportunity to make that connection more emotional and reassuring. I’ve collected more than 600 examples from the past two months, but as a YouTuber who struggles to maintain a regular schedule myself, I am particularly impressed by some who have been remarkably consistent throughout the crisis:

BCIT president Kathy Kinloch was one of the first Canadian presidents to address the COVID19 crisis in a YouTube video on Mar 12. Since then, she has released 13 “COVID19 Response” videos, once or twice a week. YouTube

McGill Associate Provost Chris Buddle deserves a big shout-out for his persistent video messaging throughout the pandemic, on behalf of McGill’s Emergency Operation Centre. Mar 13-31 he released 14 almost-daily COVID19 updates, from his home or backyard. Every day or two since May 19, Buddle has released videos addressing student FAQs about the Fall term. YouTube

King’s UC principal David Malloy started recording video messages about COVID19 on Mar 14, and since then has released 12 sensitive, supportive updates to the campus community. YouTube

UBC president Santa Ono has delivered 9 polished weekly video updates since Mar 27, in a calm measured tone, from a fireside wingback chair at his residence. Many of the messages have ended with a #SongsofComfort selection, often performed by UBC students or recent graduates. YouTube

Royal Roads president Philip Steenkamp, at the opposite extreme, has delivered 8 very informal“Community Messages” since Apr 3, shot on an iPhone at his home, often wearing a baseball cap. Rather than providing detailed crisis information, his messages have often tried to refocus our attention on philosophical topics like “courage” and “creativity,” or favourite books and albums. YouTube

Red River College interim president Christine Watson has certainly been the most prolificpresidential vlogger in Canada. She launched a dedicated YouTube channel back in late February, “Where’s Watson?”, to update the community from little-known campus locations (like underground crawlspaces). On March 18, her series refocused on the COVID19 response. Since then, there have been 39 episodes of “Where’s Watson?” ranging from 30 seconds to 12 minutes in length, including interviews and updates. YouTube

Deciding to Delay Our Decision

Humour site McSweeney’s hits the nail on the head as they parody Fall term announcement letters: “it is time for strong, decisive action. We have decided to delay our decision. It is our decision to delay our decision so we can decide on our decision at a later decided time. We will make our final decision on campus reopening on a date no later than the day our closest competing universities announce their decisions and no earlier than the day after we cash your fall tuition deposit checks.” McSweeney’s


Monday May 25, 2020

Virtual Recruitment Advice

In the midst of the pandemic, digital touchpoints for student recruitment are increasingly crucial, including organic search, SEO, student portals, 1:1 interviews, virtual open houses and campus tours. Be sure your information and messaging are timely, empathetic, and that outdated messaging like “visit our campus” is replaced. Curate high quality content, short and impactful videos, and remember: “the follow up to the virtual interaction is more important than the initial interaction itself.” Use your CRM to personalize all communications, and direct team resources where they will have the greatest impact. QS


Friday May 22, 2020

Dunning-Kruger and COVID19

Many of us in higher ed underestimate the gullibility of the general public – and so do they! A recent Carleton survey of 2,000 Canadians (May 5-8) found that 46% believed at least one of four COVID19 conspiracy theories, particularly those who spent more time on social media. In all cases, the youngest cohort (age 18-29) was most misguided: 30% believed COVID19 was engineered in a Chinese lab, 18% that it is a 5G coverup, 31% that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment, and 20% that rinsing your nose with saline solution provides protection against the virus. Yet overall, 57% were confident they could distinguish misinformation from fact. Carleton

Brock has offered some details about its Virtual Convocation, which launches Jun 19. The web portal will customize videos and content based on a student’s faculty and degree. In addition to a “social media celebration toolkit,” grads will receive their parchment, alumni pin, convocation program and a bag of confetti by mail. Brock


Wednesday May 20, 2020

New Adult Learner Markets

The COVID19 recession may prompt a “market shift” for universities, breaking their reliance on 18-21 year olds and international students, and turning their attention to adult learners, who have been the traditional focus of colleges. This may mean more short-term, flexible, modularized distance learning. Harvard’s Extension School admits more students than the rest of the university put together. Stanford and Dublin City University have programs aimed at those in “the third age,” to help them “transform themselves for roles with social impact.” THE


Tuesday May 19, 2020

In the first Eduvation Bulletin, I summarized 18 recent surveys of about 54,000 students to draw conclusions about the proportion of domestic and international students who are apparently considering a gap year, rather than returning to an online term this fall. Some new surveys add to the data:

Declining International Enrolment

An IIE survey of 599 institutions who enrol almost half of all international students in the US (Apr 16 – May 1), found that 88% expect declines in international enrolment this fall, largely because of COVID19 travel restrictions and visa delays. 30% predict a “substantial” enrolment decline, although 92% of continuing students remain in the US. This spring, 74% of institutions allowed international students to stay in residence, and 60% offered them emergency funding. 75% said they will offer students the option to defer enrolment to later fall or spring 2021. It’s worth noting that 92% of continuing international students are still in the US and able to study this fall. IIE

30% of Students may Reconsider

Half of Canadian students report that COVID19 has made it more difficult to afford tuition and living costs this fall. Of the rest, 75% are concerned that distance learning “will create a poor learning experience,” and 30% of both new and returning PSE students say they might change their plans. CAUT and CFS surveyed 300 graduating Canadian HS and 800 PSE students (Apr 23 – May 1).  CAUT

19% of International Students Reject Online

One-fifth of international students bound for Canada said they would not take classes online, according to a survey of 16,649 prospects (Apr 3 – 20). Half of them are over age 25, and they are slightly more likely to be males interested in college programs. The majority really want the study abroad experience, want to interact with classmates, and are concerned about time zone differences for live instruction. Eligibility for the PGWP would help sway some of them, but they would also expect “significantly reduced” tuition for online study. Academica

In the past few days, Yukon University launched a new website and its new brand video, with the tagline, “Together We Thrive.”

