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 August 21, 2020

Demographic Cliff x3

US colleges have known for a decade that a steep decline in traditional-aged students was coming in 2025. (They were all born by 2008 after all.) But last year’s enrolments were already softening, and now COVID19 has not only made it more difficult to recruit college students, but the shift to remote instruction may well drive a surge in high school drop-outs too. In some cases, half of K-12 students are skipping their Zoom classes. Those at-risk students might well have headed to rural institutions, community colleges or universities with an access mandate. Add to that the economic pressures of the recession and “decreased consumer confidence,” and EAB projects US first-time enrolments could drop by almost a third by 2025 (see graph below). EAB

Gen Y & Z Take Over

US Census data reveals that Generations Y and Z, the 166 million racially diverse people born since 1981, are now the majority in America, and poised to take over influential roles in business and government. Just 162 million Americans are aged 40+, members of the Gen X, Baby Boomer and older cohorts. The young majority are bearing the brunt of the recession, job losses, evictions and systemic racism (this is “the second stage of a double economic whammy” for older millennials) – but they also make up 62% of eligible voters in the US… NY Daily News

CdnPSE Enrolments

Universities sound fairly bullish about enrolments this Fall, although things won’t be entirely clear until after the course withdrawal dates…

Overall, Ontario universities report a 2.26% increase in confirmed first-year students this fall (107,001 this year, 104,635 last fall). This does not reflect upper-year or graduate enrolments, and of course it is not spread evenly across the province. Global

Laurier reports “very strong” interest in its 2020/21 programs, and an increase in the number of incoming students who considered WLU their first choice. Enrolment is “in line with our expectations,” although students are “now in the process of making their final decisions in unusual and challenging circumstances.” Global

uLaval reports preliminary data that shows a 4% increase in CEGEP graduates enrolling, although the data won’t be confirmed until Sep 30. Courses will be delivered in 6 modes, with the majority hybrid or co-modal. Laval

uWaterloo reports that “fall enrolment appears to be up,” although they won’t have official numbers until Nov 1. Global

With far more hands-on, trades and technical programs, many Ontario colleges are more anxious about enrolment declines this fall. (In the past few months we’ve heard some brutal scenarios being considered at Sheridan and Conestoga, for example.) It has always been true that universities can lower their admission cut-offs and scoop students out of the college pool, whereas colleges have no such option.


Thursday August 20, 2020

In-Person in Canada

In addition to StFX, Providence and Bishop’s, CdnPSEs Acadia, CMU and Redeemer have ambitious plans to deliver much of the traditional campus experience next month…

Acadia U has almost 25% of its staff back on campus now, and will be “returning to full operations” on Sept 21. Chronicle Herald

Canadian Mennonite U in Winnipeg has released a detailed 30-page framework for 2020-21 education and operations. Courses will be delivered in-person, virtually, and hybrid – although should the PHO return Manitoba to Phase 0 or 1, CMU would likely close dorms, move all classes online, and request students return home. CMU

Redeemer U expects 85% of its 850 students back on campus this fall, but has invested $800,000 in technology to move classes online if necessary. University Affairs

Reductions in Residence

Probably influenced by US coverage, this week Canadian news reporters have been covering plans for campus and residence…

uGuelph expects 500 students in campus housing this fall, rather than 4,000+, so it will be operating at about 12% capacity. Only in “special circumstances” will students be accepted to residence. CBC

Laurier has halved its residence capacity this fall to just 1,800 instead of 3,700, but expects to admit even fewer students than that. Record

uWaterloo expects 2,000 students in its dorms this fall, rather than 5,750, so it will be operating at about 35% capacity. Move-in will take place over 2 weeks instead of 2 days. Record

CdnPSE Updates

In other news, an animated reopening video, an extension of the Fall status quo through the Winter term, and new policies for academic compassion…

uAlberta will be largely online this fall, but this professionally animated 2-min video is for those who might need to visit campus, albeit briefly. There’s something calmly reassuring about the style. YouTube

Okanagan College has just announced that courses in the Winter 2021 term will continue the Fall approach: “a blend of online and hybrid courses.” Okanagan

Ryerson’s senate has approved new policies for the fall term, allowing students one undocumented request for academic consideration per term, and streamlining processes for appeals. Ryerson


A rap video about COVID19 and virtual learning made by 2 Georgia high school teachers and the cheerleaders they coach is going viral online, with about 250,000 views on Instagram so far. It’s a remix of Jack Harlow’s “What’s Poppin,” uploaded to raise students’ spirits the day before online classes began. NPR


Wednesday August 19, 2020


Let’s take a look at the impacts COVID19 is having on the automotive industry, with repercussions for student life, campus parking, bus passes, and academic programs …

Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile

For almost a century, cars were an aspirational purchase, a sign of independence or a signal of life achievement for many. But Gen Y and Z have shown a real preference for the affordable convenience of car-sharing and ride-sharing services like Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft (perhaps supplemented with free rides from the parental units), to the point that the auto industry has been concerned for years: not only have younger generations been less likely to buy a car, but even to pursue a drivers’ license. (Cue the inevitable discussion of self-driving automobiles, which we don’t have time for today.) Some analysts suspected it was an environmental impulse, or smartphone addiction, but ultimately it looks like the major factor was financial.

The Industry Sputters

Likewise, the COVID19 dep/recession has affected automotive sales this year: between May and June, Honda lost $765M when its sales dropped 47%, GM lost $806M, and Nissan a whopping $2.7B. BMW lost $800M as quarterly sales fell 25%, although their recovery has already started. (Oddly Tesla profits rose, even though deliveries fell 5%.) Many believe new car sales are the “canary in the coal mine,” as 67% of consumers say they are being more cautious about spending in the face of income uncertainty. (My own car has spent most of the past 6 months sitting in the garage, still on the same tank of gas.)

Newly Popular as PPE

But a recent survey found stable demand for new cars among Canadians, particularly males under age 38 and households with kids under age 6. Even though car sales dropped this spring, sales to 18-to-35-year-oldsincreased. Thanks to concerns about viral transmission on public transit and in shared vehicles, young people are buying cars as “the ultimate form of PPE.” In Windsor, a stone’s throw from Detroit, first-time buyers are fuelling 24% greater demand, and driving the prices for used vehicles up 15%.

Missing the Bus

Thanks to the pandemic, a global survey of 11,000 people in 11 countries found that half planned to use transit less and a car more in the future, and 75% had hygiene concerns about transit. A separate survey of 1,000 Canadians this spring found that 70% would not use ride sharing again, and 40% would not use public transit. As college and university campuses across the country have moved to primarily online delivery, contracts with local transit authorities for student bus passes have been scaled back or suspended, costing cities millions of dollars. The City of Guelph, ON has reduced bus routes and will be laying off drivers this fall, in response to 60% fewer passengers and the cancellation of routes serving the university.

Mel’s Drive-In, Redux

America’s love affair with the automobile seems to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts, under the COVID19 social distancing regime. While restaurants and theatres have closed, drive-thrus and drive-ins are back in business. Grocery stores and big box retailers – not to mention campus libraries – are offering curbside pickup, right to your car’s trunk. A German nightclub even held a drive-in rave. This weekend, the Barrie Ribfest will be a drive-thru festival. Colleges have mounted drive-in convocations, and “car tours” of campus (with the guide on Zoom audio).

Back to the Future

No question, level 5 autonomous vehicles will be a godsend for young and old alike, but until they roll off the assembly lines in quantity, what will really drive the automotive sector is the desire to maintain social distancing during a pandemic. Engineers may be in demand to optimize cabin air filtration, and mechanics should have some job security if people are keeping their cars on the road longer, or buying the used vehicle they can afford rather than risking more debt. Cities and campuses alike will have to deal with conflicting demands for increased parking spaces and for bike lanes or pedestrian districts. Unless everyone is driving electric vehicles, these trends will have environmental and public health impacts, too.

Welcome Back

Cape Breton U has published a colourful 18-page handbook for students, Thrive at CBU, to serve as “a starting point and checklist” as they begin an online year. (Ironically, it looks as though it’s intended to be a print piece.) CBU

uWaterloo has launched a very visual Welcome Back Waterloo guide for employees on the web, and a matching 2-min video about COVID19 precautions for students, complete with slick infographics. YouTube


As we watch US campuses confronted by the harsh reality of this pandemic, evacuating students within days of welcoming them aboard, I feel like a helpless observer as the RMS Titanic steams toward the iceberg. There’s something bittersweet, almost painful, about watching institutional videos designed to welcome students back to campus, and urging them to act responsibly and put the good of the community ahead of their own convenience. “Do your part.” “We’re all in this together.” “Together, we will get through this.”

