Although cutbacks in training and travel normally create challenges, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is benefiting from its money- saving transition to online conferencing.
SEVP certifies colleges in the U.S. to host international students and also collects information on international students who attend universities through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Rachel Canty, deputy director of SEVP, told Federal News Radio that SEVP ensures universities adhere to the guidelines required for hosting international students and also gives accurate information to their database.
“What we’re migrating to is to do a lot more webinars to talk about this stuff, and it’s been fantastic,” Canty told the In Depth radio show. “Originally, we did it because of budget constraints and travel constraints, but the more we do it, the more we’re seeing that we can expand our audience vastly using this new technology,” Canty said.
In the past, SEVP shared updated information on regulations and SEVIS at college conferences, Canty said. Due to budget restraints, they began to use Adobe Connect to host webinars instead.
“We’re finding we’re reaching a broader audience, especially those smaller schools that couldn’t afford to send their school officials, or all their school officials, to these conferences and now anyone can listen to these webinars,” Canty said.
With most of the program’s presentations in PowerPoint, and the simplicity of using AdobeConnect, Canty said the transition has been easy and workshops have “translated perfectly.”
She said the lack of face-to-face interaction concerned members of the program in the beginning, but they have found the online platform enables them to reach more people at their own convenience. Although Canty still plans on attending some conferences to continue real-life conversations with customers, she said she hopes to expand the number of events hosted via webinar to about 50 this year.
SEVP has webinar attendees complete a customer satisfaction surveys on their “Study in the States” website. She said 90 percent of attendees found the information shared in webinars helpful and easy to understand.
“That’s the primary way we find that they like what we’re giving them and they’re finding what we’re giving useful,” Canty said.
SEVP is bringing many changes to the SEVP database, and the webinars help keep universities up to date with how those changes will work, according to the deputy director. Canty added, being able to record the webinars provides stakeholders the opportunity to revisit information they missed or forgot.