Just ICYMI, don’t forget to check out my selection of recent cdnPSE ads in my latest blog: COVID Campaigns


Friday May 15, 2020

Engaging Frosh Early

Although it won’t announce plans for Fall until July 1, Saint Mary’s University (Halifax) has implemented virtual consultations and webinars for prospective students, and added a LiveChat function to the SMU website. Welcome Weeks will launch much earlier this summer, and many departments have added first-year and prep courses to the Summer term. SMU

Engaging Online Students

For its newly-announced online fall term, Concordia is amping up pre-arrival communications to students, adding virtual orientation and welcome-back events, and adding a new virtual space called “HomeRoom.” Concordia will also be providing more online student advising, mental health counselling, peer mentoring, and more. Concordia

Messages of Optimism & Solidarity

Higher education advertising is gradually returning, despite the challenging times.  Check out my selection of a dozen or so noteworthy examples, from early “stay home” messages to “We’re All In,” “We’re Better Together,” “Bring on the Spring Term,” and the “Long-Distance Relationship that Works,” in my latest blog: COVID Campaigns!  Eduvation


Thursday May 14, 2020

VIU launched a dedicated page for Fall Semester FAQs. VIU


Wednesday May 13, 2020

Rethink the Student Journey Map

COVID19 has radically changed the decision-making process for students, among other things making it entirely digital. Curiosity-driven web browsing is up during the lockdown, but “uncertainty breeds indecision.” Now is the time to improve your web content, optimize usability and information architecture, improve analytics and tracking, so that your recruitment engine will be ready when students are finally ready to commit.  Intead

Recruiters Take Heart!

If you’re feeling a little discouraged about recruiting this fall’s class without the use of campus tours, open houses, or face-to-face information sessions – and a bit disheartened by the uncertainty that a campus experience will even be possible this year – consider that online dating apps like Bumble are seeing double-digit increases in video dating, especially by young Canadians. The Q2 ad campaign will roll out on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, filmed with non-actors during the pandemic. Strategy

Monday May 11, 2020

18 Surveys of 54,000 Prospects

Over the past 2 months, 18 different surveys have tried to answer the question: how many incoming or returning students will defer their studies, or take a gap year – particularly if this fall is offered online? I thought it might be helpful to gather those findings in one place and make sense of them, so I have written the first Eduvation Bulletin on “COVID19 & Enrolment.” In this meta-analysis, I summarize 9 unprecedented aspects of the crisis, identify the percentages of students who say they might not enrol this fall, and look at some factors that might change the results for your institution. Eduvation

Marketing in a Recession

PSE may be reluctant to market when our audiences are anxious about COVID19, or our budgets are frozen or shrinking. It’s an old adage, though, that “when others go quiet, your voice gets louder”: marketing in a recession can have long-term benefits. Just remember that prospective students relate the creativity and quality of your ads directly to the quality of education you offer. Indirect brand effects can matter more than click-throughs. Vary your creative so audiences don’t feel “bombarded” by the same ad, and build familiarity over multiple channels and over time. IHE

Two Post-COVID Website Priorities

Institutional websites have been the single most critical marketing vehicle for years now, but doubly so now. Prospective students and parents report they are not getting enough information about the fall semester, course delivery and safety precautions, so firstly ensure your website provides comprehensive, up-to-date practical information about COVID19. Demonstrate student-centred compassion. Secondly, ensure you have optimized website architecture, navigation, and key enrolment landing pages. Introduce layered, immersive and interactive multimedia web content and you’ll increase time-on-page by 38%. EAB


Friday May 8, 2020

Public Trust in Science

At least in Germany, a positive side-effect of the COVID19 pandemic is that public trust in science and researchers seems to be rising. Four times as many Germans “wholeheartedly” trust science and researchers this year compared to last (although it’s still just 36%). Respondents trust doctors more than scientists, but both more than politicians or journalists. A possible explanation for the shift is public anxiety for information about COVID19 has led them to pay closer attention to scientific explanations and methods. THE

Virtual Convocations in the Nexus

A small group of high school seniors has launched Nexus, a cross-platform app to host virtual graduations and year-end celebrations in immersive 3D, incorporating customizable avatars and realistic campus simulations based on Google Maps. “Designed by students, for students,” the multiplayer immersive platform improves on the experience of web conferencing with Unity3D’s rendering engine, spatial realtime audio, and administrator security. All profits go to COVID19 research. Nexus


Thursday May 7, 2020

Enrolment Planning in the COVID Era

In a new white paper, Jim Black argues that historical enrolment data and targets are rendered unreliable or even counterproductive in the face of pandemic disruption. Institutions need “strategic dexterity” to thrive, leading in innovation and keeping plans dynamic, while avoiding pitfalls like mission drift, panic, or failing to invest in the enrolment enterprise. Scenario plans should address instructional and service delivery, staffing, technology, processes, policies and enrolment strategies. More than ever, recruiter time should shift from lead generation to cultivation and conversion, and institutions need to invest in mental health and re-recruiting current students.  SEMworks

Communicating in an Extended Crisis

As the COVID19 crisis evolves, it is time to transition from top-down facts-based messaging to distributed, two-way communication by leaders at all levels on campus. Lead with empathy, validate emotions, express appreciation and a sense of hope. Be transparent about what is known, what may change, and what is still unknown. Keep communicating, repeatedly, in a wide range of channels. Empower staff and alumni to share key messages and FAQs. Enable comments, invite feedback, and host virtual town halls. EAB