Alas, we know how this will turn out (cue Celine Dion background music here), but nonetheless, the videographers deserve some encouraging applause, like the orchestra playing on deck as the Titanic sinks… 

Baylor U (TX) is clearly very excited to be welcoming students back to campus. (Somehow the woman shouting into the camera at the beginning is more alarming than the full-sized bear at the end.) “We care about each other… We are going to get through this together.” YouTube


In a gentle, sensitive 40-sec vid, Whitworth U (WA) says “we are a tight-knit crew… we live and learn in community,” which is why social distancing is so difficult. “Each mask worn, each span of 6 feet observed… is an act of love…  Protect the crew.” YouTube


uCentral Florida administrators are so earnest in this 2-min video that I really have to hope they beat the odds. There are beautiful shots of all the effort they have put into preparation, from HVAC systems, electrostatic sprayers and testing stations, to vending machines filled with masks. “UCF is more than a place… it’s a mindset of unlimited potential.” YouTube


Vassar College president Elizabeth Bradley isn’t particularly convincing at delivering humorous dialogue, but she tells a memorable story about increasing hospital hand hygiene by flattening the hierarchy: when even the janitor could remind the chief surgeon to wash his hands, months later compliance was at 95%. (If only campuses had months to get this right, and undergrads were as responsible as surgeons…) YouTube


Tuesday August 18, 2020

Canada is #12 for Safety

When it comes to economic, social and health stability during the pandemic, Canada has been ranked as a Tier 1 country, the #12 safest out of 200 in the world, behind the top 5 Switzerland, Germany, Israel, Singapore and Japan. Australia and New Zealand came in at #8 and #9, while the US sadly came in at #58 in Tier 3, well behind Mexico (#50), Italy (#53), and India (#56), and just ahead of the Slovak Republic (#59). Deep Knowledge Group used AI analysis of 11,400 data points on mortality, infection rates, emergency preparedness, government responses and more. Deep Knowledge Group

uCalgary’s summer Vet Camp for kids went virtual this year, with interactive video content on the anatomy of cows, horses, cats, dogs and birds, and a range of veterinary skills like bandaging, wildlife rehabilitation, disease monitoring and biosecurity. The students running the program created hours of video content, and hosted Zoom calls with the campers from all across the country – who got swag bags, scrubs, and a stethoscope. uCalgary

King’s UC at Western has launched a “virtual Student Life Centre” to allow the campus community to take part in online gatherings, virtual O-week, lectures and research seminars. It includes an event calendar, wellness resources, gift shop, information about student clubs, and a new online meeting room. King’s


In “>FFWD,” I’ll take a look at some obscure and unexpected consequences of the pandemic, often with repercussions for student life, academic programs, and the business of higher education. Today’s theme came to me in 30 minutes or less…

Takeout Pizza is Booming

With restaurants closed or operating below capacity, and some shelter-in-place orders still in effect, more people are ordering delivery, and pizza is the go-to. Last quarter, Domino’s reported a 16% increase in same-store sales, and a 30% spike in profits – leading it to hire 20,000 more people to handle the volume. On the other hand Pizza Hut, with 6,700 restaurants across the US, hit 8-year highs for carryout and delivery sales in May, but is closing 300 of its poorest-performing locations that focus on dine-in service. 680News

Hold the Pepperoni

With the surging demand for pizza, and disruptions in the meat processing supply chain, there’s now a pepperoni shortage, resulting in price increases of up to 50% for local pizza shops. Larger chains have long-term pepperoni contracts. (Will pepperoni stay “America’s favourite sliced topping,” or will they have to start ordering my favourite, Hawaiian?) Newsweek


Notable vids on YouTube this week…

Mount Royal U (Calgary) has a wonderful library staffed by some talented folks – you may recall I visited them for episodes of Ten with Ken about the evolving role of libraries, and the MakerStudio in particular. This week, they’ve released an upbeat 4-min video tour of the library’s services for the fall term, from contactless pickup and digitization services to online research support. YouTube

Allen Pan, a YouTuber who apparently shares my dismay at the anti-mask tantrums and second amendment protesters who would rather shoot someone than social distance, has invented a pneumatic “mask gun” to shoot masks onto people’s faces.  YouTube


Monday August 17, 2020

Posthumous Degrees at Boston U

Just as students began moving back into campus residences, Boston U announced a tone-deaf new policy for the granting of posthumous degrees to students, effective this fall. Officials immediately issued an apology: “This policy is not a result of the pandemic, and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive timing of the announcement.” MassLive

Bishop’s U student services and the students’ council are jointly recruiting “COVID Ambassadors,” to work 2 hours per week to support “Protect BU” efforts in social media, events, outreach and community organizing. The job description says it is seeking “difference makers” who “inspire and encourage peers.” BUSRC

St Francis Xavier U is unique in Atlantic Canada for requiring students to return to campus, and requiring them to sign a liability waiver. Legal experts question whether the waiver will be enforceable, because the students are in an unequal bargaining position, but StFX will not be insured against COVID19 losses past December. Residents of the 4 nursing homes in Antigonish are reportedly anxious about the potential for an explosive outbreak. “There is no duty of perfection… it’s always measured on standards of reasonableness.” Chronicle Herald


Friday August 14, 2020

Waivers at Penn State

Before they could even log into the university website, students at Pennsylvania State U had to accept a “COVID19 Compact” “acknowledging the risk of returning to campus amid the coronavirus pandemic” and “absolving the school of responsibility for personal injury, illness, permanent disability, or death.” Community members in the town of State College are concerned that its small hospital and limited infrastructure may be unable to handle the “inevitable” surge of COVID19 cases, and that bringing students back in any capacity is “incredibly irresponsible.” For its part, the university’s compact goes on to say, “we must acknowledge the responsibility we all share…  Our return is tenuous and could be brief. Its success depends on each of us doing our part.” Newsweek

uToronto Mississauga students have painstakingly built a virtual replica of Deerfield Hall, the main home of UTM computer science students, in Minecraft. The recreation used publicly-available floorplans and photos to recreate the building room-by-room. An impressive 5-min walkthrough video appears on the UTM Youtube channel. UTM

uCanada West is offering international students a “Refund Guarantee”: if their study permit is denied, they will receive “a full refund, except for administration fees.” Twitter

I’ve watched thousands of higher ed videos in the past few weeks, from around the world, tackling various aspects of social distancing and hygiene precautions, academic delivery and supports, and residence life and move-ins. But I haven’t seen anything on YouTube to rival this…

Whitworth U, in Spokane WA, definitely takes some kind of cake for turning a student residence packing list into a trashy 1970s game show, “Can I Bring That?” I’m not suggesting you watch all 8 minutes of it, but it has to be seen to be believed!  YouTube

Students at Colorado College (none of whom majored in film) produced a really effective 80-sec spot, by getting up at 5am for months to film each other mountain climbing. “Come Curious” encourages students to “climb higher, dig deeper… take passion to new altitudes.” Learning “above 6,035 ft” looks pretty impressive! (There’s even a behind-the-scenes vid.)  YouTube



Thursday August 13, 2020


Here’s a collection of recent items of interest to campus marketers and recruitment managers…

Email Marketing Skyrockets

Since the pandemic began, Klaviyo reports that email campaign click-through rates are up 22.5%, and email revenue is up 86%. Omnisend likewise reports a 31.54% increase in open rates on 2.5 billion emails. Effective messaging is authentic and sensitive to the current context, without resorting to platitudes about “these unprecedented times.” Email automation can prompt customers along the sales process, and will be most effective when it is segmented and customized. AdWeek

Tips to Improve Enrolment

A student-centric approach is critical this year, with plenty of personal outreach and empathy for financial and personal concerns. Many enrolment teams have focused on re-engaging returning students individually, involving parents and trying to reduce barriers caused by financial holds. Consider offering new students a free online class, early access to advising, or a virtual volunteer opportunity. Rethink orientation content to focus on parents’ financial and safety concerns. And remember to create opportunities for fun too, from Zoom lunches to dance parties. EAB

Chatbots Deployed at Laurier

Wilfrid Laurier U launched 3 new “Hawkbots,” online chatbots to assist future students (and selected current students) with academic advising questions about admissions, registration, exams and academics. AVA, RAVA, and ISAAC will provide immediate responses to students, redirect them to web resources, and reduce the number of routine inquiries coming to staff. WLU

Durham launches DC Ready microsite

Durham College has just launched a new “DC Ready” microsite, to help students get settled and guide them through changes to operations and course delivery. “Full of helpful links and resources, the site is also home to our DC Ready Guide, a valuable academic success tool preparing students for their fall semester.” Durham

Kwantlen Polytechnic U president Alan Davis has launched a weekly video message in the lead-up to September. YouTube

Sault C has extended the withdrawal period for full-time first-year students this Fall until Oct 9, with no financial or academic penalty. “We understand the complexity of this decision particularly given the current COVID19 situation and the changes to the way we will be delivering programming in the fall semester.” (The announcement studiously avoids the word “guarantee,” but this seems very similar to those announced by other Ontario colleges in the past month.) Sault


Wednesday August 12, 2020

A Game that isn’t Trivial

A 3rd-year pre-med student at uWaterloo says she was alarmed by the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID19, so she created a game called Quarantrivia, in collaboration with the UW Faculty of Science. “The player follows Dr. Pixel through three rounds of multiple choice-questions, which must be answered correctly to destroy COVID-19 and save the Pixel World. KW Record

Virtual Orientation

More and more institutions are promoting online orientation programs for incoming students, typically including videos, webinars, or self-paced online courses. Here are a few recent examples…

Cape Breton U is launching its “StartSmart!” program Aug 17, for new and returning students to learn study skills and digital tools, and connect with faculty, staff and students. A series of videos are available all summer, and some scheduled virtual events are planned starting the last week of August. CBU

uManitoba has launched summer programs to welcome its incoming class of Bisons, including UM Essentials (online orientation), and UM Commons (an online hub to connect students to resources, services, peer tutors, 7 student communities and “countless” clubs). UM is also offering a 3-week Math Boot Camp (Aug 10-28), Prep Week (Aug 31-Sep 4) and Welcome Day (Sep 8). As students complete modules and participate in discussions, they accumulate badges and entries into draws for bookstore prizes and $500 tuition vouchers. uManitoba

