Students, parents, and funding agencies are demanding more accountability, prompting institutions need to showcase their ability to successfully help students progress from college recruitment to graduation and then to the workforce.

To some institutions, student success means graduating in four years with a degree and a job offer. For others, success means enabling the student to transfer to another college or imparting specific skills, competencies, and certifications that can be applied to a job.

Regardless of how student success is defined, it’s something every institution is paying attention to. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, only 37.5 percent of students attain bachelor’s degrees in four academic years from four-year public institutions. This extended active enrollment leads to additional costs for students and parents and delayed entry into the workforce.

Numerous factors affect how quickly and successfully students master four-year degrees. Poor academic planning, changing a major, or enrolling in courses that do not count toward a degree or offer applicable competencies can delay graduations. Also, transferring between institutions before earning a degree can increase time to graduation.

Outdated, mainframe systems still used by so many higher education institutions make it difficult to gather data and insights on student success in a timely and effective manner.

Institutions need to do more than reflect on student graduation data, often after the fact. They need to view student and program success in real time so they can intervene more quickly and provide assistance if needed. This is especially true given the pace of work that today’s students are accustomed to and their diverse makeup.

To do this, higher education institutions are increasingly adopting cloud-based systems for more immediate insights. Here are three areas that outline how higher ed institutions can leverage cloud technologies to drive student success:

1. Create an Engaging Student Experience

Using technology to understand student progress can help institutions identify individual needs while at the same time creating a personalized and integrated experience so students are engaged throughout their academic life.

New technology tools give students information that is important to their success in an accessible format, via mobile or desktop. For example, a cloud-based system can automatically alert students if a course combination they’re trying to take is too difficult to be completed in the same quarter or semester, or whether a course is supported by a financial aid package.

Academic advisers also play a large role in ensuring students succeed, so it’s important to arm them with real-time insights so they can ensure a positive student experience. For example, new technology tools are available to notify advisors if one of their students is behind on courses required to complete their degree. If there are patterns of students not succeeding in a certain degree or with a certain professor, schools may be able to determine where the issue lies and make proper adjustments before it’s too late.

(Next page: More ways of driving student success with the cloud)

2. Ease the Transition From Education to Occupation

Technology can help institutions bridge the gap between education and occupation by transforming college transcripts and providing students with better ways to present their achievements.

Traditionally, transcripts present a collection of grades and are not designed to show the full spectrum of who a student is. Transcripts don’t necessarily reflect skills students have mastered or experiences they’ve had, such as public speaking, winning art competitions, or completing internships and volunteer work. Using cloud applications, institutions can expand traditional transcripts to showcase experiences, achievements, competencies, badges, and credentials. As such, potential employers will have a better understanding of a person’s full background and past experiences to determine if they are a good fit for the organization.

3. Analyze Graduation Rates to Reflect on Student Success

Campus leaders are continuously faced with decisions surrounding program development, demographics, student support, and more. By using technology to pull metrics around the graduating class, higher education institutions can leverage data to improve decision making and institutional advancement. Data can also help officials understand the makeup of a graduating class, which is often needed to secure funding.

The embedded analytics in a cloud-based student information system enable organizations to analyze student patterns and tendencies and to spot trends from past academic periods. Institutions can use these insights to look ahead and determine the resources required to meet student need and demand. For example, if trends in graduation rates show that a shortage in availability of a calculus class kept 50 students from advancing, they can add courses. Ensuring future students are matched with the right courses at the right time will create a smooth pathway to graduation, employment, and other academic objectives.

About the Author:

Liz Dietz is vice president of student strategy and product management at Workday.

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