Wednesday May 6, 2020


Yesterday was #GivingTuesdayNow, and many Canadian institutions joined in to encourage donations to support emergency relief funds for students and others.  YukonU  |  CNA  |  UFV

COVID19’s Impact on Program Choice

After the 2008 downturn, US college students (particularly females) gravitated towards STEM subjects (particularly health/natural/computer sciences) and away from the humanities and social sciences, pursuing the promise of career relevance and 50% higher starting salaries. In the wake of the COVID19 recession, analysts anticipate growing interest in engineering, finance, economics and nursing. Quartz

38% of International Students may Defer

A survey of 6,900 current and prospective international students, largely from India, found that 38% were prepared to defer their studies until a return to campus-based teaching (but only for up to a year). 41% were prepared to begin online studies in the meantime, or entirely. New Zealand and Canada were particularly attractive for their responses to the COVID19 pandemic to date. In fact, 76% bound for Canada were unlikely to change to another destination country, even if its borders opened first. The US was “poorly perceived” and ranked last in 3 of 5 measures. IDP

Don’t Bank on a Recession Bump

Typically, community colleges experience a countercyclical surge in enrolment, but not until about 18 months after the start of a recession. Preliminary reports suggest that at-risk students are missing high school online classes, and graduation rates may decline this year. Uncertainty about face-to-face classes compounds the situation: the recession surge may wait until 2021. EAB

A New “Digital Face” for George Brown

George Brown College launched a new, streamlined website yesterday, perhaps one of the first major redeployments during the COVID19 WFH. The new “experience-centered enterprise architecture… sets us up for customizable and personalized communications and experiences.” Responsive design adjusts for mobile and widescreen use, and navigation and search have been improved.  GBC

A New Digital Face for Yourself?

If you’re feeling “Zoomed out” and finding it exhausting to manage your lighting, attention, facial expression, grooming and office tidiness (see my ten tips to look good online) – there’s another solution. You can download the free LoomieLive software to create an animated 3D avatar of yourself (a “Loomie”), based on a selfie, that can replace your webcam feed and move along with your voice in real time. LoomAI


Tuesday May 5, 2020

Disappointment with Remote Instruction

A mid-April survey of 3,089 current PSE students across North America found that 68% felt that the emergency online instruction they received this spring was worse than in-person classes, and 78% felt it was unengaging. A third of students disliked online learning so much they were undecided, or may not return this fall. 85% missed socializing with students and interacting face-to-face with faculty. 50% were anxious about their ability to pass the semester.  Top Hat

Rising Concern about Deferrals

In the past six weeks, admission officers and counselors in the US report “many more inquiries about deferrals” from students and parents concerned about the safety of traditional campus life this fall, and conversely about the value of taking online courses instead. Institutions want to bring in a class this fall, so many are not changing their deferral policies – yet.  The Gap Year Association reports a 65% increase in web traffic. Virtual internships or in-country gap year programs with an isolation quality, like a wilderness expedition, might be good options this fall.  IHE

Trump’s Name where it Belongs?

Inspired by US president Donald Trump’s insistence that his name appear on COVID19 stimulus cheques, 3 Canadian marketing executives decided “he should really have his name on the bodies that have piled up so far.” Now, you can buy $500 Trump Body Bags, “to crystallize the fatal mismanagement of the COVID19 crisis.” Profits go to the WHO’s COVID Solidarity Response Fund.  Strategy

Monday May 4, 2020

61% of Indian Students Likely to Defer

A new survey of 850 Indian students finds that 50% might consider deferring their study plans because of the economic and health impacts of COVID19. 35% are “very concerned” about the quality of online education, and 54% of those headed to Canada said they would defer if study were online.  PIE

Don’t Neglect Pipeline for 2021

This fall will be rough on international enrolments: surveys suggest at least 60% of students will defer their plans. But a panel of experts warns that institutions should be focusing now on the enrolment pipeline for 2021 and beyond. Recruitment events need to move online, prospective students have more questions than ever, competition will be more intense, and so institutions need to provide more personal attention. PIE

4 Ways to Improve Retention for the Fall

EAB’s Ed Venit recommends that institutions remove administrative holds and other barriers to fall registration; raise or redirect funds to emergency grants; plan a LOT of proactive re-enrolment campaigns this summer; and analyze the courses, faculty and students who struggled the most with the migration to alternative delivery. This can highlight necessary improvements and recovery initiatives if classes continue to be virtual this fall.  EAB

Friday May 1, 2020

Insatiable Appetite for Hard Data

A survey of 90 institutional research leaders across North America found that IR departments have been hit by plenty of unplanned and urgent requests for data. 87% are revising enrolment projections post-COVID, 38% are coping with new requests for surveys, 22% are struggling with government reporting deadlines, and 18% are finding WFH challenging.  EAB

28 Million Americans Cancel Plans

New data from an ongoing survey by Strada Education Network concludes that one in five Americans has changed their education plans due to the COVID19 pandemic, and 11% have cancelled them. Of those considering further education this year, 71% prefer a diploma, certificate, or a handful of courses. Strada

Art in the Time of Coronavirus

Students in OCAD U’s Drawing & Painting program have created an online exhibition of sensitive, emotional work completed since the mid-March shutdown. The works highlight themes we’re all experiencing: anxiety, insomnia, burnout, isolation, empty cities, and dependence on technology.  OCAD


Thursday April 30, 2020

Half of International Students Will Wait

A survey of 16,649 prospective international students interested in Canada found that only 15% are reconsidering study abroad because of COVID19, but 53% would delay starting classes if they cannot be taken in-person on campus. When pushed, 64% say they would take online classes if necessary, and 39% of those would prefer to move to Canada and study online here. University applicants were slightly more willing to study online, but also more likely to stay in their home country to do so. Academica