North Island College has launched a virtual orientation including “a full suite of online videos, webinars, tours and other resources.” Prerecorded sessions went live last week, and webinars are planned throughout August. Even prospective students can attend, and there’s a chance to win a Google Chromebook. NIC

Yukon U provided more details to students yesterday about the “primarily online” Fall semester, which will be delivered synchronously via Zoom and asynchronously via Moodle, and protocols for returning to campus. “At this time, we anticipate the Winter and Spring 2021 semesters will be the same.” A new Connect2YukonU team brings together staff from Admissions, Student Services and the Academic Support Centre to serve current and prospective students in one spot. YukonU

Campus Updates

Queen’s U is making tuition and fee payments, award disbursements and course registration processes more flexible, including extended payment deadlines (Sep 30) and fall course drop dates, and waiving late fees and interest on unpaid balances. Queen’s

York U’s Senate executive has extended the Fall course planning principles to include the Winter 2021 term: preparing for remote delivery by default. “We expect most employees will continue to work from home throughout the Fall and Winter terms.” YorkU


Tuesday August 11, 2020

The No-Win Scenario

Dear Students, Please Stay Away

30 tenured faculty members at UNC Chapel Hill can risk speaking out, but since their administration has turned a deaf ear, they wrote directly to undergraduate students with a public request to stay away from campus this fall. “We need you to stay home in order to protect yourselves and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and your own family members and loved ones.” Charlotte Observer

What Others are Afraid to Say

Eric Stoller shares anonymous comments from campus marketers who fear for their jobs: “Delayed decisions, wishy washy leadership and a failure to be realistic made my job an absolute mess.” “I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve felt so far removed from the values I’ve always loved about working in higher ed.” Stoller sums it up: “For the collective well-being of people in this country, higher education institutions must not reopen this fall.” He advises institutions to shut down their dorms, cancel football and cut the most generous salaries. He also challenges ACPA, ACUHOI and NASPA (student affairs and housing associations) to speak out against the insanity. He likens the situation to Star Trek’s “Kobayashi Maru” test, the no-win scenario. IHE

Fatal Consequences

While President Trump thinks his face should be carved into Mount Rushmore, the teachers he and some Republican governors would force back to class are contemplating more morbid monuments…

Teachers March unto Death

As the US surpasses 5 million cases of COVID19, and some school districts report hundreds of employees already testing positive, a “National Day of Resistance” is protesting in grim fashion. Hundreds of K-12 teachers in Chicago, New York, and Wisconsin have taken to the streets to protest the return to classrooms next month, carrying makeshift coffins, wearing skeleton costumes, setting up mock gravestones and writing their own obituaries. “We have districts marching teachers and students into an unsafe position in which teachers and students are likely to contract COVID.” Vice

“Die-In” at UNC Chapel Hill

Defying the advice of the local health unit, UNC Chapel Hill has refused to back down on its reopening plans, with classes set to resume on campus this week and residences to be filled to 64% capacity. The UNC dashboard currently reports 175 cases on campus, and the county reports 1,296. Last Wednesday, dozens of students and staff staged a “die-in” on the campus in protest. “Campus workers will get sick and some of them will die. Students, community members, faculty, and staff all will get sick and potentially die.” ChapelBoro

Free Wills for Ontario Teachers

In a cheap publicity stunt, estate planning company LegalWills has announced free wills and healthcare powers of attorney documents for Ontario education workers this month. (It’s never a good sign when a company feels the need to put “Legal” in its name.) The offer is open to teachers, librarians, educational assistants, principals, office administrators and custodial staff. “We wanted to do our part to support the education workers who are returning to school and risking their own health and safety during these uncertain times.” Global

CdnPSE Updates

Edmonton campuses of uAlberta, NAIT and MacEwan U are preparing for a fall of primarily remote learning, and intensified campus health precautions. UofA estimates that 12% of students will require in-person classes. NAIT reports a slight drop in enrolment for credit programs. CBC

uGuelph has announced $4M in new initiatives to support international students, faced with an increase in tuition this fall. Full-time international students will automatically receive a one-time $750 credit, and those in need can apply for a bursary of up to $1,250 per semester. International entrance scholarships have been enhanced to provide a $4,000 renewal in years 2-4, and emergency bursaries were expanded earlier this year. International grad students will automatically receive a $2,500 bursary, and may deferred tuition payments. uGuelph

uToronto is advising international students to obtain documentation that attendance on campus is “non-discretionary,” and to fly directly to Toronto Pearson so that the university can provide transportation directly to quarantine. The ArriveCAN app will simplify the process of submitting a quarantine plan. UofT

Trent U has advised 38,000 alumni and donors that their data was involved in the Blackbaud ransomware hack, which also affected Western U, uManitoba, uRegina and St Lawrence CGlobal


Just in case you missed them, sSome recent #CdnPSE marketing launches worthy of note…

Redeemer U has launched a really polished, brightly-coloured new brand identity, “strengthening its roots in the Reformed tradition, and that anchor and stability is pictured by the cross at the centre of a shifting shield… As a whole, the logo balances a modern, innovative future outlook, with a rich established academic and faith tradition.” Redeemer

uVic has launched its new central website, which is “clean, simple, searchable, mobile-friendly and task-driven. It also rates as one of the top websites in Canada for accessibility, usability, and search-engine optimization.” The project involved more than 20 campus leaders, hundreds of staff, and 3 years of research, UX design and usability testing. uVic

Polytechnics Canada also launched a revised website. PolyCan

McMaster U Engineering alum Hana Franklin designed some virtual Mac spirit wear for use in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, which sold 5 million games within a month of its launch in March. Twitter


Monday August 10, 2020

20% of Harvard Frosh Defer

On Thursday, Harvard U admitted that 20% of incoming freshmen are opting to defer admission, validating some of the early projections I summarized in Eduvation Bulletin #1. (MIT also reports that 8% have deferred, 8 times their typical 1%.) Harvard had been planning for 40% of their undergrads opting to live on campus, but has now cut their expectation almost in half, to 25%. Forbes

The Misinfodemic

Once upon a time, idealists (including me!) believed the internet would usher in a golden age of unlimited information and instantaneous global collaboration. Sadly, that neglected to take into account the many human vices and weaknesses that shape our economy and politics. Social media and citizen journalism has indeed turned the internet into a torrent of information – but also of MISinformation, abuse and hatred. Capitalists are trying to overturn net neutrality, as populist politicians undermine trust in science, education and intelligence itself.

The existential threat facing higher education is not the viral pandemic, but rising anti-intellectualism and ignorance in the world’s democratic states…

Conspiracy Theories and Snake Oil

In times of anxiety or uncertainty, people are attracted to the “easy answers” provided by conspiracy theories for a false sense of security. Faced with a fast-moving global pandemic, public patience wears thin with the cautious, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory findings of medical science. The certainties and cure-alls proffered by snake-oil salesmen have always been seductive, but in an age of social media and clickbait, the voices of misinformation are amplified worldwide. Western News

Misinformation as Public Health Crisis

Conspiracy theories about COVID19 are spreading dangerous misinformation downplaying the virus and discouraging masks or social distancing. Politicians, celebrities, and anti-mask movements can inflame pandemic outbreaks and make it difficult to bring the curve under control. The more people rely on social media, the more exposed they are to misinformation, and the more likely they are to disbelieve or disobey PHO guidelines. And as a Carleton study demonstrated in May, 46% of Canadians believe at least one COVID19 conspiracy theory. CBC

“Calling Bullshit” in a Pandemic

Biologist Carl Bergstrom, author of Calling Bullshit, emphasizes the importance of skepticism and data literacy in our digital world. High quality information has been vetted, triangulated, and presented in context. To avoid confirmation bias, “be just as skeptical of ideas that confirm your beliefs and desires.” Scientific research into COVID19 is evolving rapidly, so “the people you can’t trust are the ones who have not changed their views.” News media are increasingly reporting on preprint research papers, which have not yet been peer-reviewed. The real risk is that “this entire pandemic has been so politicized” that partisan media “cherry-pick” results and overinflate their importance. Scientific American

Truth is Paywalled

One of the great ironies and injustices in modern academia is that intellectual property rights and commercial publishers’ financial interests so often take precedence over students’ educations or the scholarly pursuit of knowledge and open collaboration. Over the years, movements towards open textbooks and open journals have made gradual progress, but one can hardly fault the public for its ignorance when lies are freely available everywhere, but the truth is buried behind atrociously expensive paywalls…

Truth is Paywalled; Lies are Free

It has been said that when the product is journalism, readers are charged for access; when the publication is available free, the reader is the product. The world’s most reputable newspapers and magazines have paywalls around most of their content, while partisan outlets like “BreitbartFox News, the Daily Wire… [or]InfoWars” offer their content free to the world, for viral sharing on social media. Academic paywalls have even more exorbitant pricing: “a white supremacist on YouTube will tell you all about race and IQ but if you want to read a careful scholarly refutation, obtaining a legal PDF from the journal publisher would cost you $14.95.” Free versions of scholarly articles are often early pre-review drafts, so “the more reliable an article is, the less accessible it is.” “How much more could be accomplished if knowledge were not fragmented and in the possession of a thousand private gatekeepers?” Current Affairs

Open Access Gets Its Moment?

