Higher education: It’s all about the user experience

EDUCAUSE 2014 attendees say higher-ed’s new model all about the “customer”

user-experience-students“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but higher education is in the user experience industry right now,” said one big-name vendor during EDUCAUSE’s annual conference in Orlando. “It’s the first time anyone’s ever really seen this level of dedication to the ‘customer,’ as they like to call it.”

It was only in hearing this statement out loud that I realized this is what’s different about the conference sessions this year: everyone’s talking about what’s best for their customers.

From discussing enhancements in campus wireless for mobile deployment to communication tools across departments, every panelist, vendor, and CIO seems to understand that the key not only to enrollment, but to retention, is in providing the best experience to its users—students.

Even Clayton Christensen, the Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, and architect of the Disruptive Innovation Theory, explained in the Orlando conference’s opening keynote that colleges and universities can survive in the future by offering technology solutions that are user-driven.

“The future is moving to modularity of open architecture,” he said, “since open architecture is driving the consumer market…just look at Android: Nokia and RIM first took the market, then got displaced with Apple and its modular architecture, which is now getting overtaken by Android and its open modularity. And why? Because the focus is not on the solution, but on the evolving needs of the user.”

(Next page: User experience from students to faculty)