Regardless of demographic, you can find almost all your students in one place: Online. Are you there with them?
Your Student Information System (SIS) can be a powerful for reaching these learners, but for most non-degree units, outdated processes and cumbersome user interfaces turn it into a roadblock.
On the other hand, the right SIS expands your reach by opening new paths to your enrollment funnel for a broader audience.
What is a “Next-Gen” SIS?
Historically, the SIS has been a one-trick-pony; a data hub that students and staff have to sift through when they want to register for a course, find a transcript, etc. Most are rife with inefficiencies that affect the online experience, and it’s only recently that this commonplace tool has shown itself to be capable of much more.
A next-generation SIS does more than serve up information in increasingly outdated ways—it’s an enrollment machine that attracts prospective students and moves them through your enrollment funnel.
Here are three ways a modernized SIS can create new entry points to your enrollment funnel with four key tools:
1. SEO-Enriched Landing Pages
Today’s learner’s first stop is the search bar. Since most search users only click on results within the first search page, it’s vital for institutions to properly optimize their website according to search engine optimization (SEO best practices).
Assigning some unfortunate soul to optimize every course, certificate, and program landing page for each search engine is an enormous and never-ending task. A modern SIS automates search engine optimization using the built-in web content manager. This way, learners can start finding courses as soon as they’re approved.
It can also serve your unit’s needs with easily readable metrics that show you where and when your programs are engaging learners, which can tell you where your marketing dollars should be spent.
Search-optimized content ensures that the right eyes are on your programs, and the better your offerings speak to a prospect’s search requests, the more likely they are to register.
Do you want to learn more about how to improve your website’s SEO? Download our guide to driving enrollment with SEO best practices.
2. Personalized Student Experiences
In an increasingly competitive market, institutions need to be able to differentiate themselves. One way to do this is giving students a personalized online experience based on the context of the relationship thus far.
The ability to provide tailor-made experiences for diverse audiences is another way the modern SIS can drive engagement with wider audiences. Not everyone’s a twentysomething looking for a four-year program, so a platform that can speak to corporate learners, conference attendees and others who may not be seeking out your institution specifically.
Jasmin Bishop, a CRM Analyst at University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s OneIT Office, explained that contextual communication can be key to winning over a learner.
“Now, the complete history of a student, no matter who that student interacted with and what they discussed, is easily available,” Bishop said. “Students now receive more personalized and knowledgeable service from the department as a whole.”
A progressive SIS customizes messaging to appeal to your prospect’s needs based on their search and purchase history, possibly more depending on the depth of information available. When this information is at hand, the software modifies the programs and other content on display to move them towards enrollment.
3. Better Program Marketing
The relationship between institution and student doesn’t have to end when the learner finishes their first program at your school. They’ve already had a positive experience with you, and no one’s more apt to hear you out than someone who likes what they’ve seen so far.
Your SIS can open more opportunities to sell to learners from the moment they finish their course by displaying offerings that speak to their interests; made clear by their previous purchases.
A next-gen SIS can collect pertinent information through students directly. Interfaces can ask them relevant questions about how they heard about this program or course, or other details that can inform your marketing teams efforts.
Microcredentials are also picking up steam in higher education, and for good reason. Aside from indicating key competencies to employers online (and some street cred for the learner), they sell your programs to new audiences merely by existing in a public space like LinkedIn. Prospective learners can see where their peer got that shiny new badge, and businesses looking to train employees in those competencies now know where to send them.
A modern SIS capitalizes on this by pairing with digital credential providers that offer successful learners badges for skills earned, which can be shared almost anywhere.
The University of New Hampshire (UNH) noticed an uptick in badge acceptance after implementing a next-gen SIS of their own. Dan McLeod, Enrollment Systems Business Analyst for Outreach and Engagement at UNH said adding a capable SIS to their tech stack saw acceptance skyrocket.
“Looking at what we did prior in our pilot, we have issued roughly 1,000 badges to users in our pilot stage, and we saw about a 50 to 55% acceptance rate of those badges. Now, we’re seeing 85% acceptance,” McLeod said. “We see them being shared, and from an institutional standpoint it's free marketing for us.”
Marketing your offerings to the right audiences is no small task, but a modern SIS can do a lot of the legwork for you.
Build Your Back-End, Increase Your Reach
The higher education landscape is changing quickly, and so must the systems that support it. In the coming years, the institutions with the highest engagement and the widest reach will be the ones that grow and thrive. It all starts with placing a next-gen SIS at the center of your tech stack.