Faced with a global pandemic, academic publishers have begun offering open access to COVID19 content in unprecedented ways, while use of online prepublication platforms has seen “almost exponential growth.” uMontréal’s Vincent Larivière observes that publishers are effectively acknowledging that “barriers to access are an obstacle to the advancement of knowledge.” Prepublications accelerate the spread of knowledge and its refutation, and there is no evidence that peer review eliminates erroneous or fraudulent publication. University Affairs

A Renaissance beyond Paywalls

Research findings, even when publicly-funded, have been increasingly hidden behind the paywalls of commercial journal publishers. But as the planet faces an extraordinary public health threat, COVID19 research is being shared, openly and collaboratively, to accelerate the mapping of the SARS-CoV-2 genome and development of a vaccine. Janet Napolitano, president of the uCalifornia system, argues that “lifesaving research should always be available to all,” but “will require a total disruption of how universities and publishers create and share information.” UC recently struck such a deal for 2,700 Springer journals, and cut ties with Elsevier over it. “Years from now, we will look back at this pandemic… as an inflection point – the end of restricting knowledge to a privileged few and the dawn of a new era in scientific progress,” a “scientific renaissance.” IHE

Of course, I have a gnawing suspicion that, once again, idealists are underestimating the resilience and ingenuity of capitalists to maintain the status quo, whether it serves humanity’s best interests or not…


Brock U has just launched a new graphical tool for tracking the status of more than 20 categories of campus operations across 5 stages of activity. Currently in Stage 2, Brock hopes to advance to Stage 3 from Sep 1 “until at least Jan 2021.” Brock

Georgian College has published a “What you need to know” page for stranded students returning to campus, including a video walk-through, link to COVID19 protocols, and a handy one-page poster with 10 icons for student responsibilities. Students will need to complete an online training module, download the Safe@Georgian app, complete daily screening assessments, and wear face coverings indoors. Georgian

Mount Allison U and the town of Sackville NB are working together on the “MtA Sackville Bubble,” recognizing that COVID19 needs to be managed both on and off campus this fall. The Community Commitment “calls for everyone to stay informed, remain vigilant on and off campus, and to uphold COVID-19 regulations.” (The Mayor of Sackville starred in an Allisonian Update video on Friday.) “We’re all in this together,” says the student union president. Chronicle Herald


Friday August 7, 2020

3 Things COVID19 will End

The flip side of the 5 trends COVID19 will make permanent in higher ed, are 3 things that the pandemic will end. 1) Email will cease to be a primary communication tool to students, replaced by text and push notifications from dedicated apps. 2) Campus testing centres will seem unnecessary once large-scale use of online testing becomes commonplace. 3) Full tuition for online programs may be a tough sell, now that some schools have started to reduce the price for remote learning. “Taking classes online isn’t quite the same as being on campus.” Forbes

Opportunities Amidst Chaos

Higher ed leaders don’t have the luxury of “waiting to see what everyone else does”; they must take decisive action in a chaotic situation, at the confluence of 3 crises: the pandemic, the recession, and protests over racial inequality. A return to normal is not an option; institutions must “evolve or sink.” Visionary institutions have been anticipating a PSE disruption for years, preparing like SNHU has for online, competency-based, half-priced programs. Because of COVID19, program demand will rise in health care, medicine, nursing, epidemiology and immunology fields – and the pandemic is accelerating growth in alternative energy, AI and robotics. There will be opportunity in affordable, short-term, even non-credit courses and programs to reskill displaced workers. AI

Now, We’re ALL Outside the Box

Some so-called decisive actions by college leaders are actually doing damage to institutional missions, cutting key programs at the expense of pet projects. Many small colleges have already cut expenses to the bone, and now can only wait for inevitable closure. The COVID19 crisis has thrust higher ed completely “outside the box,” and now is the time to integrate distance learning into everyday delivery, pursue mergers or acquisitions, partner to reduce costs, share curricula or even senior leadership. AI

Innovating for Student Success

The pandemic, budget pressures and demographic shifts mean that PSE can’t afford to go back to “normal” – and COVID19 “has exposed the flaws in our ability to deliver remote education in a manner that is equitable, inclusive – and innovative.” For the longer term, institutions need to redesign their programs and retrain their faculty to incorporate AI, VR, microcredentials, creative teaching and assessment strategies, and online or hybrid delivery. “Our institutions must commit to innovating beyond theory.” EdSurge


Thursday August 6, 2020

Pass/Fail Grading

Although surveys find that at least three-quarters of students believe they should pay less for a “primarily online” academic semester, in Canada at least their protests have not had much impact. (Yes, some ancillary fees have been reduced or eliminated, but tuition fees have stayed stable or even increased.) In the past few days, students have been coming forward with a new demand…

uSherbrooke Summer Students seek Pass/Fail

Students at uSherbrooke are apparently lobbying for a return to the pass/fail grading option for summer courses this year. More than 2,000 Sherbrooke students have signed a petition – nearly half the students registered for the summer session. CBC

SFU Students seek Pass/Fail for Fall

More than 3,000 SFU students have signed a petition asking the university to offer a pass/fail grading option again this fall, arguing that “the quality of education… has decreased but expectations have stayed the same.” Global

Both UdeS and SFU have responded that the pass/fail grading this spring was offered because the delivery mode changed abruptly and without warning. The same is not true, they argue, for the summer and fall terms. Clearly students have a very different sense of the rationale to justify a change in academic assessment.


To reassure anxious students facing an online Fall term (and discourage them from deferring enrolment), several Ontario institutions have offered guarantees…

In late May, Ontario Tech announced a money-back “Student Experience Guarantee,” allowing students to withdraw by Oct 9 for a full tuition refund. Ontario Tech

Shortly thereafter, Sheridan announced a “Fall Experience Guarantee” with very similar terms. Sheridan

At the beginning of July, Fanshawe launched a 4-part “Experience Guarantee,” which allows students to defer tuition and fees, but not recoup them. Fanshawe

Now, Confederation College has unveiled a “Commitment” to first-year, first-semester students this fall. Those students can withdraw by Oct 7 and receive a full tuition refund. “These unprecedented times call for an unprecedented approach.” Confederation

uRegina and St Lawrence College alumni and donor data was also involved in the Blackbaud breach in May. uRegina  |  SLC



Wednesday August 5, 2020

Reopening Plans

I’ve shared many campus reopening plans in the past few months, but here are some released in the past few days…

Mount Allison U has just released a comprehensive 26-page COVID19 response plan, Back on Track, as a resource for students while the campus reopens. It emphasizes the commitment to protect a “MtA Sackville Bubble,” and includes information about self-isolation, updates to the student code of conduct, and changes to residence and dining.  MTA

Red River College in Winnipeg is already in phase 2 of its reopening, with some student supports resuming on campus, and is planning to commence Phase 3 on Aug 31, “to safely bring back as many employees and students to campus as public health guidelines allow.” There will be a “staged and deliberate shift from remote to on-campus work.” RRC

Trent U will begin a phased approach to reopening its Athletics Centre, starting Sep 1, including its pool. Staff, faculty, and others will be welcomed back in phase 2, possibly in October. Trent

Ontario Tech has published a new page of “What to Expect on Campus,” from enhanced cleaning protocols (at least 2-3x daily) to mandatory masks. All staff are responsible to disinfect their own computers and desk items, and shared equipment. Areas that have been left unoccupied for 7+ days do not require enhanced cleaning. OntarioTech

I mentioned last week that StFX is persisting with its student liability waiver as a “necessity” for the return to campus next month. While they are unique in CdnPSE, some US colleges are following suit…

More Daunting Liability Waivers

Although students are opposed, some US colleges are demanding students sign liability waivers before they can return to class. uNew Hampshire has a 4-page “Informed Consent” agreement. Bates College (Maine) has a 1,400-word Public Health Agreement and Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk document, which students are required to sign. As one student put it, “On the one hand, I guess they’re not sugar-coating it. But on the other hand, if you’re signing that to go back, it’s not safe.” Student organizations and legal experts are advising students not to sign the waivers. IHE



Friday July 31, 2020

StFX Won’t Waive the Waiver

The St Francis Xavier U Board of Governors announced yesterday that “the new Student Community Protocols and the legal waiver remain the best way forward and a necessity in order for the University to welcome students to campus in the fall.” As currently worded, the waiver absolves StFX of responsibility for any “loss, damage, illness, sickness, expense or injury including death” of students or their kin, including due to negligence. 2 weeks ago, the NS Minister of Advanced Ed seemed to suggest that the waiver would be reworded, in response to a student backlash. Global

Live Dashboard of Campus Cases

uCalgary has launched a “live dashboard” mapping any known cases of COVID19 on its campus. (Currently there is a single case of exposure 8-14 days ago in Zone 4.) President Ed McCauley says, “This will allow community members to choose their on-campus activity based on the level of risk with which they personally feel comfortable.” (It looks like a streamlined approach to issue updates in real time, without issuing media releases for each one.) uCalgary

