Three reasons why higher education

Three reasons why higher education needs to digitize the student experience

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.

Look around any public space and it’s pretty obvious 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 and they too need intuitive access to institutional systems to move successfully through their journeys.

This kind of digital ease isn’t often reflected in academic life. There’s a definite difference between the connected experiences we enjoy in daily life compared to the higher education environment.

A Jisc study found that 70 per cent of students think digital technology would enable them to fit learning more easily into their lives, and this sentiment is shared by staff; 61 percent of lecturers feel tech should be used more in the classroom.

In a time when going digital seems like only way forward, here are three more good reasons why higher education needs to digitize student experience in the long-term.

  1. Upgrade 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 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 students to take charge of their own academic journey. Enabled by mobile-friendly enterprise systems, institutions are much more likely to capture and hold the attention of their student body, and to communicate clear messages and convey information in an agile, user-friendly manner.

  1. 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 clearly track individual performance at-a-glance, identifying when a student starts to fall behind and getting them back on track before it’s too late.

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

  1. Realize 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 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 students explore other options available to them, with degree shopping tools and integrated student support services.

A digital upgrade to boost student success

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

To learn more, download the brochure:

Autsin Laird - works in the Higher Education sector of Unit4

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.