COVID19 and Perceptions of National Safety

The wide range in pandemic precautions and outcomes between nations will reshape global perceptions of national reputations and their safety as a study destination. OECD calculations suggest that higher ed in the US and UK could lose billions of dollars each, while Australia and Canada might lose only “hundreds of millions.” THE

“Catastrophic” Decline Predicted

Based on multiple surveys, consultants at Simpson Scarborough are predicting that 4-year colleges in the US will lose up to 20% of their enrolment this fall – not including international student losses. 10% of high school seniors have already changed their plans, and 26% of current college students are unsure they will return. Minority students are twice as likely (41%) to say they may not go to college at all this fall. As predicted, the results are worse after a full month of COVID19.  IHE

COVID19 is Heating Up Summer Melt

A new study of 1,171 US high school seniors has found that 17% of university applicants no longer plan to enrol full-time, even though 40% of them had already paid a deposit. More than half report that a parent has lost their job. Just days before the traditional May 1 deadline, 40% had not paid a deposit anywhere, and most expressed doubt about whether campuses will open this fall. 60% have “no interest” in enrolling for an online program, and 67% would expect to pay “much less” if they did. 16% plan to attend a community college instead, 17% plan to wait until spring 2021, and 16% plan to take a full gap year. The study provides trend data from March and April 2020. ArtSci

The Digital Divide in Canada

Even if students wanted to study online, reliable internet is unavailable to 14% of Canadians, 59% of rural Canadians, and 72% on First Nations reserves. Although the federal government has announced a $6 billion investment to achieve 100% coverage by 2030, as we saw yesterday, the pandemic lockdown is making broadband connectivity an essential service.  Tony Bates

Your Website as Recruiter and Advisor

For years now, institutional websites have been the #1 source of information for virtually all stakeholders – but with campuses closed to the public, they now need to replace campus visits and open houses too. Your website has to be “your leading recruiter, admissions counsellor, and advisor.” As always, start with clear admissions personas, determine their needs, and develop focused messaging. Clarify your differentiators, focus on employment outcomes and societal impact. Make personal connections using testimonials, videos, and social media. EAB

Wednesday April 29, 2020

86% of International Prospects Hesitating

In late March and April, surveyed 7,400 prospective international students (largely bound for university grad/undergrad in 2020-23). Just 14% were unfazed by COVID19, while 42% were postponing study abroad, 5% were cancelling their plans, and 39% simply weren’t sure. Only 5% were planning on pursuing an online degree, although 45% said they were willing to consider online study. Only 8% of those already studying abroad indicated that they were cancelling their studies due to COVID19, although 20% were postponing study and 41% were unsure. The majority already studying abroad would be willing to continue their program online. Educations

Brock U launched its “Virtual Open House” this weekend, complete with introductory speeches, 360° virtual campus tours, faculty-specific videos and information, live recruiter chats, and door prizes. Recruiters will continue to connect with prospective students using webinars, chats and Instagram Q&As throughout the week. The site will come down June 1, the deadline to accept offers in Ontario. Brock

St Lawrence College launched a “Virtual Showcase” of program presentations this week, including recorded presentations, live Q&A, advising appointments and campus tours, in what its president calls “one of the biggest innovative pivots for the college.” SLC

SFU has launched a weekly video series, “Change Makers,” in which VP Research & International Joy Johnson interviews (remotely) researchers, particularly related to the COVID19 pandemic. SFU


Tuesday April 28, 2020

Online Fall would Impact Retention

A panel of 1,133 current Canadian PSE students surveyed April 6-13 found that 29% who had previously planned to return this fall are now unsure they will enroll, and 10% report they definitely will not, if classes are fully online. College students are significantly more reluctant: just 49% would be prepared to return. Concerns include the quality of learning, their own motivation and focus, and their ability to stay on top of readings and assignments. 25% are concerned about having the necessary technology and internet connection, and some emphasize the need for asynchronous options. Academica

Community Video Series at Ontario Tech

Ontario Tech has launched a new series, “Working Apart, Coming Together,” to highlight the ways in which students, faculty and staff have been stepping up to help the community cope with COVID19. YouTube


Monday April 27, 2020

Canadian Concerns Plateau?

A series of 18 public opinion polls this year reveal that Canadians were slow to worry about COVID19: in early February, 70% of Canadians thought the threat was “overblown.” In the latter half of March, Canadians’ concern skyrocketed. Now as we wind up April, levels of concern seem to be plateauing or even declining as we start “flattening the curve.” 17%-25% of Canadians think it’s time to start lifting restrictions now, and almost half think we should do so as soon as things are manageable in the healthcare system. PollingGuru

Youth Fear Confinement more than COVID

On Friday, StatsCan provided early results from a “crowdsourced” survey of 200,000 Canadians conducted April 3-9. 80% were very anxious about overloading the health system. Just 23% of 15 to 24-year-olds were very concerned about their own health, although 41% were very concerned about stress from confinement at home. (Reminds me of MADD’s research finding that teens feared losing their license and becoming dependent upon parents again, more than potential death or injury from drunk driving. Most youth don’t grasp mortality.) About 95% of youth did report that they were avoiding leaving the house, attending large gatherings or entering crowds.  StatsCan

The Recruiting Gloves Come Off

Facing growing concerns about fall enrolment, US colleges are resorting to previously banned recruiting tactics like sweepstakes entries, free summer classes, free parking, prime dorm rooms, and prime timetables (ie, no early morning classes). By coincidence, the US Justice Dept overturnedanticompetitive parts of the NACAC code of ethics, just in time for COVID19 desperation. Many colleges are reopening to applications, and will be trying to lure away committed students well after the traditional cutoff date in a “bidding war” with aggressive scholarship offers. Hechinger