Consumer Food Trends in Canada

During the pandemic lockdown, Canadians have turned to comfort foods (especially meat and snacks), pantry goods with a long shelf-life (including canned soups), home baking (causing a flour shortage at one point), and yes – alcohol. Beer and cider sales are up substantially, and studies have found alcohol use particularly high among parents with young children at home. But as things settle into a new normal, food marketing agency Nourish predicts a return to healthier eating, alcohol reduction, and a focus on immune boosters. Nestlé is opening a “plant-based meat factory” in China, and Nourish suspects that meat processing supply chain disruptions due to COVID19 might just accelerate adoption of substitutes like Beyond Meat. Strategy

I haven’t spotted any really notable videos since Texas Tech’s “Masks” PSA and Swinburne’s “Swintopia.” But at the risk of some shameless self-promotion…

I Chat with GBC’s Work Shift

In this week’s episode of George Brown College’s Work Shift podcast, I talk to co-hosts Shawne McKeown and Ray Harripaul about the impact of COVID19 on higher education, how institutions are responding, labour market shifts and some positive long-term effects on pedagogy.  GBC  |  Soundcloud  |  Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify


Thursday July 30, 2020

Anxious Lady in Kingston

A woman in Kingston ON wrote 3 letters and achieved national media exposure for her concerns that the return of students to Queen’s U, and potential unsanctioned street parties, could lead to a community spike in COVID19. “It’s fair to say that a large house party is no longer just a nuisance… it’s a public health concern.” Almost all undergrad courses at Queen’s will be delivered remotely this Fall, so many students won’t be physically returning to town, and Queen’s has a new residence code of conduct. Global

Online Students Stay Home

The Government of Canada has made numerous positive and supportive decisions to encourage international student enrolment despite the pandemic and border restrictions: online study from offshore will count towards a post-graduate work permit (provided a student visa is obtained), and students holding study permits issued prior to Mar 18 were told they could enter the country. That has now changed, however, and the new CBSA policy seems to align with the US policies of the Trump Administration: foreign nationals can only enter the country for “non-optional or non-discretionary” purposes. Only students whose program demands on-campus attendance will be permitted to enter Canada. Like the US policy, this means students abroad will struggle with time-zone issues, and uncertainty about blended delivery terms. BrainGain

Memorial U has launched a new student tools and resources hub, “MUNUp,” to “support students in every way.” The microsite includes transition and orientation programs, services, virtual events and community engagement opportunities. MUN


Gamifying Campus Open House

Australia’s Swinburne U of Technology has a strong video game development program, so naturally it’s moving its campus Open Day to “Swintopia,” an “alternate campus reality where you’ll get a taste of student life, unrestricted.” Starting Aug 10, prospective students can enter the gamified virtual campus to “connect with staff, students and famous faces, explore state-of-the-art facilities, visit Hawthorn’s hottest hangouts and collect achievements to unlock your destiny.” Visitors can watch videos, download study guides, “complete missions, collect items in your virtual tote bag, talk to pigeons. There are no real rules to this thing.” “Technically you’ll still be visiting Swinburne, it’ll just be a bit more… computery.”  YouTube  |  Swinburne


Wednesday July 29 2020

Border Skirmishes

As airlines and educators alike wish Canada would loosen its border restrictions, we see tightening borders around the world…

More New US Border Restrictions

On Jul 14, when the Trump administration backed down on deporting international students studying online this Fall, many US colleges held their breath. As expected, yesterday the US Immigration department announced that new international students cannot enter the country to pursue purely online studies. Institutions had been lobbying for student visas to be granted regardless of delivery modality this Fall. IHE

Australia’s Borders Clamp Shut

Canberra’s universities had a “well-advanced pilot plan” to fly in 350 continuing international students this month, and place them in “a fortnight of police-supervised quarantine.” uSydney, uMelbourne and uAdelaide had plans to fly in “tens of thousands” of foreign students as well. But the resurgence of COVID19 in Melbourne triggered renewed lockdowns and border closures, and has led the institutions to postpone their plans. Meanwhile, diplomatic tensions with China are intensifying, after the new security law in Hong Kong prompted Australia to offer “safe haven visas” and suspend its extradition treaty. THE

New Zealand Stays Locked Tight

New Zealand has definitively ruled out a relaxation of border restrictions this year, and warns universities they should plan on “smaller cohorts than they may have previously expected” for 2021. Without the usual 117,000 international students, NZ’s 8 public universities expect to lose $200 M this year, and potentially $400 M next. The country remains attractive to foreign students, for its emergency financial supports and for “suppressing the pandemic more successfully than any other education destination.” Universities are proposing to establish quarantine centres with independent oversight. THE

International Responses

In many countries, higher ed faces an existential threat without international student revenues. While we wait in Canada, New Zealand gets a (very) little help, while Australian universities wish their government would take a little LESS interest in their operations. Pathway providers are responding with guarantees and flexible online or hybrid programs…

Some Financial Aid to NZ PSE…

New Zealand has committed $51.6 M to help the international education sector weather the pandemic: $20 M to support students already in-country, $6.6 M for their pastoral care, $10 M for private training schools, $3 M for marketing the country’s brand, a $500 K quality assurance process, and $1.5 M for ESL schools. $10 M is to fund “future-focused” initiatives in NZ and abroad to ensure “a more resilient sector.” A strong digital brand platform will be launched in November 2021. In the meantime, wage subsidies are intended to allow the private schools to “hibernate.” PIE

…but Merely a Drop in the Bucket

New Zealand has directed $51.6 M toward a $5 B industry that has been “gutted” by border restrictions. Many of the 45,000 jobs in ESL schools are at risk, and the 1% support is just “a band-aid solution.” The schools would prefer the borders reopen and quarantine facilities be created, so they can welcome students back. So far, universities are not included in any relief packages. NZ Herald

“Foreign Interference” in Australia

Australian universities were “blindsided” by the government’s announcement of a new Higher Education Integrity Unit, within the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). Its objectives include thwarting cyber attacks, improving admission standards, prohibiting academic cheating, and addressing “emerging threats” to academic and research integrity, such as “foreign interference” in Australia’s universities. (As in the US, Australia has been concerned about research ties to China’s defense establishment.) The unit may also take action against universities that enrol too many students in high-tuition programs (like the humanities). THE

Guaranteed, Flexible Pathway Programs

Pathway providers are responding to agent concerns by providing flexibility and reassurance to international students. Australia-based Study Group is offering students a new 21-day money-back guarantee on their online programs, which will benefit from their recent acquisition of tech company Insendi. UK-based Oxford International Education Group is offering  hybrid delivery and flexible start dates in Sept, Oct, Nov and Jan. PIE

Cyber Headaches

Dispersed campuses with WFH students and employees leave institutions open to a whole range of IT security risks. This week we learned that hackers extorted ransom from Blackbaud, unsettling some of their client institutions. And internet trolls (perhaps with too much time on their hands in lockdown) have been creating fake “coronavirus party” accounts…

Ransomware Cyberattack on Blackbaud

Blackbaud, a cloud-based CRM, was hacked in May, putting sensitive information about donors and alumni at a dozen institutions in Canada, the US and UK at risk. The company paid a ransom and “believes there is no evidence” that data was shared. Western U and uManitoba are among the CdnPSE institutions affected. Western has reached out to its contacts, suspended the use of Blackbaud, and established a dedicated email address and phone line for concerns. Blackbaud

Fake “Coronavirus Parties” Accounts

uAlberta has clarified that the Instagram account, “uAlberta_Coronavirus_parties,” is “a fake that may have been created to cause harm.” Similar party accounts appears for uArizona and uAuckland. UofA filed complaints with Instagram, and the account was deleted 5 days later. uAlberta

Fall Planning

As institutions continue to announce more detailed plans for reopening campus, I am impressed by the comprehensiveness of BCIT’s document, developed with engineer consultants…

BCIT released a 90-page COVID19 Go-Forward Plan yesterday, developed with consultants Pinchin Ltd – and a 6-page executive summary. The plan includes all stakeholders’ regulatory responsibilities, best practices, risk assessment, and return to campus protocols. The appendices include some impressive graphics and flowcharts. BCIT

Mount St Vincent U released a 27-page Fall 2020 Operational Plan yesterday. Almost all classes will be delivered online, residences will operate at up to 54% capacity, athletic facilities will be available to students by appointment only, and convocation will be virtual. Masks will be mandatory as of Jul 31. MSVU

Mount Allison U is recruiting “AVATARS” (Alumni Volunteers Acting to Assist Residence Students in Self-Isolation) for virtual check-ins Aug 15-29. Check-ins (by video call, text message, or other means) are to support and welcome students, and a brief questionnaire will allow many alumni to be matched based on shared interests. MTA


Tuesday July 28, 2020

Public Distrust of Higher Ed

Judging by a recent survey, American colleges and universities see the public as “people to fleece for resources but otherwise ignore,” says emeritus economist Richard Vedder. 52% think higher ed is “heading in the wrong direction,” and 67% think colleges are putting “their own institutional interests” first today. (Just 9% thought they put students first.) The problem, says Vedder, is that (despite much rhetoric to politicians, parents and the public) PSE leaders “have been obsessed with keeping their major internal constituencies reasonably happy at all costs,” at the expense of taxpayers and students. He suggests the solution is to “drastically cut costs,” fire the “expensive bureaucrats,” encourage more “free expression,” and “meet national economic needs instead of excessively promoting ideologically oriented dogma.” Forbes (of course)

