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The new student experience: your reputation in their hands

Posted by  Austin Laird

Students manage every aspect of their transactional lives digitally, sharing their opinions online instantly. How can university and college administrators respond to this behavior, and improve your institution’s reputation?

Today’s students are mostly digital natives and highly savvy digital immigrants –they use the latest connected technology to communicate and transact wherever they are, whenever they want, via the most convenient device. And they want their higher education experience to correspond.

The expectation is that academic administration should be as easy and user-friendly as the rest of their online interactions; according to research, four out of five students would be more satisfied if their institution had a single digital system to manage all administrative aspects of their education. The experience that students are describing might translate to intuitive interfaces or conversational chatbots, or fully accessible, web-enabled tools—however you deliver that experience, it should be seamless.

This new student experience is one of the four megatrends — alongside increased competition, regulation and diversification — that are fundamental to success in today’s competitive higher education landscape, where a new game with new rules dictates the student journey. So how can university and college administrations respond to the digitally-driven demands? The answer lies in smart solutions and enterprise technology.

Creating closer student relationships

Almost every higher education institution needs to grow, and forward-looking organizations are rethinking how they attract and retain talented students – treating them like a business would their customers. Yet overly complex, old and brittle student information systems (SISs) can hold colleges and universities back from nurturing strong relationships.

Leading institutions are digitally upgrading the way students interact with them right from recruitment until after graduation - even identifying and intervening with students at risk of non-completion before it’s too late. These institutions use cutting-edge administrative technology to provide complete visibility of student behavior, helping them stay on track toward completion and even employment.

Upgrading to a better digital infrastructure gives academic administration teams better control of student management, while at the same time reducing operational demands and enabling a greater focus on student service and advising. Recent research revealed that a third of students believe there is too much campus-life paperwork. Automating key elements of the college relationship through a seamless digital experience significantly decreases this burden, so students can focus on the aspects of their educational journey that they enjoy most.

Engaging in smart conversations

As useful as modern student system applications are at managing the operational demands of an institution, they must also support an engaging student experience that meets expectations. Academic administrators need ubiquitously available tools so that they can be available anytime and anywhere to respond when students need them most.  

In their everyday lives, students use smart technologies that harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to engage in intelligent experiences and interactions – chatbots being a good example. The same smart learning technologies can be utilized by student systems to enable the level of engagement and support they need. When you can’t be there to answer a question – your intelligent systems can.

You reap what you sow

Interacting through connected technology is second nature to today’s student body (as well as most of your staff), and they expect their institutions to keep pace with their behavior. Institutions must respond by innovating the student information systems that your administration teams use, upgrading to ERP solutions that enable a better managed, more intuitive student experience.

The impact of investing in such technology is significant. Student communities share their lives online, and they will be quick to extol the virtues of a seamless, supportive academic experience on social platforms.

If your institution can embrace technology to improve the academic performance and wellbeing of your students, you will encourage quality feedback that can directly benefit recruitment. Future high school graduates are likely to respond to positive testimonials that may not come through owned channels. 

To read more about the Higher Education megatrends and learn how to respond to them by embracing the right technology, download the industry brochure: NEW GAME NEW RULES — The stark reality of a disrupted market and how next-generation institutions are reacting.

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Austin Laird

Austin has been a part of the higher education industry for over 20 years, in a wide range of roles from a university registrar assistant to product manager and industry technology strategist. Prior to Unit4, he held multiple pre-sales, product and leadership roles at Oracle, including Global Director, Education & Research Technology. Austin joined Unit4’s Higher Education team in 2018 as product director for Unit4 Student Management.