Institute Combines Argos and HTML Emails to Improve Communications and Responsiveness
Holmesglen Institute of TAFE
Holmesglen Institute of TAFE, a leading Australian provider of vocational and higher education, went live with Ellucian Banner in Dec 2013. This included Self-Service Banner (SSB) for students. With these systems in place, the process for students to apply to Holmesglen programs went through a few iterations.
Having learned from each iteration, Holmesglen eventually found a process that worked. Once a student was accepted, Admissions would enter the data into Banner by either downloading it from CRM Recruit or by bulk admission using a modified tape load action. At this stage, the student has a Banner account and must log into SSB to register and pay.
The challenge, then, was to communicate this process clearly and concisely to the student. Registration would be their first interaction with SSB. Holmesglen needed to let them know what to do – and how to do it – in a way that was timely, wouldn’t cause confusion, and would elicit prompt action by the student.
Initially, Holmesglen Institute sent these communications as text emails with PDF attachments. However, as it became necessary to provide more and more information to the student, the number of PDF attachments increased – and the likelihood of a student reading all the attachments decreased. Additionally, while PDF attachments can be loaded on the MAPS server, keeping them up to date is not easy.
As the information systems manager at Holmesglen considered the options, their first instinct was to include hyperlinks in the email, but text emails couldn’t accommodate those. They then turned their attention to creating HTML emails. If they went full HTML, they could include hyperlinks and not need to attach any PDFs.
Holmesglen implemented Evisions Argos around the same time as Banner. After finding Argos helpful in automating other processes and communications – which we’ll touch on in a little bit – the IS manager turned to it once again.
IST staff set up the template in tables in Adobe Dreamweaver. These tables were then transferred back to Argos to insert the data tags. The email automation was set up in Argos and set to go out daily, triggered by admissions that take place throughout the workday. The automation runs on an extracted data set. The advantage is that IST can resend from the extract if required or if the MAPS server has a connection problem to the SMTP server.
The end result is daily automation of the Letter of Offer (aka Admission letter), a comprehensive instructional report to newly admitted students. It instructs the student how to access the SSB portal, provides required statistical and loan information, tells them how to register, and reviews key student amenities and processes. On the back end, the procedure that does the data extract also logs a comment against the student regarding the letter. While called an offer, this logged communication is post-admission and pre-registration.
By embedding all relevant information in HTML emails and automating the process through Argos, Holmesglen can communicate in a timelier fashion with newly admitted students. It has also resulted in improved responsiveness and quicker action from students, along with fewer questions and less confusion.
As mentioned before, Holmesglen Institute was already using Argos automation for other processes and communications.
- Commonwealth Assistance Notices (CAN) are required for notification of debt acquired by the student. The earliest versions of these were printed reports that were mailed to students. However, the ever-increasing costs of postage & paper – not to mention the time it took staff to print, stuff, and mail the notices – made it clear this was not a long-term solution. With Argos, these notices are now sent via automated email. With classes starting and ending on various dates, the automation runs monthly and picks up all registrations with specific rate codes whose census date falls in the month. See an example of a CAN email.
- Holmesglen used to mail invitations to students to attend graduation ceremonies. Once again, mailing was not a cheap nor efficient process. This was replaced with nightly automated emails. An HTML template was built, which referenced images from their website. Here is a sample of the Graduation Invitation template showing the embedded Argos tags. The code is pasted into the HTML window of the email notification.