Campus Tensions

uAlberta is merging its offices of University Relations and Advancement into an office of External Relations. The roles of University Secretary and General Counsel were merged in early July. The senior leadership team has been reduced in size by 22%, and compensation will decrease by 25%. uAlberta

uToronto’s 6 faculty and staff unions launched a petition last weekend to protest the plan for F2F classes this Fall, due to concerns about health and safety and insufficient consultation. Called “UofT’s Reopening Plan is NOT Safe Enough. We Need to Take Fall 2020 Online,” the petition has garnered 1,000+ signatures. Specific plans about delivery mode are being developed at the Faculty level. Globe & Mail

Web Tools

Fanshawe College has launched a “totally unique, free and easy-to-use… online learning readiness indicator,” to help students decide “if online learning is the right fit for your learning style.” Thousands of students have answered 10 minutes of questions about their self-direction, learning style, study habits, tech skills and computer equipment, and received the results via email. Fanshawe

Ryerson has launched a new student support hub, RU4U, to consolidate orientation, housing, athletics, admissions, wellbeing, and other student supports. Ryerson Ready is an enhanced summer transition program for incoming students. Ryerson

Friday July 24, 2020

Trudging towards (Online) School

Canadian students are gradually resigning themselves to an online Fall, according to several surveys of almost 17,000 current and prospective PSE students conducted since April. The number saying they won’t return for online courses has declined, from 23% of current students in April to just 14% now, although 25% of prospective students still aren’t fully committed to attending. (10% say they will ask for a deferral.) As for a gap year, 19% of returning students and 17% of incoming ones think it “makes a lot of sense.” Financially, 72% of all students will need a job to afford school this Fall, and 81% do not believe tuition should be the same for online courses. SchoolFinder

New Microsites

You MarCom types might want to check out a few of the newest examples of microsites addressing pandemic issues, the return to campus, and plans for the fall term…

Acadia U recently launched a new, highly graphical COVID19 microsite with a mobile-optimized interface. It features a symptom checker, reopening status, a news feed of the latest updates, and 6 tiles for information about academics, student life, health and safety, services, travel, athletics and events. Acadia

Saskatchewan Polytechnic has launched a new Fall 2020 webpage that has updated information about campus access, program status, and support services. SaskPoly

uWindsor has launched 2 “sister” microsites to manage the return to campus and Fall term. Return to Campus summarizes the current status of planning, guidelines for health and safety, and news on the latest developments. uWindsor Together provides students, staff, and faculty with “everything they need to learn and work in an environment that ensures their health and safety remains the paramount concern,” including a news stream, links to COVID19 updates, instructional resources, advice for online learning, and more. uWindsor


Out of the 1,000 or so videos in my YouTube feed this week, from more than 800 higher ed institutions around the world, a couple really stood out for me


Texas Tech U released a hilarious 15-sec PSA to remind students that, if they want to get out of their parents’ house and attend class on campus, they have to wear a mask. “Masks save Lives.” YouTube

Hofstra U has released several videos lately, from a series of Safe Start tours to a really reassuring, 90-sec demonstration of “Cleaning Procedures on Campus.” (65 new electrostatic disinfectant sprayers and 500 sanitizer stations!) But if you have to choose, I suggest the music video, “Wear Your Mask,” set to A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” Staff, students, and adorable kids share the people for whom they wear their masks. YouTube



Thursday July 23, 2020

Canada Pulls in the Welcome Mat

Canada’s borders remain closed, even to our closest neighbours, until at least August. Foreign students with study permits or IRCC letters of introduction dated prior to Mar 18 can still travel to Canada, but only if it is essential. (CBSA agents at the border will make that decision on a case-by-case basis, but students who are established in Canada, or who are required to attend on-campus classes, should qualify.) IRCC’s guidance, issued Tuesday, says that students with permits dated after Mar 18 “should not make any plans to travel to Canada until the travel restrictions are lifted, as they will not be allowed to travel to or enter Canada.” Clearly the expectation is that most international students will study online for at least the fall term.  IRCC


Although controversy swirls around the Chinese social media giant, TikTok has attracted billions of users in its first 3 years – including 63% of Canadian PSE applicants. It is simultaneously a platform for student engagement and student protest – and now the company intends to break into education itself…

TikTok as Chinese Spyware?

There are rising global concerns that TikTok could be sharing information (such as your smartphone’s geolocation data and clipboard contents) with the Chinese military and/or intelligence agencies, and potentially adding facial recognition. “Anything TikTok knows, assume China knows.” India banned TikTok(and 58 other Chinese apps) last month over privacy concerns. The Secretary of State says the US is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, the Senate has proposed banning it for federal employees, and the US Navy has already done so. The Trump campaign has been running Facebook ads warning that “TikTok is spying on you.”

Cynical Students aren’t Impressed

Sarcastic students have been posting “live reenactments” on TikTok, parodying well-meaning college correspondence. Rachel Dean’s version begins with “We don’t know if you guys have heard about this or not, but there’s a pandemic.” She bluntly summarizes the dilemma: “We want to bring you back to school, but at the same time you could all die. But at the same time, we would make no money if you didn’t come back.” As if that weren’t biting enough, she adds, “also – whoopsies! – we just found out we named a lot of our academic buildings after racists.” (That about sums up 2020 for higher ed.) Twitter

Microlearning on TikTok?

TikTok has been installed on some 2 billion smartphones since it launched in 2017, and although originally filled with 15-second user-generated dance videos, more and more marketers are seriously considering how to integrate it into their strategies. (Many PSE channels focus on entertaining videos by school mascots or cheerleaders.) And new CEO Kevin Mayer, formerly of Disney, signals a change in strategy. Last month, TikTok announced it plans to commission hundreds of experts and institutions to create professional educational content for its platform. #LearnOnTikTok has already attracted 7 billion views.  BBC


Wednesday July 22, 2020

The COVID19 pandemic is a global phenomenon, but the timing and severity of waves of infection will vary, and higher ed systems have pre-existing strengths and weaknesses that will position them differently…

Global Higher Ed Winners & Losers

COVID19 is simultaneously impacting international mobility and revenue, government and research funding, family finances and endowment returns – but its impact on higher ed will vary around the world. Australia and the UK depend on international students for about 20% of total enrolments, whereas they comprise just 5% of US students. (China, South Korea and Japan may benefit from decreased student mobility out of the region.) Government funding appears to be stronger in Canada, while US funding was already low and is likely to drop further. R&D funding may help institutions weather the pandemic storm in Germany, the US, South Korea and Australia. THE

Aggressive Recruiting to Hong Kong

Hong Kong universities are increasing their efforts to retain local students who might otherwise have studied abroad this Fall, and to attract faculty who might be unable to travel to Western countries. The city has weathered the pandemic reasonably well, and institutions have funding for PhD and postgrad researchers. Hong Kong U is offering local students the opportunity to pay domestic rates and study as “visiting students,” with credits they can ultimately transfer abroad. HKU also has a new set of $70,000 PhD scholarships for grad students who cannot travel due to visa issues. THE

Naturally it’s not just libraries that have had to adapt. Ryerson’s registrar, Charmaine Hack, provides plenty of detail in this article for Ryerson Today…

Ryerson’s registrar had to migrate online in just 48 hours this spring, as well as deliver $3M in emergency bursaries, and handle 28,000 requests for credit/no credit grade changes. Open houses went virtual in April, and guided virtual tours launched in May. Email volumes increased 5x, to about 11,000 that month. They issued 14,600 offers of admission remotely. The ServiceHub launched a state-of-the-art remote call centre on Jul 6, capable of monitoring call volumes and routing callers to the right service specialist. They plan to launch a live chat function shortly. Oh, and launched a secure, verifiable electronic transcript system while they were at it! Ryerson

(Let me know if you come across good articles or videos detailing other initiatives!)



Tuesday July 21, 2020

Cultural Shifts from COVID19

Juniper Park\TBWA says brands should display empathy and compassion in their pandemic marketing by emulating consumers’ new cultural behaviours. “Kooky Coping” is the use of satire, humour, and quirky social content to escape from depressing news. (They cite the Apple WFH video I shared Friday as a prime example.) “Open Source Generosity” means sharing open-source ideas and materials – which has been exemplified in higher ed. The “Frugal Futures” trend warns that “cautionary spenders will become the norm” and consumers will resent wasteful materialism – a caution for luxury brands, and perhaps some elite MBA advertising. Strategy


Monday July 20, 2020

Poaching Students in Australia

With Australia’s borders closed to international students, some institutions are reportedly paying “extortionate” commissions – as much as 40-50% of tuition – to unregulated “bottom-feeder agents” to poach students from their competitors. 20% of current foreign students are “marooned offshore,” particularly in China.  THE

Conestoga has published Campus Access Guidelines for Students that establish student responsibilities including daily safety app screening, mandatory masks, no gatherings of more than 10 people, and 2m physical distancing. Faculty and staff are responsible for “compliance monitoring.” If students pose “an immediate safety threat” they will be immediately removed by security and “temporarily trespassed from campus” pending a conduct meeting with the Student Rights and Responsibilities Office. Conestoga



Thursday July 16, 2020

Justifying Fall Tuition

Sheridan president Janet Morrison has written to students to address concerns raised at town hall forums, dispelling the myth that the College is “profiting” (in fact, it anticipates an $80 M loss), explaining why tuition fees cannot be reduced, describing services and supports for students, and emphasizing the quality of instruction they can expect this Fall. Sheridan

