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Attracting Students | 5 minute read

Stop Serving Non-Traditional Students with Traditional Systems

Traditional college systems are designed to serve 18-24-year olds. They are based on a semester schedule, and were intended to improve paper-based processes. But, rather than doing that, these systems ended up making operational processes complex and cumbersome, so much so that over time, many college administrators have come to accept that students will make time to fulfill administrative requirements, as and when needed  

Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality  

Technical or community college students value their time and experience, and expect that their education provider values it too. Adult learners have so much going on–a full-time job (or many jobs), family responsibilities–that they simply do not have the bandwidth to physically bounce from department to department seeking answers 

Younger community college students are driven by slightly different dynamics, but they too want their college to respect their time. Younger students have become used to the Amazon experience and they expect their college to provide a similar one, if not any better.  

In her article on The EvoLLLution, Pat James-Hanz, Former Executive Director for the Online Education Initiative at California Community Colleges, discussed the inconsistencies between the experience non-traditional students expect and the experience colleges provide 

 Colleges and universities still expect to serve a very traditional student: a young person coming in as a full-time student. If you’re expecting all of your students to be full-time, you’re leaving out those that have to work to go to school or those who are coming back to school after some time away,” she wrote.  

 Students need assistance and information at their fingertips. When you start to take all services and make them available to students 24/7, from wherever they are, you start to minimize problems that they might have with their lives getting in the way. 

Traditional Systems Won’t Work Anymore 

Providing 24/7 access to administrative services, and aligning the institution to deliver a more student-centric experience, is easier said than done. You simply can’t achieve these outcomes with traditional campus management systems.  

Here’s why: 

A campus infrastructure comprises a number of traditional systems - financial, learning management, student registration and so on. There isn’t a unified system that brings everything together. Your students have to log into each system separately to register, pay fees and access program or course content. Their experience is broken and engaging with these multiple systems chips away at their valuable time.  

According to Mark Mrozinski, Assistant Vice President of Workforce Development and Executive Dean at Harper College, traditional systems focus more on administration than student experience.   

Unfortunately, most online enrollment registration systems in higher ed grew up around the physical structure of the college or university, and were built with an administrative focus in mind rather than the needs of the student. You know what those older systems looked like: they had an admissions module, a curriculum module, a registration module, a finance module, a financial aid module,” he said in an interview with The EvoLLLution.  

The student navigated the online system just as they would if they walked on campus and you sent them from one office to another to another. There was no continuity of service. 

Traditional systems are a drain on your staff efficiency too. Like students, your staff have to log into multiple systems, every time they need to enter or retrieve student information. This process is manual and takes a lot of their bandwidth, something they could have easily saved and utilized elsewhere, especially on high-value work.  

In her article on The EvoLLLution, Vi Bergquist, Chief Information Officer at St. Cloud Technical and Community College, brought out the expectations of using next-gen systems; highlighting some aspects that traditional systems fail to address.  

“College and university faculty and staff from all areas of the campus need more information today than ever before to effectively manage their areas. At the same time, they need access to more end-user configurability to be able to support the institutional agility needed in today’s competitive higher education market,” she wrote 

The next-generation institutional management systems could lend a hand in decreasing the complexity of the systems, facilitating connections to other campus systems, and by providing almost instantaneous access to the data. 

Another problem with using traditional systems is that these are based on a semester system, which restricts your college’s ability to create and launch market-responsive programs. Community college students today are just in time learners; they don’t want to wait for the next semester session to roll around. They want to find all the program details, make the decision to enroll, and get on with the actual learning as quickly as possible. And from the perspective of employers, the faster individuals can upskill and reskill, the better-able they are to address skills gaps!   

Invest in a Tailor-Made System 

What you need is a purpose-built system that takes non-traditional student expectations into consideration and lets you provide them with the experience they have come to expect. This is where the Destiny One Student Lifecycle Management software platform makes all the difference.   

Destiny One provides your learners with a streamlined shopping experience that is built on best practices of the eCommerce industry. Its innovative Student Portal provides learners the self-service tools to engage with the college on their own terms. They can enroll in courses, request transcripts, and even review their historical financial information. They can also start and save applications (to submit when they’re ready), drop courses and track their progress towards certificates.  

The software platform isn’t tied to the semester system, allowing you to launch courses or programs at any time. It makes effective use of workflows to automate mundane and repeatable tasks, so that your staff are able to focus on delivering great student experiences.  

By bringing in a tailor-made system to meet the expectations of your non-traditional students, you can not only serve them better, but also improve your staff experience and operational effectiveness across the college. 

If you want to learn more about the benefits of investing in a purpose-built systemDestiny One software platformread our paper here.  

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