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Digital trends within the education sector: ‘authentic’ vs ‘fake’ content

As the popularity of ‘User Generated Content’ (UGC) and ‘Generative AI’ rises, Penna Education’s Education Advisory Board met to discuss the impacts of these digital trends on the world of student marketing. The Board were joined by Penna’s own Social Content Strategist Jessi Dimmock and Jessica Poon, Interim Head of Strategy, who led us in an incredibly insightful session, covering questions such as: How are different types of content received by student consumers? How do you work successfully alongside student content creators? Are robots coming to take over our jobs?


Authenticity over ‘fake’ content – what students want

The conversation started with Jessi, who covered the benefits of UGC. Often found with a digital device strapped to their hands, Gen-Zers have become increasingly aware of ‘fake’ content. Instead, they prefer the ‘authentic’ feel of UGC, a form of content that has been posted by users on online platforms, as it’s human, honest and blends in with other content on social media.

“People believe it more,” explained Jessi, “It’s almost like a friend is talking to them”.

Making content feel ‘real’ relies on the use of everyday digital devices, and the technology already available within them. Gone are the days of necessarily having to hire film teams to create polished promotional videos. Now, all a content creator needs is their phone - and sometimes access to a greenscreen, as seen in this example Jessi shared. Some other types of great UGC content Jessi suggested were; live streamsa day in the life vlogs and informal chats with the camera.


How to build a regular stream of UGC

The technological world has become a second home to the younger generation. As Jessi explained, this makes them the perfect candidates to be content creators, as they are best placed to know what the student audience is currently consuming.

There are also many ways to incentivise creators – whether it is through vouchers, free breakfasts, or recognition on official university social accounts. The University of Dundee makes regular payments to creators, treating them as if they are an external supplier, providing a service. This is a trend that has become common, with many universities advertising for digital content creator positions with an hourly rate being offered to students.

The effects of the cost-of-living crisis have been devastating for students, so this is a great way for Higher Education Institutions to provide financial aid, whilst also gaining a steady stream of content.


The flipside – asking AI to create content for you

It was then Jessica’s turn to explain the incredible world of ‘Generative AI’, and what this means for the world of student recruitment and marketing. As consumers seemingly cry out for more ‘authentic’ and ‘real’ content, recent technological advancements seem to answer back with the development of more human-like AI.

The general public sentiment, as explained by Jessica, falls into a spectrum of ‘steal’ versus ‘transform’. This new technology is either going to steal jobs or transform lives, and people are scrambling to find which side of the argument to align themselves with.

“Don’t fall prey to either of these ways of thinking” advised Jessica. “Ask the question ‘Where does the technology fit with what we are doing?’”.

The reality is that, whilst the technology can enable marketers to create some great content, it still has its limitations. Generative AI like ‘ChatGPT’ scour through data filled with hundreds of thousands of sources to create content, but it is unable to create something truly unique.

“It’s still fundamentally pretty flawed,” Jessica added, “It’s not going to be stealing jobs any time soon”.

Overall, the session was incredibly successful, with those attending learning many new ways to create new content. Whether it’s through partnering with student creators or harnessing the potential of generative AI, the possibilities for the world of student recruitment marketing are endless. Penna even offers a useful content collection tool called VideoAsk, which creates a bespoke journey for participants (i.e. your students) to easily record and upload answers to direct questions. To find out more about this technology, get in touch with Jessi at or to follow what topics will be covered by our Education Advisory Board next, please follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.