Beware, Mid-Market Institutions

Higher ed administrators face big challenges this fall, says uPenn’s Alan Ruby. Most campuses will open – but likely offering online or blended courses, with smaller, socially-distanced classes. Enrolment will depend on travel restrictions, entry visas, and competitive scholarship offers. Top tier institutions can comfortably depend on financial reserves and dip deeper into their waiting lists, while local small-town campuses will gain from proximity to home. The “middle band” of tuition-dependent institutions in crowded regional markets will be hardest hit, he predicts. IHE   

National COVID19 Hackathon

Last week, 500 participants from across Canada took part in a 48-hour hackathon, #TogetherVsVirus, to co-develop useful and creative technology solutions to community COVID19 challenges. From 23 finalists, the jury selected 6 projects: Allyship (trauma-sensitive care website), E-safe (AI approach to social distancing in manufacturing), Heropool (carpooling app for frontline workers), My Health Risk(burnout survey), Spring Out (for victims of domestic violence), and Soci’s Hunt (a blockchain volunteer rewards platform). Sponsors of the hackathon included BCIT and UFV. (Dalhousie plans a similar COVID19 Hackathon on May 4-6.) TogetherVsVirus


Friday April 24, 2020

COVID19’s Psychological Impacts

A uSherbrooke study of 600 Canadians April 8-11 reports that 25.4% already suffer from probable generalized anxiety, and 25.5% from probable PTSD, as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. Even though Quebec has been hit harder by the disease, Quebecers apparently experience lower stress, possibly because they trust authorities more. uSherbrooke

Significant UK declines predicted

A London Economics report for the UK’s University and College Union predicts a 47% decline in international and EU enrolments next year, and 16% domestically. As a result, they calculate a loss of 231,895 students, Ł2.6 billion, and 30,000 jobs for UK higher ed. Younger, less prestigious institutions will actually be less at risk, because they are less dependent upon international enrolment. THE

90% of Parents are Uncomfortable

A survey of 389 parents of US college students conducted April 10-14 found general dissatisfaction with current remote learning, and that 36% are concerned about their child’s mental health. 90% are not comfortable with their child returning for more remote learning this fall, although just 40% say their child is unlikely to return. Tyton Partners

Watch Your Words!

The Provost of Cal State Fullerton learned the hard way this week that her statements at the institution’s first-ever town hall would get plenty of attention. Pamella Oliver intended to say that CSF was planning for the worst this fall, but what NPR, the Chronicle, and other national media reported was that CSF was the first institution in North America to announce that it had decided to deliver the fall term online. (Since I repeated this in yesterday’s issue, I thought I should set the record straight.) CSUF

Make Up Some Words

Tony Thorne, a linguist at King’s College London, has catalogued more than 1,000 neologisms he calls “Coronaspeak.” Some particularly useful additions to my vocabulary: “covidiot,” “flu bro,” “the COVID 19 (lbs),” “coronalusional,” “infodemic,” and “ronavation.” KCL

The Show Must Go On

Congratulations to Sheridan College, which was just ranked #1 in the Animation Career Reviewinternational rankings – and also to their graduating Music Theatre Performance students, who happened to be rehearsing the ideal musical when the world got shut down by COVID19. In Real Life is set in a dystopian society in which citizens are confined to cubes – so it lends itself perfectly to production via Zoom, and takes on a whole new resonance. Sheridan


Thursday April 23, 2020

30% may take a Gap Year

A quick panel study of 390 Canadian applicants found they were “excited” about the year ahead, but also “nervous, anxious, uncertain, worried, and scared.” 65% were concerned their program might be delivered online, and 30% were uncertain they would attend PSE at all this fall. Applicants were generally satisfied with the communications received from institutions, but will be looking for clear guidance. Academica Group

Free Tuition at SNHU this Fall

Southern New Hampshire University, with 132,000 students, will offer all incoming on-campus freshmen a scholarship covering 100% of tuition for 2020-21.  It is also experimenting with new online, hybrid, and project-based delivery modalities. SNHU

To Spend or Not to Spend?

There is a lively debate in marketing circles, about whether investing in brand advertising during a recession is sound strategy, or whether advertising in the midst of a pandemic is in poor taste. Even major consumer goods marketers disagree. P&G says it will be “doubling down” on brand-building. Coca-Cola, on the other hand, says it is “pausing” its brand marketing campaigns. Strategy

Presidential Dialogue video

Instead of the typical presidential message video (of which you can see hundreds on my playlist here), NBCC president Mary Butler released an interview video yesterday with Student Union president Lexi Keast. The effect, of course, is more dynamic and of course they address some top questions from students. NBCC


Wednesday April 22, 2020

80% of Students Worried

A new survey by Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities polled 3,157 students at 64 institutions, and found 83% do not qualify for the CERB, 79% are worried about being able to pay tuition this fall, and 73% are worried about paying rent through the summer. UCRU

Aussie Tuitions Overpriced?

Stephen Parker, former uCanberra president turned KPMG consultant, argues that high costs to attend Australian universities have turned them into “luxury brands” that are priced out of the Chinese market. Study visa applications from China and India have been dropping. Canada’s PGWP and CERB make it a particularly strong competitor. He recommends slashing international tuitions. THE

Defer tuition for a year?

Yesterday, North Carolina’s Davidson College became the first to announce that students can defer tuition for the Fall 2020 term up to a full year: tuition bills will be issued in July 2021, and payment can wait until August 2021. Davidson

For-Profit Boom Times?

