“Now you can surface real-time data on dashboards,” says Shendy. “Your staff knows—and can quickly react to—what is occurring within your student population. You don’t have to stop the clock, pull a report, put it in Excel, and then marry and massage the data from disparate sources, which can take days and weeks. By then, it can be too late.”
By designing experiences based on a deeper understanding of students through data that transcends basic demographic segmentation, colleges and universities can better pinpoint what makes students tick—and head off the problems that can derail their education.
3. Update Systems to Better Support the Digital Experience
Academic leaders will be looking for ways to reassure prospects, applicants, and students that modern tools will support their educational journey. And students will be looking more closely at how easy or difficult it is to manage their education.
Unfortunately, many of the legacy ERP systems in place are decades older than the students they’re meant to serve. And if institutions supplement those legacy systems with multiple boutique solutions, it can create inconsistent experiences for learners to navigate and make it time-consuming and costly for colleges to manage.
“Many of the systems supporting the student experience were built for a much different time: the 1990s,” says Topping. “The iPhone wasn’t out yet, and the internet was just becoming a mainstream thing where people would put forms and documents online. The student systems were meant to house transactions. They weren’t thinking, ‘How will this impact the student, and what will make it easier for them to register, pay a bill, or check on financial aid?’”
In a recent Workday study “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation,” 68% of higher ed leaders said, “There is a growing gap between where our business is and where it needs to be in order to compete.” The study also discovered that higher education’s internal operations were the least digital of all industries—making it exceptionally challenging for leaders to gain real-time insights across their institutions.
Real-time data allows administrators to more accurately plan and better support their institution’s ability to offer the right courses at the right time. And having it all in one place, as it is in Workday, helps administrators more organically surface the data to address important needs, such as for housing, while making it easier for students to easily pay their bills or know where they’re assigned.
“We’ve heard that a lot from our customers, that access to information at all levels of their institution, especially if it lives in Workday, is just simpler,” says Topping. “It frees them up to do the jobs they really want to do. They can quickly assess what’s going on because we can create these personalized dashboard experiences. And it allows them to focus on what’s most important based on real-time insights.”
As campus leaders rethink their enrollment strategies and delivery models and look for ways to cut costs and increase revenue, they should create a more agile technology infrastructure for finance, human resources, and student administration functions.
Ideally, leaders need to be able to quickly realize value with any system. Unfortunately, the systems in place today aren’t built to accommodate changes without costly customizations, integrations, or bolted-on applications. Institutions have to maintain these customizations, which is every leader’s nightmare. Every three to four years, they have to basically go through a re-implementation to make the customizations remain.
“Digital support tools have to be flexible enough to adapt to each institution and each student cohort’s unique needs,” says Shendy. “When so much data is available in one system, student advisors can easily create personalized plans and reach out sooner to at-risk learners.”
With the modernization of technology available to support the student experience, institutions now have more options to assist students in new ways. A modern cloud-based system that eliminates friction and can service the software without disruption not only delivers on students’ digital expectations, but it can also help administrators understand the “why” behind student choices so they can continue to tailor offerings.
At Furman University, students were previously challenged with stressful academic planning and registration experiences. One example of this was the sheer amount of paper-based activities that were required to complete tasks. Workday helped Furman reduce these barriers for their learners. One student explained she had an emergency that required her to commute back home on the same day as her registration appointment. Luckily, she was able to pull over at a rest stop, log in to her mobile application, and complete her registration appointment with just a few clicks.
By shifting from clunky legacy systems to a cloud-native solution, administrators can ensure success beyond the student side of the equation.
4. Meet Students Everywhere With a Rich Experience
Whether learning is delivered in the classroom, online, or in a hybrid model, students of all backgrounds are hungry for more robust digital services. How hungry? A whopping 96% of college students say a high-quality digital experience is important to their campus satisfaction.
Higher ed institutions need to provide students with an experience that matches their consumer life. Information must be easily accessible from everywhere, including mobile, and timely suggestions should surface the most relevant tasks for a student to acknowledge or complete.
Modern higher ed platforms can make it easy for students to get the guidance they need when they need it. Smith College partnered with Workday to help streamline the college’s systems and get closer to a single source of truth. Workday’s emphasis on user experience helped support their efforts to use technology to improve campus culture and enhance collaboration among students, staff, professors, parents, and others who make up the Smith College community.
Students can also request and carry out meetings with advisors and professors, or even grant a parent or guardian access to review their schedule or make a payment on their account. And thanks to active engagement tools that generate real-time alerts and tasks, students can take proactive steps, make connections, and move along their educational journey without feeling overwhelmed or stuck.
At Stevens Institute of Technology, a centralized view of student information, student employment, student finance, advising, registration, and student records makes information easily accessible by both staff and students. One student describes her new experience as “integrated, user-friendly, accessible by both browser and mobile device, and really responsive to our student needs.”
The goal is to better engage and serve students in the moments that matter to ensure success throughout their education and beyond. A better experience will keep students informed and on task. Using a dynamically changing dashboard, insights are seamlessly presented to the people who interact most frequently with students. So institutions are able to identify students at risk of failing or withdrawing and can provide proactive rather than reactive assistance to keep them on the path to success.
“I think a lot of leaders would agree that sometimes at a university, who sees data and who actually gets reports is very selective,” says Topping. “In Workday, you could secure all information so a type of worker only sees certain rows of a report. Basically we’re able to democratize insights and information at all levels of the university. The quicker the insights, the quicker you can react.”
Redefining Student Success for a Brighter Future
Student success is at the core of every institution’s mission, whether that’s recruiting students, keeping them on the path to completion, or ensuring their well-being and sense of purpose and belonging. And for many institutions, student success doesn’t end at graduation. It can include finding the right job and—as not every outcome of college is economic—honing the skills and building the connections to thrive no matter where life takes them.
Higher education institutions can help all types of students by staying agile to keep up with change. By using technology to provide solutions tailored to each student’s needs, all learning institutions—from community colleges to public and private universities—can reduce barriers to their students’ success. This includes getting quicker insights into student outcomes to provide students with a clear and flexible pathway to graduation, updating outdated legacy systems with modern cloud-based technology, and designing rich experiences based on a deeper understanding of students through data.
By creating a more engaged educational experience, institutions can solidify their own futures while empowering graduates to tackle the world’s most complex problems.