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How universities can transform the student onboarding process with automation


Student onboarding is a key event in any university calendar. For students, it marks the beginning of their university journey, which is often a life-changing moment. For university staff, it marks the beginning of a new academic year which has been in preparation for months.  

Encompassing enquiries, applications and then registrations, a successful student onboarding process has been shown to have a significant effect on student retention. A well-structured process boosts the overall productivity and engagement of the student across the whole student journey, thus reducing attrition rates. 

In the academic year 2019/2020, over 2.5 million students enrolled across 271 higher education institutions – averaging at approximately 9,300 students per university. With these students often enrolling at the same time, the onboarding period is unsurprisingly one of the busiest times of the year for the admin departments.  

Busy admin teams can free up time to spend on more complex tasks with an automated onboarding process, which improves the efficiency and success of student enrolment. While streamlining the onboarding process saves valuable time and money, it also helps to settle new students into the university by making the process as stress-free as possible. Making students feel part of the university culture straightaway lets them know the rest of their degree will be organised, efficient, and accessible.  

How can Crimson help universities automate the onboarding process?  

Creating a single destination for students helps them to quickly find their information throughout their time spent at the university, and avoids confusion, miscommunication, and reduces the chance of dreaded forgotten passwords. Student portals are ideal for this and can carry students through from application to graduation. Often, emails, letters, and other communications get lost during the onboarding process, so portals keep all of the relevant documents together and can be accessed remotely.  

When onboarding students, universities collect, manage, and verify documents – mainly exam certificates or IDs. This process is historically time consuming for the admin teams, as documents for thousands of students would need to be checked. However, documents can be scanned and uploaded into the portal, stored in Dynamics 365, and then verified using AI. Power Automate can learn document layouts, including international education certificates, to automatically check for validity. This is most effectively used for passports, thanks to the standardised layout, and can free up admin time, allowing staff to focus on more complex document verification tasks that cannot be carried out using AI.  

Boost the effectiveness of the application and registration processes by using marketing personalisation. Personalised communications improve the overall attractiveness of a university, and also ensure that the right message is sent to each student. Emails, forms, and landing pages are just some of the marketing communications that can be personalised to a student’s behaviour, interests, and demographic data. Dynamics 365 can automatically personalise content that has been gathered through the attraction process. By only sending relevant information, onboarding students don’t feel confused by mass emails and it’s easier to keep track of important information.  

The student onboarding process is diverse, which provides more areas for improvement. While time and cost savings are the most prominent, these improvements will have a positive effect on student engagement, satisfaction and retention, as well as improvements to staff wellbeing thanks to the reduction in workload.  

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