ANU Students' Association forges ahead with digital first engagement strategy

ANU Students' Association logo

The Australian National University Students’ Association (ANUSA) first chose to work with MSL to underpin its burgeoning digital engagement requirements. The digital transformation had started back in 2016 when MSL Elections was used to run online voting for the first time - a move which resulted in the highest number of votes placed and posts filled for five years.

Encouraged by their members’ enthusiasm for participating online, the decision was made to implement the MSL’s core digital engagement solution, the MSL System. We caught up with Kate Melhuish, Marketing & Communications Officer at ANUSA in June 2022 to hear how this decision has transformed ANUSA’s capabilities to support students, especially during an academic year when many activities were forced online.



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ANUSA stats at a glance - 2021-22

  • 11,000 undergraduate students access ANUSA services and support via the MSL System
  • 150 student clubs use the ANUSA website to manage members and promote activities
  • 565 grant applications made by ANUSA student groups 
  • 19 posts contested in ANUSA elections during 2021 with 19,145 votes placed by 2,233 voters
  • 1.2 million targeted messages sent to promote activities, support services and student voice opportunities

We are finding that having a strong website presence continues to be helpful during these tough times. Student life still has a strong presence online, despite more things being in person than has been the case in the past couple of years.

Reach on social media cannot be guaranteed so being able to reach people through our website and newsletter has been really valuable.

- Kate Melhuish, Marketing & Communications Officer, ANUSA

A digital transformation

ANUSA is the peak representative body for all undergraduate students at the Australian National University.  The Association is responsible for furthering the interests of its 11,000 members, along with providing representation, welfare and social activities - from O-week, clubs, societies and a dedicated student space on campus.

However, even before the Covid pandemic, it was apparent that increasing demands on their time meant student visits to campus were become infrequent and opportunities for in person participation with ANUSA activities, whilst still popular, were diminishing. The ability to provide activities and support services digitally was further brought into focus as Covid closed campus and stopped face to face activities and events.Financial support banner on the ANUSA website home page

Fortunately for ANUSA, the move from the previous online system - which focussed on clubs and societies activities - to the MSL System has provided them with both a new website and a comprehensive set of integrated engagement resources developed specifically for students’ organisations. As staff and officers began working remotely, they were able to continue using the student voice, communications, community and e-commerce resources they needed to support members. Data security is maintained through the MSL System’s permissions structure which means that only authorised individuals and roles can access admin areas.

Student groups and participation

The ANUSA student groups grant applications area on their websiteANUSA has 148 clubs and societies and their committee members have been given access to MSL System tools which help them manage and engage with members. MSL Grant Applications is of particular importance as student groups can request financial support from ANUSA to help them run activities to encourage participation and, since the Grant Applications facility was made available on the website, over 2,100 applications have been submitted. The access committees now have to digital engagement tools and to their own web pages has seen committees adding lots more content to help them stay in touch with members and attract new students looking for different things to try. During the pandemic, many took advantage of this digital-first approach and continued to run events, the only difference being that they were online.

Digital democracy

Despite Covid, democracy continued at ANUSA with hardly any negative impact on the team elections which took place in term three in 2020. Whilst in person campaigning had to be drastically reduced - no printed flyers could be handed out – online campaigns and communications came into their own.  ANUSA continued to take advantage of MSL’s online elections and so turnout remained very similar to previous years as voters were able to participate without being on campus. The all-important vote count was run as a Covid-safe physical event with candidates' representatives present to watch the count and celebrate – or commiserate – as MSL’s vote count displayed the results.

The main factor for our elections seems to be how many tickets are running or who is running. Sometimes we will have lots of parties contesting and sometimes it is less which massively affects turnout. However it was really great to have the MSL online election system seeing as many students were not on campus and this year we had 16 posts being contested which lead to 17,276 votes placed by 2,279 voters. - Kate Melhuish, Marketing & Communications Officer

A cautious return to campus with O-Week 2021

O-Week in 2021 was, unsurprisingly, quite different to previous years. Events had limitations in terms of attendance but the timing was such that majority of the events could go ahead in person. However, the O-Week program also included lots of online events for anyone unable to make those real-life events. Digital communications and promotion of events for O-Week took a step up this year with social media, the website and ANUSA’s weekly email newsletter driving interest for the 50+ events that were on offer.

Many of the in person events had to be ticketed to manage attendance and the majority were sold out as students were clearly very keen to get back to physical events on campus. - Kate Melhuish, Marketing & Communications Officer

The clubs home page banner on the ANUSA websiteMore generally, information on the website and the ability to send out newsletters to members from the integrated Message Centre proved to be invaluable as students looked for services and activities that they could engage with.

During 2020, 1.3 million targeted messages were sent out to ANUSA members informing them about events, services, online resources and the clubs and societies they could join. In fact the clubs listing page was the most visited area of the website during 2020, followed by the jobs vacancies page and then the welfare area.

As ANUSA strives to ensure everyone is included and supported, the MSL System continues to play a crucial role in helping the team realise its digital objectives.

Our clubs and societies pages were the most visited across the whole website during the 2020-21 academic year as students remained keen to discover how they could participate despite face to face interaction being greatly reduced. -  – Kate Melhuish, Marketing & Communications Officer, ANUSA

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