Large online for-profit universities like Capella, Phoenix, and Strayer are ramping up their advertising spends, anticipating another recession will again boost their enrolments. COVID19-themed campaigns promise “flexible education for uncertain times” and tell students they are “online, but never on your own.” Some are even offering 50% off tuition, or free tuition for selected students. AP

Speaking of Pandemic Ads

Youtuber “Microsoft Sam” wryly observes that dozens of commercials referencing COVID19 are virtually interchangeable, and he demonstrates it in this 3-minute compilation. “Cue sombre piano music” and “stock b-roll footage,” “in uncertain times” “our priority is people and families,” “we’ll get through this,” and “we’re here for you.” YouTube

Rise Again, Nova Scotia

Although Cape Breton U planned to share a collaborative recording of their official song, “Rise Again,” at their virtual convocation in May, they decided to release it early as a message of optimism and support to a province reeling in shock from the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. It features solos by honorary degree recipients Ashley MacIsaac and the Barra MacNeils, among others. YouTube


Tuesday April 21, 2020

Fundraisers grow uneasy

A new survey of 415 advancement professionals found that 43% do not expect to reach their fundraising goals this year. They voiced concern about the volatile economy, about sounding “out of touch” making their case during a pandemic, and about virtual means to connect with donors. Washburn McGoldrick

Jamming about Marketing

It was my pleasure recently to speak with Darian Kovacs of Jelly Digital Marketing, on his podcast “Marketing Jam,” about my own eccentric career path, some favourite books, COVID19, cautionary tales, and current trends in higher ed marketing, from CRMs and conversational marketing to campus ambassadors, brand positioning and UGC (and I give some shoutouts to SFU, Royal Roads, NSCC, MUN and others). Jelly


Monday April 20, 2020

COVID Double-Cohort, Redux

David Trick, interim CEO of HEQCO, was intrigued by my suggestion back on April 8 that because of deferrals this fall, we could see a dip in enrolments followed by a surge of pent-up demand for a year or two post-COVID. David observes that this time around, we don’t have 4 years’ notice, nor $900 M in capital growth funding, nor clarity about student behaviours to project enrolment. He also observes that a rebound in applications, whenever it comes, may create competition between domestic and international applicants. HEQCO

Friday April 17, 2020

Student Wellness Care Packages

VIU’s student wellness promoters are delivering 225 care packages to students in residence and in local homestays, including stress balls, granola bars, popcorn, tea, sudoku games, colouring sheets, and more. VIU Cares

“Convocation in a Box”

This June, uLethbridge will ship graduates their parchment, a cap and tassel, a commemorative program, alumni pin, Indigenous stole if requested, and honour cords for those graduating with distinction. Students are encouraged to post photos to social media with the hashtag #uleth2020 (and to attend a convocation ceremony sometime in the next 3 years). uLeth

MUN’s Senate also announced yesterday that it is waiving the 70% grade average requirement for incoming NL undergraduates this coming academic year. MUN


Thursday April 16, 2020

Prospect decision-making: A new Eduventures survey of more than 7,100 US high school seniors found that 25% believe COVID19 may cause them to change their college choice, and almost half worry it will delay their enrolment. A survey in December found that only 22% of high school students were open to blended delivery, and less than 1% wanted online courses. Business Insider

Savvy marketers fight COVID: Socially responsible advertisers are focusing on contributing to efforts to fight the pandemic, observes OCAD U prof Sandra Kedey. Some are merely playing with their logos to reinforce messages about social distancing, but others are putting their money where their mouths are: Rogers donated a million meals to Food Banks Canada, Ford is producing face shields at its Windsor plant, Canada Goose is manufacturing hospital scrubs. Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” campaign donated $1 million of personal care products to front-line healthcare workers. OCAD U


Wednesday April 15, 2020

International students hesitate: Survey data released yesterday by Dutch recruitment website StudyPortals show that 40% of potential international students are now changing their plans to study abroad, compared to just 31% three weeks ago. Half of them want to defer enrolment by 1 or 2 years. 83% believe their travel options will be restricted because of COVID-19. University World News

US Parents are anxious about COVID-19: 40% of parents in a recent US survey say that COVID-19 might delay their child going to PSE, 40% want their child to study closer to home as a result, and 65% are more worried about tuition costs. Marketers take note: 85% of parents say they need to know more about campus safety precautions for the fall. Brian Communications

Consumers shift to online retail, delivery: COVID-19 has vastly accelerated the pre-existing shift of Canadian consumer spending to online retail and restaurant delivery, making Amazon Marketplace, Shopify, Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes key partners for traditional bricks and mortar businesses. More people than ever are cooking at home, and restaurants are becoming “grocerants.” These shifts in consumer behaviour will likely have permanent repercussions. Conference Board


Tuesday April 14, 2020

Advertiser Beware: It’s still debatable whether marketers can stop “holding our breath.” A recent survey by Corus found that 18% of Canadians want brands to stop all advertising during the pandemic, and 37% think any advertising still done should focus on how brands are helping during the crisis. CORUS reports a 25% bump in the net positive brand impression of QSR spots with special COVID messages.

Community Hubs: So institutions sharing positive stories about volunteerism and community engagement are on the right track, it would seem. I’ve mentioned previously the blog at LaurierSheridan’s curated social media posts, and Carleton’s Hub for Good,” focused on inspirational stories of kindness and compassion.

We’re also seeing initiatives to connect with employees, and try to overcome WFH isolation. VIU has a Facebook group for employees, “Keeping Connected VIU,” and UoGuelph a “Gryphon Family” portal for staff and student supports. Now there are two more:

Laurier has launched a Community Hub to share resources on education, staying fit at home, online music performances, virtual events, and other PD, as well as stories about how the community is pulling together.

uVic has launched a microsite they call “The Great Indoors” to provide wellness and upbeat content to the community at home. Some catchy posts include the “uVic Bounce Project,” “Digital Recess,” and “Buckets of Sunshine” – like Vikes Soccer players practicing individually at home.


