Managing students' experience of college IT

Creating a student experience management plan will provide a road map for improvements and a culture of continual innovation.

customer service

On university campuses, technology plays a major role in almost every service, classroom, event and job role. It's so essential today to a school's functioning that close attention must be paid to the user experience. A university campus has thousands of students who are utilizing services and online resources daily.  A university campus is like a small city providing services that include dining, transportation, recreation centers, library, police, emergency systems, postal services, health centers, technology services, and more. All services require technology support, leadership and innovation in improving the student experience.

An IT plan for student experience management (SEM) incorporates the entire student life cycle, from prospective student, to applicant, to registered undergraduate and graduate student. The IT plan is a major part of a campus-wide strategy and includes every team and individual within IT.

SEM in IT begins with understanding students and the experience they hope to get. SEM strategies will provide operational goals that directly align with the overall strategic mission and goals of the university. There is no “one size fits all" model, so multiple avenues of services and support must be considered. SEM is also an ongoing effort that incorporates metrics that are constantly being evaluated. Each year, colleges and universities bring in new students who will be different than the previous year. Online students and adult learners each require different approaches to IT support. New competency-based and on-demand enrollment programs will force core changes to many processes in IT and administrative units within the organization.

SEM for IT focuses on one simple word: service. How can IT create a culture of constantly striving to provide better service? To begin, it requires measuring every communication, process and response time. How fast are students getting access to resources? How fast are help desk calls getting resolved? How easily are students able to on-board to Wi-Fi? How easy is it for them to get through the application or course registration process?

Consider that last question. In many organizations, applying and registering are very cumbersome and frustrating the very first time. Many information systems in higher education function the same today as they did over five years ago. There are legacy forms that require printing and faxing. Students are still required to walk to numerous departments or make multiple calls to get questions answered. These issues and others cause much delay and consume an enormous amount of time for students. Legacy processes were once sufficient but require unnecessary staff resources to handle inefficiencies.

SEM requires IT to be innovative but also work more closely with the business units of the organization to streamline processes. IT requires constant student input and surveys. After every flight or stay at a hotel I receive surveys about my experience and how I was treated. This information is used to ensure that my personal trip met expectations but also to let the company know how it can improve the overall experience to ensure I return and recommend the service to others. SEM strategies in higher education will be a complicated process due to the many services and departments IT support. Everything from measuring the effectiveness of creating accounts, scripts for answering calls, responding to work orders, application functionality, data-driven personalization, network design, infrastructure planning, and all other IT functions. Gathering the facts first will identify priorities and low-hanging fruit that can quickly be improved.  Consumer choice is increasing competition and social media can be the determining factor to attract or discourage a perspective student.  Academic rigor should not be confused with complicated administrative processes. An SEM program will remove the silos between the many departments on campus and create a culture of excellence, collaboration and student support.

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