Higher Education: Top 5 reasons to digitise the student experience
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Higher Education: Top 5 reasons to digitise the student experience

from  June 2, 2020 | 5 min read

Higher education institutions must enhance the student experience if they want to boost student success, explains Austin Laird, Unit4’s product director for higher education.

The digital student experience

Look around any public space, and it’s pretty apparent how technology-obsessed we’ve become. American adults spent about 3 hours and 30 minutes a day online with a mobile device in 2019.

In the UK, due to the rise in web use by 16-to-24-year-olds and the general increase in smartphone usage, the average person spends more than 24 hours each week online.

Plus, learner demographics are growing, and while you’re certainly catering to traditional-aged students – digital natives with high digital expectations – digital immigrants are a growing portion of the population. They, too, need intuitive access to institutional systems to move successfully through their journeys.

However, academic life does not usually reflect this kind of digital ease. There's a definite difference between the connected experiences we enjoy daily compared to the higher education environment.

Jisc study found that 70% of students think digital technology would enable them to fit learning more easily into their lives, and staff share this sentiment. 61% of lecturers feel they should use tech more in the classroom.

In a time when going digital seems like the only way forward, here are five more good reasons why higher education needs to digitize student experience to make it ready for the future.

Digital transformation in education: How to digitise higher education

1. Upgrade digital student engagement

Today’s students, no matter their age, are incredibly digitally savvy, and they judge the impact of technology in consumer terms rather than academically. This means that your higher education software needs to be as seamless as searching Netflix or streaming on Spotify.

The pay-off for a smooth digital experience is how it empowers your students to take charge of their academic journey. Enabled by mobile-friendly enterprise systems, institutions are much more likely to capture and hold their student body's attention and communicate clear messages and convey information in an agile, user-friendly manner.

2. Support at-risk students

We’ve talked about higher education technology as an engagement tool, but the right student information systems (SISs) can do much more than that.

A good platform will include data analytics capabilities that enable your people to track individual performance at-a-glance, identifying when any of your students start to fall behind and getting them back on track before it’s too late.

Reaching people in real-time enables you to have a meaningful impact on each student’s progress, from automated outreach and notifications to making time for more individual support. This approach also serves your non-traditional learners' unique needs, many of whom struggle within the traditional academic environment's rigid structure.

3. Realize your students’ full potential

Sometimes students fall short of their full potential (even if they aren’t at risk) simply because they can’t see what they’re on course to achieve. Degree completion can feel a long way off, especially if there are no interim targets or milestones for them to strive for.

Giving your students degree audit tools that outline a clear academic journey through which they can benchmark their achievements helps them work towards the best possible graduation result. Technology can also help your students explore other options available to them, with degree shopping tools and integrated student support services.

4. Keep up with the changing face of students

Your student cohort is changing. There’s more mature, part-time, online and distance learning than ever before. And all of them place different demands on your institution and your systems.

Modern digital solutions let you meet these different students' needs and deliver digital experiences that match all other parts of their academic journey. While allowing you to build greater engagement, quickly adapt courses and how you provide them to different audiences and understand user satisfaction in real-time.

They also level the playing field for students. Giving the same access, experiences, and opportunities to students no matter how they engage with your institution.

5. Build more student-focused strategies

Another benefit of digital is data. Or how easy it is to use and work with the data you gather. Why does this matter?

This data can give you live insights into the student experience at your institution. Letting you know what students want. You can see instantly where they engage and where they switch off, and why.

This lets you rethink all different kinds of strategies across your institution. So you can reimagine the student experience or understand how to use funding better to offer your students better opportunities during their course and beyond. All of which can make a difference in where students choose to study.

A digital upgrade to boost your student success

Higher education institutions have a proud and honorable heritage, but a strategic, future-forward approach to people, process, and technology are now imperative. The ultimate result of the digital upgrade on campus with modern, cloud-based enterprise and student solutions, is a boost to institutional sustainability and student success for students, faculty, and staff.

How can Unit4 help you digitize your student experience?

How do your people see your institution? Your student information system is your digital “face” for students, faculty, and staff alike. So, it’s vital to give them the experience they deserve — and expect. With Unit4 Student Management (SM), you can free up your people for what matters: for students to learn and grow as your teams support and inspire them.

Our student information system (SIS) delivers automation and control across the entire student lifecycle, from recruitment to alumni, including Admissions, Academics, Financial Aid, Billing, Communications, Reporting & Analytics. Creating a better way to work that delivers innovative, intelligent enterprise and better experiences.

This also gives your people the flexibility and freedom to focus on the work that matters. Letting them adapt to change swiftly, develop smarter workflows, and simplify and optimize decision making. And these modern, future-proofed solutions meet today's students' needs, offering end-to-end support purpose build for educators and their students.