Monday April 13, 2020

uAlberta has launched a “new News website to highlight the stories of our community’s efforts to handle COVID-19.”

Concordia has launched a new microsite, “CU at Home,” to help its entire community cope with “many facets of life in the time of COVID-19.” Regular contributions will include stories about research and community engagement, virtual workshops and fitness sessions, and webinars on leadership, mindfulness and wellness.

Vancouver Island University’s Office of Co-Curricular Engagement and Learning is organizing 8 weeks of “virtual social strengthening activities” for students, from daily “VIU Cares” Zoom chats to a special online edition of “VIU’s Got Talent.”

Easter Greetings: A few more presidential greetings from Western provinces came out after we “went to press” on Friday afternoon: Mike Mahon of uLethbridge, Philip Steenkamp of Royal Roads (who says he is growing the equivalent of a “playoff beard”), Kathy Kinloch of BCIT, Santa Ono of UBC, Deb Saucier of VIU, and Joanne MacLean of UFV. (UBC’s video ended with a virtual duet of “What a Wonderful World” by two music students.)

Check out my “COVIDeos” blog for some highlights of the more than 500 higher ed videos I’ve seen in the past month.


Thursday April 9, 2020

As most campuses wind down classes and prepare for exams next week, presidential messages are everywhere, generally thanking everyone for their effort, celebrating the renewal of springtime, wishing everyone a Happy Easter, and reminding us all to keep our social distance. In the past two days, I have seen 14 presidential videos, including MSVU president Mary BluechardtuVic president Jamie CasselsTRU president Brett FairbairnRRU president Philip SteenkampCCNB president Pierre ZundelWilfrid Laurier U president Deborah MacLatchy, and Sheridan president Janet Morrison. (I appreciate the way St Lawrence College president Glenn Vollebregt makes his videos and the full text available as options.)

Memorial University’s new president Vianne Timmons introduced herself to the broader community and invited them to donate to the new student emergency relief fund.

Centennial College president Craig Stephenson  emphasized the importance of recognizing the stat holiday even while working from home, and urged staff to switch off their emails (before now!).

Mount Royal University president Tim Rahilly  announced the first draft of the new strategic plan, with the mission of “opening minds and changing lives.”

uSask president Peter Stoicheff delivered a 24-minute address to the General Academic Assembly, starting with a thoughtful reflection on the 1918 pandemic at UofS.

The greetings from Saint Mary’s U president Robert Summerby-Murray and uWindsor president Robert Gordon featured pretty good lighting, sound and background instrumental music too. Kudos!

Also, just a reminder that I have been maintaining a Youtube playlist of all the COVID-related videos on the 800 higher ed channels I follow. Currently there are more than 460 videos, in chronological order. (One of these days, I hope to get the time to review the videos and share some highlights…)

Finally, announcements about Convocation are still coming too. Brock announced that its convocation is postponed. Queen’s has been surveying students on their preferences for a virtual ceremony, which apparently caused some to “react with grief and anger.” Since many of you have been asking, I have compiled some examples of alternative convocationsfor the Class of 2020…


Wednesday April 8, 2020

At institutions across the country, student recruitment for Fall 2020 continues as usual, although the in-person outreach and campus tours have been replaced with online alternatives. Post-Secondary BC, a collaborative of 30 college and university recruitment offices, has started adding COVID-19 details to each institutional profile.


Tuesday April 7, 2020

Some thought-provoking US research findings:

It’s already looking like students are considering taking a gap year this fall. A mid-March survey of 487 US high school seniors found that 17% were near the point of giving up on enrolling this fall, and 63% were expecting they could not attend their first-choice institution, largely because of finances. (At that point, just 6% of respondents knew someone affected by COVID-19, so these numbers will doubtless increase as the pandemic spreads.)


Monday April 6, 2020

Fleming College released a music video, #TogetheratHome, recorded by dozens of musicians and local citizens from home, in support of their COVID-19 Student Emergency Fund.


Sunday April 5, 2020

Market research is plagued with all sorts of biases, and in a rapidly-changing context like this, it can provide only a trajectory of consumer intention going forward. Still, I found some interesting stats this weekend:

A February survey of 100 Chinese agents concluded that 40-60% of prospective international students were already directly affected by the pandemic, and 66% of agents believed the number studying abroad would decline this year.

A March survey of almost 9,000 Chinese students studying in 20 countries found that the Coronavirus has 86% of them wanting to return to China (although the majority can’t get home).

particularly interesting study from Quacquarelli Symonds surveyed 11,000 prospective international students over February and March. By late March, the majority (52%) reported that they would defer study abroad because of the pandemic – but tellingly, 58% were willing to consider studying online instead. As the health and economic impacts of the Coronavirus intensify, these percentages will likely grow.

We can expect at least half of international students to defer their plans by a year, but it looks like even more would be willing to get started with online study this fall.


Friday April 3, 2020

On the communications front, Vancouver Island University has started a new Facebook group for employees, “Keeping Connected VIU.”  Carleton’s “Hub for Good” is collecting inspirational stories of kindness and compassion. UoGuelph launched a “Gryphon Family” portal for staff and student supports.


Thursday April 2, 2020

Saint Mary’s U (Halifax) has a new “Virtual University” landing page with audience-based navigation to further information. Check it out, if you’re wondering how to transition away from a relentless emphasis on COVID-19 on your website.