Clarity about Fall

As some hold-out institutions make their plans clearer for the Fall term, and others clarify previous announcements, the general drift is towards more online activity…

Acadia U has published a phased reopening plan, and delivery specifics for Fall 2020 courses, in 5 modes: Virtual Scheduled, Virtual Unscheduled, Hybrid Scheduled, Hybrid Unscheduled, and F2F on Campus. For the latter 3 modes, the timetable allows time for “structured entry and exit practices” and cleaning between classes. Acadia

Bishop’s U is qualifying its fall plan to return to campus. Some O-week activities will be online, large concerts and pub nights will be replaced with outdoor events throughout the term, face coverings will be required indoors, and “we must stand ready” to respond to PHO guidance and “modulate [our] work on short notice (as in Winter and Spring 2020).” Bishop’s

uRegina has published a 3-page Teaching & Learning Plan Summary for students, including details about platforms, supports, health and safety protocols, limited low-density labs and studios, and student practicums and placements. uRegina

Campus Safety Plans

Clearly BC institutions are all responding to PHO and Worksafe BC directives to prepare and publish written safety plans, but across the country many are detailing precautions and protocols for a safe return to campus…

uCalgary has shared “7 Ways Campus is Looking Different,” including: office kitchens, appliances and utensils are off limits; elevators will be limited to 1 or 2 occupants; furniture has been removed to discourage loitering; and one-way traffic signage. uCalgary

Capilano has published an 11-page COVID19 Safety Plan, outlining a 6-step process with checklists. Building and room occupancy limits have been revised based on 5 sq m per person. CapU hopes that BC will permit mixed-mode activities in September. Capilano

Durham College has released a 6-min video and 22-page “flipbook” outlining expectations of staff and students returning to campus. Durham

Emily Carr U has published a Community Health + Safety Plan which includes safety training, self-assessment, secure entry to campus, and room occupancy limits. Campus dining will be closed, and water fountains shut off. ECUAD

Kwantlen is approaching Stage 2 of its Academic/Operational Continuity Plan, which will allow “a gradual and tightly managed return to campus for a very limited number of students and employees.” This includes 3 activities: limited in-person labs, studios, or workshops; essential work; and short visits to access offices (for less than 2 hours). NO in-person meetings or events of any size are permitted on campus. Kwantlen

Mount Allison has published a health and safety preparedness checklist for students, including medical and health supplies for life in residence (like a thermometer, acetaminophen, masks, hand sanitizer, and flip-flops for the showers). MTA

Queen’s has published a 9-page return to campus guideline document, detailing engineering and administrative controls, cleaning protocols, HVAC enhancements, PPE approaches, and signage graphics. In general, 18.5 sq m will be required per person in labs and non-fixed seating areas; otherwise, hoteling, staggered shifts, or Plexiglas barriers will be employed. Employees will take staggered breaks and use of shared appliances will be discouraged. Many elevators and washrooms will be labelled for single occupancy. Virtual meetings and WFH will continue as much as possible. Queen’s



Wednesday July 15, 2020

Eavesdropping on 15,000 Students

Year-to-date comparison of 68 million social media posts in Feb-May 2019 and 2020 found a 40% decrease in searches about higher ed, an 18% decline in conversations about study abroad, and 8 times the discussion about health and safety. 42% of posts about next Fall indicate students are reconsidering their plans, and an “80% reduction in conversation about the admissions process indicates that this could be a concern not only for this fall, but also for next year.” Most posts about higher ed are “neutral,” but 19% are positive and 24% negative – particularly about slow communication, inflexible deadlines, or insufficient refunds. Students are more concerned about their experience this fall than about finances, education, or safety. Almost half of posts about sports are about safety protocols. Accenture

Mental Health as Recruitment Factor?

In light of the COVID19 pandemic, 94% of prospective international students claim that mental health services are an important factor in their search for a university, according to a recent survey of 1,400+ current and prospective international students. In fact, 60% say mental health services are “very important” – compared to just 32% who thought so last year. “The pandemic seems to have moved this criteria earlier in the international student journey.” Educations

Social Distancing Do’s and Don’ts


On Monday, Colorado College released an entertaining “PSA” video by recent grad and comedian Ben Singer. “If you like when college students give public health advice, then you’ve come to the right place!” He warns against panic and overly assertive social distancing, but also against using a mask to ignore all the rules. “Be careful but maintain sanity.” YouTube



Friday July 10, 2020

Online Chat

I’ve heard from many institutions that they are adding AI chatbots or real-time chat functionality to their websites, or at least their recruitment pages, to increase personal attention to students and help reduce “summer melt.” Here are a couple of examples I’ve interacted with this week…

Vera the Conversational AI

As soon as you start exploring admissions or registrarial pages on the uAlberta website, like here, you’ll be greeted by a pop-up (on tablet or desktop) or a chat icon (on mobile) that cheerfully announces “Hi, I’m Vera! A virtual assistant here to answer questions you may have about undergraduate admissions, scholarships, student loans, transcripts and more.” You can enter a freeform question, or choose from 8 categories of FAQs. If you ask a question Vera can’t answer, she will forward it via email to human staff. The conversational AI was implemented last Fall, and its name derives from UofA’s motto, Quaecumque Vera. uAlberta

The Personal Touch at TWU

Land on any page at Trinity Western U’s site, and a pop-up chat box will appear saying something like “Hello, thanks for visiting TWU. How can I help you today?” (I chatted with “Victoria1” last night, who assured me she was a real person.) The chat service, powered by LiveAdmins, offers instantaneous personal multilingual response 24/7, integrated into your CRM with a live reporting dashboard, visitor behaviour tracking and re-engagement when they return to your site. (They also apparently are offering a discount during the pandemic.) LiveAdmins

Campus Tours

Back in the Ides of March, within days of the “great migration” to emergency remote delivery, PSE marketers started scrambling to ensure their virtual campus tours were the best they could possibly be…

Virtual Tours Booming

In March and April, institutions across the US ramped up campus tour videos, previously recorded and live online events. Some report more than triple the number of “visitors” taking tours virtually this spring. Tour providers like YouVisit have seen a 228% surge in use, in their case delivering 1.4 million virtual tours of 539 campuses in a one-month period. YouVisit recommends “layering interactive multimedia elements” and embedding calls to action throughout your tour. PlatformQ suggests using on-demand content, simulated live transitions and live chat to engage students. IHE

Take the “Magic” Online

The campus visit is often when “the magic happens,” the deciding moment for a prospective student trying to determine institutional “fit.” (And while many incoming students may know they will be studying largely online this Fall, most hope to be back on campus again sometime in 2021.) Moving the experience online demands patience: introducing prospects to the campus, your people and programs will require a series of live events over 2-3 weeks, instead of a single exciting day. Be sure to practice your presentations, be authentic, and record the sessions so an even larger audience can attend asynchronously, on various platforms. 3E

Bishop’s, for example, is giving prospective students and families several options for online tours: pre-recorded tours in English, French or Spanish; private live tours with a student ambassador narrating video; or a virtual interactive campus map with 360° photos and captions. Bishop’s

Of course, if you’re fortunate enough that local health restrictions permit it, you can return to the tried and true…

Trent U announced this week that campus tours have resumed in Peterborough, with some modifications for health and safety. Mondays through Saturdays, at 10am and 1pm, pre-booked groups of 8 will be guided around “spectacular outdoor areas” of campus and select indoor spaces like the Student Centre, a lecture hall, classroom, science lab and residence room. Guests must bring their own facemasks and water bottles for the 90-min tour. Trent

Social / Media

In this online summer, social media is second only to your institutional website as a critical channel to applicants and students.

Canadian InstaSnapSpotTikTubers

A January survey of 1,397 Canadian high school students (largely in BC, AB and ON) found that PSE social media ads, school posters, and web ads resulted in the best recall. The students were daily users of Instagram (94%), Snapchat (87%), Spotify (82%), TikTok (72%), and YouTube (61%). Just 28% used Facebook that often, although 47% of Grade 12 students used it sometimes. (FWIW, 48% prefer print viewbooks, while just 23% prefer digital ones.) The survey found that email was overwhelmingly a preferred channel for communication – but that could reflect the survey’s methodology. Academica

Growing Respect for Journalism?

Although Canadian media outlets are struggling with declining ad spends during the pandemic, subscription revenue may be increasing (modestly). An Oxford survey conducted pre-COVID found that 13% of Canadian internet users had accessed paid news content online in the past year – up from about 9% in previous years, but still well below European countries like Norway, Poland, and Sweden. In the UK and Canada, the BBC and CBC provide reliable free news online, and a uLaval study last year found that a news subscription “comes far behind Netflix or Spotify in the list of priorities.” Although most media are providing access to COVID19 stories for free, “the value of journalistic work is heightened in the context of a crisis.” Conversation

Boycotting Facebook & Instagram

Although Twitter started to fact-check president Trump’s tweets in late May, Facebook is stirring a groundswell of protest for its comparative inaction on racism, hate speech and misinformation (and we haven’t forgotten the Cambridge Analytica scandal). The NAACP and other organizations launched #StopHateForProfit on July 1 as a movement to urge corporate advertisers to boycott Facebook and Instagram – and hundreds of advertisers are already onboard. Some of the biggest names include Best Buy, Sony, Microsoft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Unilever, Starbucks, Verizon, Lululemon, Moosehead Breweries, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and Target, many of whom will suspend both paid and unpaid content until the end of July.

