University Students Expect Digital Innovation in Higher Education

Posted by  Jami Morshed

In a recent survey of university students from around the world, nearly half expected it would be easier to manage college life digitally, given the fees they pay to their schools. In a global education marketplace driven by technology, digitally sophisticated students want the best return on their investment -- and that includes quality student information systems for handling academics, financial aid and more.

Student Expectations Meet the Digital Downgrade

Digital technology has driven major changes in the world of higher education. That world is now a true marketplace, offering students more options than ever. Those students approach their university experience as consumers, looking for the best return on their investment of money and time. As fees continue to rise at both traditional and nontraditional schools, students have clear expectations about the quality and convenience of the digital tools offered by their schools.

Recent data collected by U.K.-based DJS Research reveals that university students in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific are often frustrated with the digital downgrade they experience on campus, compared to the level of digital technology they use every day. The reason? Many campuses continue to rely on outdated "legacy" systems for student management.

Traditional Systems Frustrate Students

With an average age of 13 years, these site-based student information systems were built to support traditional administrative and academic frameworks, and are periodically upgraded in an attempt to accommodate new demands. They typically require a large investment of IT funds and staff, and create complex subsystems for students to manage, with multiple accounts and logins.

Under this kind of system, students still struggle with completing paperwork, scheduling and handling tasks such as financial aid and advising, which may have to be managed in person. Along with expecting the same level of digital convenience they're used to in daily life, these students are looking for specific tools to make it easier to manage all aspects of college life.

Streamlining Accounts and Logins

Students may need as many as four different logins to manage the various subsystems of their digital student account. A single account and login that provides access to all the tools needed to manage academics, finances and other concerns saves time and reduces confusion. A streamlined system that integrates all parts of a student's college life also helps faculty and staff track progress and offer support as needed.

Tracking Academics

A majority of students surveyed say a single page or app for tracking coursework and progress toward a degree would be very helpful for staying on track to complete programs. A single site for academic information also gives advisers and instructors a quick overview of a student's situation and allows quick intervention to keep struggling students in school.

Managing Course Transfers and Fees

For many students, handling financial aid, fees and transfers can be one of the most frustrating aspects of older student management systems. Students look for systems that allow them to manage these tasks seamlessly, at any time, from anywhere. New digital tools that integrate financial and academic engagement into a single student account save paperwork and staff time, and give students more control over their education.

Innovative Tools Boost Reputations and Revenue

A quarter of the students surveyed by DJS say they think less of their school because of the poor quality of its digital systems -- and these students are less likely to recommend their campus to others. In the race for academic excellence, revenue and institutional growth, advanced digital technology plays an essential role.


Jami Morshed

Jami is vice president of global higher education at Unit4. My mission is to help colleges and universities improve student success and institutional effectiveness. I’m responsible for everything we do at the Unit4 Global Center of Excellence to help institutions prepare for the future through scalable and comprehensive software solutions that streamline and modernize core business processes while eliminating the burden of managing ever-changing technology.

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