The modern student has a lot to manage. Where it used to be easy to characterize the average student as a late-teen/early twenty-something with infinite time to devote to academics, today’s wider age range among learners has turned that notion on its head. Today, your prospective student likely has a full-time job, a family to take care of, and a number of other pursuits and passions competing for their attention at any given moment.
While more commerce-driven industries have built their digital experience to reign in the wandering eyes of prospective customers, higher education institutions have been stubborn to acknowledge and adapt to the ground shifting beneath them. In a recent survey of postsecondary students, 44% of American students said they would’ve had a better experience if they could interact digitally with their university. Internationally, almost half of respondents expected administration to be easier to manage, given the fees they pay for a postsecondary education. A third of students were frustrated with how complex institutional processes and paperwork are.
Put in business terms: That’s a lot of unhappy customers.
Learners Expect to be Treated Like Consumers
Higher education has been reluctant to think of students as customers, but there’s no denying that they act like customers, applying the same values that guide their behavior when browsing Amazon or ordering food online. The survey also found nearly a third of U.S. students felt poor administrative systems hurt their view of the institution, and roughly 90% of global respondents said they want a single, universally-accessible app to manage their administrative experience
Students have countless experiences with user-friendly interfaces and programs every day, and are surprised when their chosen institution doesn’t appear to hold those standards dear.
“One of the factors our students talk about is how difficult it was to have their administrative tasks accomplished without needing to show up or talk to several folks on the phone or navigate a difficult website,” said Marie Cini, formerly the provost of the University of Maryland Global Campus, in an interview with the EvoLLLution.
Looking at students as consumers is now a question of respecting their time and investment. How you meet their needs can have a monumental impact on whether (and how often) you attract, retain and re-enroll those students.
Mounds of paperwork and hallway-spanning lineups were once a necessary evil, but in the information age, there’s little hope of managing the administrative side of your students’ academic careers without tailor-made software. Student lifecycle management (SLM) systems are chief among these solutions; it’s software built specifically to optimize a learner’s experience by handling everything a traditional administrative system would normally manage, but with all processes centered on addressing the needs of the students.
Managing Curriculum Doesn’t Have to Be a Headache
While offering relevant curriculum is no easy feat, students aren’t particularly poised to care about the nuances of course development. SLM software substantially dulls the administrative headache of launching new courses and programs by streamlining the lengthy processes that follow them.
In a discussion with EvoLLLution, Sandi Pershing, who was Assistant VP of Outreach and Dean of Continuing Education at University of Utah at the time of the discussion, noted that the onus often falls on administrators to adopt a “MacGyver” philosophy to compensate for the lacking software.
Talking about the need to make continuing education courses work with less flexible legacy systems: “We might have a one-night jewelry-making class that runs during the semester break. PeopleSoft really doesn’t understand what to do with that,” explained Pershing, saying her division had to create a shadow system that works behind the scenes just to process these sorts of classes.
“It creates extra work for us, certainly, but we want the student to feel that their enrollment process is as easy as buying a book off of Amazon: I did it, I’m in the class, it’s done.”
Along these lines, automating processes to notify students of new or modified offerings, and automating course approvals to get new courses up and running any time without the tether of traditional semesters is essential to meeting modern students’ expectations. Being able to efficiently repackage offerings to cater to different learner requirements is a boon as well, since different markets need access to different program materials in different combinations at different times.
Reaching Students is Easy with the Right Tools
Another plus for SLM systems is their ability to help market the programs you and your staff have put such effort into developing. The right lifecycle management system allows marketing teams to personalize outreach by having student records on hand. Having information about employers, past courses, preferred marketing channels, learning goals and interests can drive up to 18 times more revenue than broader marketing tactics.
Outreach aside, the approachability of your institution is dependant on the professionalism and accessibility of your digital environment; another area SLM software prioritizes. If a school’s online presence is rough around the edges, students are as likely to search elsewhere as they would be ordering shoes.
Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs at San Jose State University, Vincent Del Casino told EvoLLLution that students are demanding a more interactive, community-driven online experience.
“What’s being demanded of us now is new communication methods at higher levels where the ability to tell a story and connecting with students through various mediums is more important than ever,” said Del Casino adding that slow-movers will have a tougher time engaging with and attracting students. “Campuses that aren’t as ready to do that will have a harder time connecting to and creating that sense of belonging.”
SLM Helps you Strike While the Iron is Hot
Traditional administration processes have also paid little attention to the point of conversion; when a prospective student makes the decision to enroll, becoming your student. The self-service tools available when shopping with big-name online retailers are a priority with strong lifecycle management software, which provide visitors with visible “shopping carts” and self-service portals that allow them to easily browse offerings and manage their course and personal information. SLM systems may also encourage those who’ve abandoned their carts to return via email; prompting many to complete their registration.
No system is flawless of course, but when students do need to interact with a representative, SLM systems give administrators access to all relevant information about the learner’s experience, allowing for the personalized service they expect for their dollar.
Make Sense of Data and Make it Work for You
Finally, capitalizing on accessible data about your many enrollees is a sure-fire means of better serving their needs and limiting needless strain on staff. Lifecycle software is adept at providing those kinds of insights. Let’s say enrollment trends may show that many students will register for a course only days before the cut-off: A leader can rest easy knowing not to cancel the course, and potentially increase the number of sections to accommodate expected numbers.
Data-based decision making is also a weight off the back of division leaders, giving them the tools to explain their resource allocations, programming decisions and more to senior leadership.
“If we present data in financial terms we are speaking their language, which helps them understand the changing landscape of higher education,” said Pershing.
SLM Systems Help Deliver on the Promise of Higher Education
Bearing in mind the consumer attitude that guides the modern student’s behaviors, they expect nothing less than personalized, user-friendly service from their institution. SLM systems help deliver on the promise made to value their investment, and increase the likelihood of attracting new students, engaging current students and winning back old ones.
Learn how Destiny One® Student Lifecycle Management can create a flexible, student-centric environment at your institution.