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The Digital Future of Study Abroad

During a recent cab ride in Tampa, Florida, I asked the driver if Uber was having an impact on his business. He said Uber had destroyed it. It was 1 p.m. and he had only one fare for the day. He has a family and years ago made the decision to purchase his cab, which he still owes 3 years on. He is locked into driving a cab for income and he has no clear way out. He can’t sell his cab. Nobody is buying them. If he chooses to become an Uber driver, he has to buy another car. His situation is truly unfortunate.

In the study abroad industry - another business that is responsible for moving people from one location to another - we are seeing a devastating delay in technical savvy. Wedded to old systems, or worse, the entrenched systems in universities, most study abroad offices are moving at a glacial pace to meet their young clients, the students.

There is a seemingly never-ending list of demands on administrators today. International offices are tasked with recruiting students, preparing them, vetting programs, hosting events, building relationships with faculty, managing risk and so much more. It’s time for a new digital future of study abroad.

There are simple tools on the market - and complimentary strategic services - that can make your study abroad operations far more streamlined. From recruiting to onboarding students for programs, a set of new Software-as-a-Service products have stormed onto the scene to deliver a better way forward. Products such as Via TRM and Unleesh were built specifically for international education and study abroad programs.

Recognizing the need for better tools, the founders of both Via TRM and Unleesh (which I am one of) developed cloud-based solutions to these challenges. The cloud simply means that information is stored in a shared secure server. In our cases, we use Amazon Web Services, the most widely used and most secure cloud solution in the world. New programs on our platforms can be launched in a day! No more six-month implementations.

Delivering the future of study abroad is exciting, and we know it’s working. Across the country, study abroad offices and organizations are being challenged to increase enrollment while keeping costs low, and are using new tools to make it happen. The story is not dissimilar from the rest of the economy. Get more out of less with tech.

Generation Study Abroad from IIE calls on the international education community to double the size of enrollments. This is an exciting prospect. Together we could change the lives of over 500,000 students every year through global experiences. Of course, quality and quantity both need attention. We need to prepare students more effectively. We should be reaching them on their mobile phones and in a manner that builds community. We have the technology to capture their stories and experiences, which will only help us reach our goals faster, but if we fail to move quickly, other opportunities will emerge in a marketplace that competes aggressively for student attention.\

The future of study abroad needs to be in your organization's formula for attracting, connecting, preparing and supporting students going abroad. Stay ahead by using cloud solutions like Via TRM and Unleesh to curate student experiences before, during, and after programs.

Cross posted at

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