Pathify Customer Story
Starting Off Right — Orientation at DIS
Over the last few years, study abroad programs suffered significant loss in enrollment. Institutions backed out of sending students to as many locations and the number of third-party providers plummeted since 2020. DIS-Study Abroad in Scandinavia bucks the trend in the opposite direction. The institution just had its most successful semester ever with historic enrollment and high student satisfaction.
What’s driving success for the student experience at DIS? It’s all about getting students off on the right foot — a successful orientation. DIS gives its students personalized schedules with orientation events accessible via their mobile device. The institution also gives information related to housing and getting around Copenhagen or Stockholm. Setting the right technology in place, such as a student portal is vital to making orientation a smooth experience.
Located in Copenhagen and Stockholm, DIS offers semester, year-long and summer study abroad programs in English for students enrolled in North American universities. The program features a cutting edge curriculum featuring experiential learning and faculty-led study tours across Europe. At DIS, students receive meaningful, cultural engagement and personal growth. In fact, the institution often calls its app DIS Navigate because it helps students maneuver around the city and the program.
DIS refers to Europe as the student classroom. It allows students to visit important sites and meet with local experts who add different perspectives to the course material. Students live alongside locals in Scandinavia, and may engage in meaningful cultural interaction through sports teams, interest group meetups, outdoor activities and have an option to live in a Homestay.
Restoring Trust in the Student Portal
As a study abroad program, orientation creates a critical touchpoint for student satisfaction regardless of the amount of time they plan to attend. DIS previously used another application, however a number of circumstances necessitated a switch to a new portal.
The institution learned its previous vendor planned to sunset their app within 18 months. In addition, it lacked student adoption because the app didn’t always work successfully and wasn’t user friendly.
“It was always an uphill battle reminding people to use it or think about the app when they have some new things to do,” Korbin Dimmick, Digital Projects Manager at DIS said. “[Students] always found some work-arounds because they didn’t trust it.”
When it came time to look for a new solution, DIS wanted to give students a way of finding resources in the palm of their hand. With students navigating a new city and unfamiliar to the different elements of Scandinavia and Stockholm, DIS wanted their app to provide an intuitive user experience and create a digital representation of the campus.
It’s the unfamiliarity of study abroad making community matter even more to a study abroad institution. The program wanted to give students the ability to communicate through its own messaging system while folding cohorts into a property DIS owned. Considering how much time they spend on the go exploring their new city, DIS knew it needed to be a useful, accessible tool.
Reimagining the Orientation Experience
After searching for solutions capable of providing both a portal and community experience, DIS eventually selected Pathify. The Communities module included the ability for students to message each other plus join relevant groups based on their interest.
Dimmick never expected Pathify to exactly resemble Facebook. But after initial pushback from residents over moving housing groups off a platform they had strong familiarity with, it turns out the Groups didn’t seem as foreign as perceived.
“For residents we work with, that was a comment they kept coming back to,” Dimmick said. “In the back of our mind when we looked, it felt similar in some regards. When I talk to residents I’ve seen at our events, I’ve received more positive feedback about [the Engagement Hub] and that they use it more,”
DIS also appreciates the user experience Pathify offers with web and mobile parity. Students now receive a similar experience regardless of the device they use and experience a similar UI matching many of the apps they use on a day-to-day basis.
The institution uses Pathify to drive orientation post-onboarding and creates a single access point for all activities within the student’s program. Each student receives a personalized experience including housing assignments, schedules, facilities tours and more.
During orientation, staff divides the semester population into as many as 40 cohorts and students must attend the housing session aligned with their cohort. DIS undergoes a similar process for facilities tours to help students understand the best way around the city and campus.
It might sound like a lot of organization for something as seemingly mundane as orientation, but it goes a long way towards helping students adjust to a new environment.
“Everything is new to them,” said Esben Lydiksen, Learning Technology Manager at DIS. “We want to simplify the process so they know where to go so the app has definitely been helpful.”
Despite so many distinct processes, the Engagement Hub reliably gets students where they need to go at the right time. Studying abroad includes several stressors built-in. The last thing students need is an unreliable platform.
With an institution dependent on the Student Portal for part of its orientation, uptime makes a significant difference to helping students adjust to life abroad. The institution finds students who go through a successful orientation tend to have a smoother semester, making uptime an important factor to Pathify’s success.
“I think that’s such a basic phrase to say it works, but it has a big impact in that we’re not worried about people not getting notifications or worried about people missing things,” Dimmick said. “It takes a huge weight off of our shoulders to be sure people are using this platform because they know it works. They trust it.”
I think that’s such a basic phrase to say it works, but it has a big impact in that we’re not worried about people not getting notifications or worried about people missing things. It takes a huge weight off of our shoulders to make sure people are using this platform because they know it works. They trust it.
DIGITAL PROJECTS MANAGER AT DIS
Student Portal Achieves Record Engagement
Every semester brings new students and therefore — it pays to be proactive. Thanks to careful planning and plenty of forethought, DIS saw record engagement in the Student Portal during Fall 2022. It’s common for the Student Portal to see record engagement the first few weeks of the semester.
Those numbers typically tail off as the semester progressesses. The 2023 Spring semester so far appears to buck the trend.
During the first two months of 2023, DIS averaged 1,930 unique visitors per month — a 22% increase over the previous semester.
“We’re seeing a lot more activity in there and just completely smashing what we had done before,” Dimmick said.
A majority of the traffic focuses on locating buildings on campus. From a resources perspective, students flock to the Fix It tool — used to create requests related to IT and DIS facilities — with nearly 800 unique users as of the end of February 2023. Students also use Pathify as an entry point to Canvas with nearly 600 unique users during the same time period.
Pathify’s integration with Canvas allows the Student Portal to surface key information such as grades, class announcements, assignment information and a list of courses from the semester. This provides the student most of what they need via the LMS.
“It’s important for the app to bridge the gap between student life and the academic courses taught at DIS,” Lydiksen said. “We are looking forward to an even stronger integration with the ability to surface more content from Canvas such as grades, assignments and class events.”
Existing as a semester-long study abroad institution in 2023 presents challenges. The list of programs available to students isn’t as long as it once was. Despite the difficult climate, DIS not only found a way to survive the current climate — but thrive more than ever before. By offering the full academic spectrum from housing to classes, and everything in-between, the program focuses on providing students with the best experience possible, which allows it to continue attracting students year after year — with no signs of slowing down.