So far, few PSE advertisers have publicly joined the boycott. A Google doc list includes uCalifornia Press, uToronto Press, uNottingham, Emory College, a couple of schools at Boston U, and a number of smaller US colleges. By far the largest is the University of Phoenix, with an ad budget in the millions. UBC Okanagan is reportedly suspending paid Facebook campaigns on their main campus channels for the month of July.

The decision to suspend Facebook advertising could be difficult, since many institutions find it a cost-effective channel and are anxious to minimize “summer melt” this year. It might be hard to resist even lower rates if major advertisers suspend their campaigns.

The boycott may have cost Facebook up to $1.5 billion so far. (Its stock dipped 8% last week.) Nonetheless, 9 of Facebook’s 10 biggest advertisers have not joined the boycott, and most of the site’s revenues come from small businesses. Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly declared, “we’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue.” Yet there are some signs that behind the scenes, he is concerned and meeting frantically with advertisers. Forbes

Notable Vids

Here’s a handful of higher ed videos I think stood out from the crowd of hundreds I saw this week…

Strayer U, an American online for-profit, launched a series of nasty attack ads last week which mock “” for non-existent online support, coursework errors, and cancelled office hours. Strayer, in contrast, is “Built to Support” students, with a virtual assistant to give you personalized attention 24/7. YouTube


Royal Roads U has nicely adapted its “Up” campaign for pandemic times with messages of support and empathy that speak to prospective students who are recalibrating their lives. “Together, wherever, we can always get back up. All it takes is never giving up.” In July and August, watch for social ads promoting particularly timely program clusters like workplace innovation, global communication, and sustainability. RRU has muted its previous campaign colours with more natural tones. YouTube


Trinity Western U has a 60-sec spot that acknowledges, “the world has changed, but your future hasn’t.” It describes the new “multi-access learning environment,” but promises “we are actively planning for your safe and secure return to our formative community. We’re ready for you. We’re ready for the journey forward.” TWU


uLeeds has a new 90-sec spot that caught my attention. Maybe it’s the British accent, or perhaps the use of Toronto’s skyline for “study abroad.” It took me 30 or 40 seconds to realize that the entire script is written in rhyming couplets – and it’s probably best that it remains subtle. It’s a slick spot that largely ignores COVID19’s impact, but is upbeat and peppy. YouTube


From the other side of the anglosphere, Australia’s Macquarie U has a new spot promoting postgraduate degrees. “Career moving a little slow? Turn it around.” “Feeling unchallenged? Inject life into a stale career.” “You [to the power of] us.” (The only thing that would make the spot better would be a lovely Aussie accent!)  YouTube


SEMM Forum

And hey, marketers, recruiters, or enrolment managers – if you’re thinking about attending the Virtual SEMM Forum August 11-13, you can join me, Jim Black, and so many other talented presenters at a $200 discount if you register before Jul 16th. And as one of my loyal readers, since Eduvation is a lead sponsor of the event, you can take an additional 25% off if you use our special discount code EDUV25. SEMM Forum

Stay cool this weekend, stay safe, and stay well!

Wednesday July 8, 2020

International Recruitment

All signs are that Canada’s international enrolments will dip this year (which will significantly impact STEM, medicine and natural resource programs), but if we continue to manage the pandemic successfully, we can expect a major rebound and increased global market share at the expense of the US. Assuming, of course, that we can manage diplomatic relations with China…

Reliance on China, India and STEM

By 2017-18, international students represented 13.2% of Canadian college enrolments (largely from India), and 14.7% at university (largely from China). International students comprised more than 30% in math and comp sci, 24% in architecture and engineering, 21% of some medical residency subspecialties, 19% in agriculture and natural resources, and 18% in business and public admin. StatsCan

International Applicant Concerns

A survey of 16,000 international applicants to 25 Canadian institutions (in April-May) found that 78% still planned to enrol this Fall, although top concerns were air travel restrictions and visa delays. About a third were concerned about finances, the mode of delivery, and health and safety in Canada. Almost half said they were not receiving adequate information from their institution, and particularly wanted more clarity about Fall delivery. Just over half would prefer to defer enrolment until in-person classes are offered. 94% have a computer and 82% a webcam, but 25% do not have a quiet place to study, and 34% lack a reliable internet connection. Academica

Perceptions of Safety

67,000 international students arrived in Canada between January and April, still eager to study here despite the pandemic. Over the past decade, Canada has tripled its international enrolment to 640,000, particularly from India, China, and South Korea. Students who hold a valid study permit, or were approved for one on or before March 18, are exempt from travel restrictions, although they will face a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Canada. SI News

Canada to Rebound in 2021

EY estimates that study abroad in 5 English-speaking destination countries has dropped from 1.09 million in 2019 to just 330,000 this year, but they forecast a rebound in 2021 with up to 1.85 million starting their degrees, and those who deferred this year continuing. (This aligns with my prediction of a “double cohort effect.”) EY predicts Canada will be the big winner, capturing an additional 6% of global market share at the expense of the US. EY predicts that New Zealand and Australia will increase their share by 1% and 2% respectively, thanks to their successful management of the COVID19 pandemic. They will be particularly attractive to Chinese students, who are more cautious than Indian students about study abroad during a pandemic. THE

Political Tensions with China

A former Canadian ambassador to Beijing observes that our defeated bid for a UN Security Council seat, the detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, and China’s decision to charge “the two Michaels” with espionage, signals serious trouble with Ottawa’s foreign policy. Global

ESL Falling Between the Cracks

Of the 216 language education programs belonging to Languages Canada, 68% will have to close permanently in the next 6 months if IRCC does not start providing conditional visas and declare international students essential travelers. (2 Vancouver schools have already announced closures due to COVID19.) “The sector is not just falling through the cracks, this is the Grand Canyon.” If international enrolments in Canadian language schools decline, it may have repercussions on Canadian PSE programs too. PIE

Tuesday July 7, 2020

Reopening Updates

uAlberta has released its Campus 2020-21 Framework for a phased and controlled return to campus. Precautions will include a mandatory daily self-assessment, facemasks in indoor common areas, physical distancing and traffic flow signage, hand hygiene and workspace sanitization. 400+ research groups are already back on campus, and activity should return almost to normal levels by September. 900+ students remained in campus residence throughout the summer. This Fall, “there will be access to sports and recreation facilities, student groups and intercollegiate sports” on campus. uAlberta

Cambrian College has published a 16-page Campus Reopen Guide for staff and students. It distils COVID19 health and safety information from 6 other plans and protocols, and outlines expectations for quarantine, pre-screening, masks, and cleaning. Cambrian

U Canada West has published a 27-page Recovery Plan that parallels those of many institutions, with blended delivery, social distancing measures, sanitization, mandatory facemasks, Plexiglas barriers and continuing WFH for staff. Paid Student Health Ambassadors will oversee physical distancing and coordinate traffic in classrooms, hallways and washrooms. UCW

Centennial College president Craig Stephenson released a brief video yesterday to welcome back “stranded” students, and to emphasize the importance of health and safety compliance. Their first day on campus, students must produce the certificate proving that they completed mandatory campus re-entry training, and every day they return to campus, students and staff must show that they have passed a COVID19 pre-screening assessment. YouTube

Virtual Convocations

Almost every institution has somehow recognized its grads with a virtual celebration or online convocation. Some take the form of short congratulatory videos, others a permanent microsite. I’ve summarized a range of approaches to virtual or socially distanced convocations. Here are some recent additions:

BCIT launched a 34-min graduating student celebration video hosted by alumna and Global BC Newshour anchor Sophie Lui, with messages from the Governor-General, Premier, and BCIT leaders, alumni, faculty and staff. BCIT

Bishop’s has reluctantly announced that the postponed June convocation planned for Aug 29 will need to be virtual rather than in-person. (The provincial limit on gatherings is currently 50 people, and while it might increase to 250 later this summer, convocation typically brings 1,000 people together in a gymnasium.) Part 2 of the ceremony will be held in-person on Jun 4 2021. Bishop’s

Centennial College held its first virtual convocation last week, complete with formal convocation and congratulation videos, and personalized grad slides. Custom #CentennialGrad Instagram stickers and Zoom backgrounds were circulating, along with a Spotify playlist, and a live social media wall. Centennial

College of New Caledonia shared an 80-min “virtual convocation” video, complete with the national anthem, Indigenous land acknowledgements and greetings, and plenty of remarks from community dignitaries, student valedictorians – followed by slides of award winners and graduates. CNC

UFV shipped out parchments, graduation caps, “Class of 2020” banners, and a “specially-branded package of sustainable, seed-based confetti to match the ‘celebrate and grow’ theme in the box.” UFV

McGill’s virtual convocation attracted thousands of viewers for 10 ceremonies. First Peoples’ House hosted a ceremony for Indigenous students. One-third of the graduands were international students, whose families and friends tuned in from around the world. McGill

SaskPolytech recognized its graduates in a week-long online celebration including video messages, Facebook frames, Instagram GIFs and stickers, and even downloadable lawn signs and posters grads and their families could print. SKPoly

Sheridan held 6 simultaneous “virtual convo” ceremonies on Tuesday morning, and videos of each are available with graduate slides. On social, #SheridanConvo Instagram filters and games, Facebook frames, animated Giphy stickers and Zoom backgrounds were provided. Sheridan

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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