Student + Parent Expectation Management

In the latest installment of the Helix Education webinar series on COVID-19: The Roadmap to Fall 2020, Kari Kovar, Chief Operating Officer at Helix Education breaks down the four essentials of expectation management to ensure an effective 2-way communication loop as you transition to quality online education this fall.

Intentional Communication

Our standard protocols aren’t good enough. We can’t use those as our baseline. We need to up that level of engagement. So let’s talk about location, segmentation, customization, and progression and what they mean. 


How can you use your health center contact information, your website, your phone number, and your social media channels to communicate intentionally about what is happening this week or next week, or what you’re doing to plan for the fall? Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? Twitter? Use them to ensure that the right information is being shared with students and parents.


It’s one thing to think about broad communication to everybody that might engage with the institution, but it’s also critical, especially during times of turbulence, to be mindful about segmenting students, prospective students, parents, faculty, and staff in your communication stream. 


How do we think about the channels and the way in which we communicate? How do we make sure that we are thoughtful about the preferences that our students and our parents have given us? Email, discussion posts, texts, LMS, and social media need to work together.


Progression is the whole concept making sure that you are continually layering in and adding a level of relevance to the conversation. As we think about progression, we want to make sure we are consistent, timely, and relevant; that we are connecting the dots for folks and deploying a level of empathy along with the information

Defining Roles and Responsibilities

When we think about roles and responsibilities, we think about it in two buckets, both internal and external. So what does that mean and how do we categorize them?


Internal roles are composed of your faculty, staff, and leadership. Between now and the fall — and arguably for the foreseeable future — the expectation has to be that these people will be available, will be timely, and will prioritize engagement in a meaningful way. It’s only fair that we hold ourselves accountable.


When we talk about external audiences, they have a responsibility too, right? Prospective students have a responsibility. Parents have a responsibility. Your current students have a responsibility, and alumni have a responsibility. Just because we, on the internal side, are providing a level of customer service, doesn’t mean that we can’t be open and honest with our external audiences about their roles as we navigate this new world. Le’s let everyone know that this is their opportunity to work together.

Developing Contingency Plans

This is a hard one, right? How do you develop a contingency plan when we don’t have a perfect scenario or we don’t have history to draw from?

The answer lies, as it often does, in one place — data. Make sure that students and parents know what data points you are using to make decisions so they understand the logic behind your actions.

Right now, almost every institution is marching forward with the desire to be face-to-face in the fall. That makes sense. Students and parents want it, right? And so there is a face-to-face contingency plan, but most schools are also developing a blended learning contingency plan and a 100% online contingency plan. 

Also, as you think about how you share the information about your plans, be sure to  share the timeline that you’re using to make a decision. Share the triggers that you’re using to help evaluate which pathway you’re going on. And then go back and make sure that you reinforce those data points and sources you used to influence your contingency plan.

Establishing a Feedback Loop

Students and parents want to be able to engage in the decision process. How do you do that in a way that makes sense? 

How do you manage that in a way that helps you, as an institution, be proactive and intentional? A way that helps you manage expectations so that you’re not over promising and under delivering?

Empathy is a big part of the answer.

When you think about being empathetic and creating a feedback loop, think about how you communicate and how you ask questions.

Be sure to ask questions about how students are feeling and how parents are feeling. Understand their level of anxiety and/or excitement. Understand their level of commitment. Ask questions around those types of things: the feelings, the emotions, the challenges. 

When we listen, we want to make sure that our stakeholders feel heard. This is a great opportunity to give your faculty and staff an opportunity to build a deeper level of connection with your prospective students.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Kari Kovar from Helix Education. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.