Graduations “Up in the Air”:  Shout-out to Briercrest College & Seminary, in Caronport SK, for the international exposure they got when a WestJet crew held a mid-air graduation convocation for 4 of their students, down the aisle of the aircraft, humming “Pomp and Circumstance” to boot. (I’ve added Briercrest to my spreadsheet, which seemed only fair.)


Wednesday April 1, 2020

Dalhousie has a Tumblr feed, One Dal, focused on how the university is supporting the community during COVID-19. And their latest presidential message video has much higher production values than many of the ad hoc vids we’ve seen lately.


Tuesday March 31, 2020

On the eve of April Fool’s Day, I suspect there will be very little organized silliness on campuses tomorrow. (Your 4-legged and 2-legged co-workers at home may have other plans.)

Researchers at McGill and UofT launched COVID-19 Resources Canada to coordinate volunteers and donation initiatives, research and expertise, with a primary focus on researchers and government policymakers.

Sheridan has been sharing thankful messages with students on Twitter and Instagram, from “we know this wasn’t the way you wanted to end the school year,” to a video of mascot Bruno practising physical distancing.

Western has a “Digital Student Experience” microsite, which centralizes access to academic and learning supports, career development, fitness and nutrition, health, leadership and social connection supports, and lists upcoming “events” (webinars) in a sidebar.

Algonquin College launched a redesigned COVID-19 microsite today.

uMontréal will be illuminating its bell tower with rainbow lights “as a sign of solidarity and hope.”


Friday March 27, 2020

A growing number of institutions are starting to focus on positive news stories in their COVID pages, from new supports for students to equipment donations, volunteer hours, and COVID vaccine research. Laurier is maintaining a blog of “stories of sharing, helping and kindness.” Sheridan has curated social media posts on their COVID page.

Saturday March 21 – Sunday March 22

If you’re looking for something a bit more upbeat for bedtime reading on a Sunday night, my collection of Inspiring Words from college and university presidents has become my most-shared blog of the year.


Friday March 20, 2020

On this Friday, if you need a smile, here are a couple of the many Coronavirus music videos I’ve spotted this week:

Jason JW Grant, manager of the Cultiv8 Agricultural Sandbox at Dalhousie, has created a charming remix of the Barenaked Ladies’ “If I had a million dollars,” designed to convey key health information. “Do I have the COVID virus? Do I have to self-isolate?”

Michael Breuning, interim History Chair at Missouri University of Science and Technology, recorded a guitar solo of “I will Survive” specifically from the perspective of faculty members transitioning to online delivery. “You gave me two days to adjust, to move everything online. Did you think I’d crumble, did you think I’d lay down and die?” (Plenty of in-jokes about Canvas, Panopto, and Zoom.)

Thursday March 19, 2020

In the face of pandemic, panic and pandemonium, some campus leaders have shared uplifting words of optimism and hope, from Benoit-Antoine Bacon at Carleton and Janet Morrison at Sheridan, to Andrew Petter at SFU, Claude Brulé at Algonquin, and Alan Shepard at Western. I share the most inspiring passages from these and ten other campus leaders in my third COVID-19 blog, “Inspiring Words in a Crisis.” (Let me know if there are others you would nominate to rival these.)

In addition to the daily video updates from presidents and senior crisis managers on campuses, several have mounted Facebook Live Q&A sessions for students (such as VIU), or announced online town halls for today or tomorrow (for example, uCalgary).


Tuesday March 17, 2020

And finally, there is some growing concern about the possibility of unsanctioned St Patrick’s Day parties getting out of hand. St Lawrence College issued an early warning, and the president at Wilfrid Laurier has a particularly good message for students.


Friday March 13, 2020

Several institutions have dedicated COVID email addresses (uLeth and uVic), and their social media personnel are attempting to respond promptly to queries. One has instituted a hotline phone number for questions.

Thursday March 12, 2020

Today I’ve also come across campus videos from a number of US schools, as well as BCIT, St Clair College, and King’s University College. (They’re in my playlist).

George Brown College has the only sign-language video on COVID-19 that I have seen so far.

St Lawrence College has reproduced a memo from their health unit encouraging students to stay away from St Patrick’s Day parties next week.

Conestoga College has declared all campuses “handshake-free environments”.


Wednesday March 11, 2020 – AM

Thanks to all who have started to share their own web URLs regarding COVID-19. I have started assembling some comparative stats in an Excel spreadsheet.

What I have noticed so far:

I have not found any institutions reporting any cases of COVID-19 yet.

Most are reporting they have increased the frequency of cleaning on campus, and are recommending people self-quarantine per federal guidelines.

Most institutions have started broadcasting messages about hygiene and discretionary travel. Some have suspended or banned travel on behalf of the institution. Many are forbidding sanctioned travel to countries under a federal level 3 or 4 travel advisory. Some (Humber, Mohawk, SAIT) seem to have banned all international travel, at least for students. A few (Algonquin, Mohawk, uAlberta) seem to have banned non-essential domestic travel too.

uVic has the most comprehensive page, describing many details such as sick days, conference expenses, etc.

So far, only Mohawk has said it will be making decisions about cancelling events on a case by case basis going forward. No other institution seems to have mentioned it yet.

uVic and Humber have indicated that they will waive the requirement for students to get a doctor’s note for absences up to 14 days.

uVic and uCalgary have indicated that they will ensure employee pay continues uninterrupted, even if their sick days are exhausted.

So far, no one seems to be encouraging remote work or online meetings.

An increasing number of US institutions are switching live classes to online delivery for at least a few weeks after spring break. Humber reports that “academic continuity kits” have been prepared for faculty – which sounds like the first mention of moving classes online (?).

I’m building a playlist on YouTube of institutional updates and messages, town halls etc.


I spoke too soon. Laurentian University just acknowledged its first case of Covid-19, and announced that it would be suspending all classes.

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