Embracing digital transformation to usher in a new era in education? Start here.
GUEST COLUMN | by Keith Rajecki
A new academic year is officially underway and universities all over the U.S. are looking for ways to deliver a more personalized experience as colleges compete for students–all while being mindful of costs. For many, this means embracing digital transformation and turning to technology to usher in a new era in education. Here are a few places to start:
Personalizing the Student Experience
In the last 10 years, the entire landscape of how universities serve students has drastically changed. The mindset is shifting from considering recruitment and retention as managing transactions to building personalized relationships with students to continuously ensuring their satisfaction. In fact, over 60 percent of students say they chose their college because of receiving personalized attention prior to enrollment. However, more than 55 percent of them went on to say that, once enrolled, they weren’t satisfied with their overall student experience. As word of mouth remains a huge recruitment tool, this is a big problem.
In the last 10 years, the entire landscape of how universities serve students has drastically changed. The mindset is shifting from considering recruitment and retention as managing transactions to building personalized relationships with students to continuously ensuring their satisfaction.
Progressive universities are looking to cloud solutions to help synchronize customer relationship software with student information systems so they can take a more comprehensive, omni-channel approach to managing student experiences. Leveraging data and mobile solutions, universities can contextually deliver relevant content and information to students, at the right time and through the right channel. A cloud-based, multi-channel approach should enable students to start a process on one device, and finish it on another. For example, they research a club on the campus website and then later are informed via a social channel or mobile device that the club is hosting an informational mixer.
Promoting Student Success
Beyond the student experience, undergraduate success should be another major focus. Over time, we have shifted from a mindset on just extending ‘access to education,’ to focus increasingly on “success in education.” The use of predictive analytics is making significant strides in helping universities better understand what is driving success for college students.
While many universities are looking for short term fixes to address their retention and graduation woes, only strategic, long term initiatives will reap significant results. It might seem easier to look for turnkey solutions that solve some issue painlessly, but only thoroughly planned integration and transformation can deliver significant improvements on student success.
Predictive analytics are an excellent way to guide students throughout their entire journey, from their first contact with the institution, to graduation and alumni relationships. By leveraging data across channels to preemptively identify a student’s needs or areas for improvement or difficulties, it becomes possible for universities and their staff to provide students with the right information, schedule counselling meetings and offer help and guidance whenever needed. The idea is to leverage technology not only to assist students in need of help, but to act as a guide supporting every student’s success throughout the entire student lifecycle.
Propagating Institutional Excellence
Nowadays, universities and colleges are more than schools, they’re businesses – big businesses with a level of financial and resource planning complexity that can be staggering. For many institutions, their current operational systems have served them well when they were first implemented, but time has passed and they have now become a management burden that distracts their resources and attention from their core mission.
In fact, 86 percent of higher education business leaders say it is challenging for their finance or business offices to deal with manual processes and inefficient workflow between departments. To survive in today’s digital-driven economy, these institutions need to fundamentally review the way they handle and process their data and ensure that they efficiently manage their operations in a cost-effective manner.
By moving key processes and applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) and Human Capital Management (HCM) to the cloud, university leaders can get a clear and immediate return on investment through smarter sourcing and procurement, simplify and standardize their systems and processes, and strategically allocate resources across campus. In turn, this allows them to focus on driving innovation and delivering new features to improve the student experience.
Ultimately, priorities across institutions vary greatly, and none of them are expected to entirely move away from their old system. However, cloud services provide great tools to realize significant improvements across the campus and beyond, and each university willing to compete effectively in today’s landscape should consider which options make the most sense to them. The most important step is the first one.
Keith Rajecki is Senior Director, Global Education and Research at Oracle.