Why universities need a technology compass to navigate the student journey

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Mark Britton
by Mark Britton 17 January 2019

The Education Strategy Forum’s Trends Report is out and, as many of our customers are within the higher education sphere, we’ve been incredibly interested to read the latest survey findings.

Having worked with key senior higher education figures, at the same or similar level as the 300+ Vice Chancellors, Directors and Heads of Department that were surveyed in the latest report, we already had some indication of the type of key trends the report might focus on.

Interestingly, two of the four main report findings centred on pretty much the same theme, the student journey/student experience. And this priority is further highlighted within the report with the finding that 82% of those surveyed citing improving student experience as a main technology investment for their organisation.

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Integrating technologies for improving analysis of student data was also flagged as a key issue, with university leaders keen to utilise business intelligence to enable greater analysis of student performance and enrolment information.

Digital adoption slowdown

While we may live in a digital era where tech developments are becoming increasingly ingrained in our personal and professional lives by the day, the adoption of tech within the education sector isn’t developing at the same pace. And issues, including legacy IT systems, historic ways of working, siloes and disparate CRM systems, lack of data monitoring and analysis are all to blame for the current situation.

But it’s widely reported that if universities are going to get better at attracting and retaining students as competition for new candidates increases, they need to provide students with a clear customer journey, which starts with really getting to know who their prospects and current students are…

Cue the crystal ball (if only…)

Some universities may wish they had a crystal ball to call upon at this point but, unfortunately, we all know this isn’t the case. So, in the absence of a crystal ball, they’re turning to the next best (if not better) solution, 21st century technology that talks their students’ language.

Today’s digitally-savvy students are more informed and expect the same from universities too in the form of rapid, responsive, personalised communications across multiple platforms. And this applies from the moment they make first contact, to when they’re mid-way through their studies or are just about to graduate.

Communication clarity

Consistent, continuous communication is key, and without it, students aren’t clear of what lies ahead for them and universities aren’t clear of the direction their students are heading in. Without it, both sides can easily end up on wrong or widely differing pathways which, the longer they’re left to venture down, can make it increasingly impossible to backtrack on.

Fortunately, with the right IT systems and processes in place and by getting more from their Microsoft cloud technologies, universities can navigate their way out of the issue and get themselves on track with understanding their students and steering them along their student journey. And from a practical perspective, it can look a lot like this….

The technical compass – in practice

We’ve developed a set of student relationship management tools for Dynamics 365 to help higher education institutes attract, support, engage, and retain more students. With these tools in place, universities can:

  • Manage and track activities - related to attracting students and communicating with them across multiple channels, including social, web, in-person meetings, chat and events. Different departments can also manage nurturing programs and prioritise enquiries through behavioural scoring
  • Use omnichannel case management – to track and manage cases (pastoral care) centrally through to completion and obtain a 360-degree view that’s designed to improve and enhance the student experience
  • Monitor and manage relationships with external organisations - to support students’ career prospects and professional development
  • Create portals, wikis, blogs and knowledge base articles - to be able to share and collaborate more efficiently

Navigating the student journey can be somewhat of a crystal maze for universities and students alike, but with just one, overall ‘technical’ compass, both parties can walk the same path. Which direction are you heading in right now? Are you SE, but your students are more in a SW direction? Talk to us today about how our student relationship tools can provide you with clarity on the student journey. We have a number of free workshops that can help you decode the future and navigate change. Contact us today for help and insight. 

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Topics: higher-education, student information systems