How to improve faculty and staff onboarding in higher ed

The hiring and onboarding processes can be extremely complex for colleges and universities. Higher-education institutions often bring in hundreds of new employees every year—from professors to student workers to administrators to dining service personnel. Hiring and onboarding these employees can involve dozens of hiring managers across various departments and multiple campuses. And the institutions must adhere to a number of strict state regulations for educational employers.

Not surprisingly, higher-ed HR teams can have a hard time tracking all the paperwork and tasks required to welcome new employees. This is a big problem, since flawed onboarding leads to poor employee retention, which negatively affects enrollment numbers.

If you’re struggling to manage the complexities of your institution’s onboarding process, there is hope! Creating an automated, digital process can significantly standardize and streamline higher-ed onboarding. Here’s how online onboarding forms and an automated workflow can put you on the path to success.

(Next page: How to streamline your hiring)


3 ways to use tech to award more scholarships (part 1)

In today’s world, finding students to award scholarships seems like it should be a very easy task. There are obviously a lot of students in need of financial assistance to help with their education. However, the reality is that finding students to award scholarships to is a huge challenge for colleges and universities across the entire globe. Due to lack of technology, it is difficult for colleges to find the right students to fill available scholarships on campus. This results in millions of scholarship dollars going unspent and strained donor relationships, all while enduring large administrative costs for ineffective processes.

While awarding scholarships may not be a part of your direct responsibilities, the results of an inefficient scholarship process can lead to consequences for everyone on campus. Technology can play a big role in helping your campus use all scholarship funds, support more students, and even improve relationships with key donors.

3 ways to use technology to maximize scholarship management efforts

1. Create a connected campus.

Traditionally, scholarships have been awarded by many varying offices on campus using disparate systems and different applications. Spreadsheets fly around via email leading to FERPA security concerns and outdated information. By bringing all awarding entities on campus into one technology, you can make it easier for administrators to make accurate awards faster, and, most importantly securely. Scholarship-management technology will allow you to access information on current scholarship criteria, ongoing application information, and accurate award availability—all in one place.

(Next page: More ways to fix your scholarship process.)


What role should faculty play in competency-based education (CBE)?

Imagine you’re a student.

You walk into a classroom on the first day of the semester. You approach your chosen desk and there sits a thick sealed envelope. Looking around, you see that each desk has its own thick sealed envelope.

Your professor approaches the podium and speaks.

“On your desks, in the envelope, you will find your syllabus along with all materials and assignments for the term. In it, you will even find your final exam. Since many of you are adult learners, we respect the fact that you are bringing a meaningful amount of life and workplace experience to this classroom. As such, you are free to begin these assignments whenever you’d like. We’ll be meeting for classroom learning and discussion each week so you can ask the big questions and collaborate with peers. You’ll also have access to videos and other media to help you learn more whenever you’d like. Some may finish all of your work within a few weeks; for others, it may take you the whole term. In this class, we prioritize your learning and how it’s measured more than time. Show what you know as soon as you know it.”

This is competency-based education (CBE). At least one form of it.

(Next page: How to offer a quality CBE program)


Why universities need to prioritize network management

Technological advances have created unsurpassed strains on the networks of higher education institutions, especially research facilities. Universities and colleges need to stay competitive by offering exceptional online services (digital textbooks, online courses, etc.) and providing an “always accessible” experience for students—especially those conducting in-depth research projects. This becomes more challenging in the wake of smartphones, tablets, and laptops that invade institutional networks on a daily basis. Throw in a combination of public and private networks and the situation gets even more complex.

Most organizations have limited budgets and long evaluation processes to upgrade even the smallest piece of equipment. Coupled with the increasing risks associated with storing sensitive data—research, financial, and personal information that is vulnerable to cybersecurity threats—universities are facing a serious crisis of confidence.

Poorly managed services lead to a loss of visibility for the entire infrastructure and can result in blocked communications or unavailable service. In addition, teachers, staff members, and students all demand extreme flexibility. If institutions can’t stay competitive, they lose potential students, endowment dollars or funding, and even their reputations. How can institutions keep their networks available 24/7 and secure enough to keep up with the times?

(Next page: How to keep the network secure)


How self-service options improve the student experience

With nearly all higher education students using electronic devices to manage their day-to-day life on campus, including uploading assignments to their ePortfolios and managing their course schedules in the institution’s portal via the student information system (SIS), the digital life has become the de facto replacement for paper and pen. Further, students’ expectations—particularly the Gen Z crowd—to manage all of their needs online has led senior institutional leaders to re-examine their processes, chiefly the back office or administrative tasks, enabling self-service capabilities and offering the next generation of paperless functionality.

Implementing new or expanding the use of existing technologies, such as enterprise content-management tools that provide access to e-forms and reduce paper processes, can yield increased efficiencies and productivity, and offer value that improves the overall student experience.

The student-facing side of paperless administration

As universities offer more and more varying degrees, access to financial-aid assistance, and continuing ed or life-skill courses, the sheer volume of paper and document management can be overwhelming. From admissions and financial-aid applications to change of major and transcript requests, students can access, complete, and collect required documents and signatures seamlessly. By offering online self-service pathways to bureaucratic chores, institutions can reduce lost or error-ridden paperwork, benefit from detailed audit trails, and eliminate manual-processing bottlenecks.

(Next page: The need to extend self-service functionalities)


Shocking: 82 percent of women lack bachelor’s degrees

A new survey reveals that 76 million of adult women in the U.S. do not have a bachelor’s degree, although many of those women had started their educational journey but were unable to graduate as a result of various life factors.

According to a new study just released by The American Women’s College at Bay Path University (TAWC), conducted by Research Now, 82 percent of adult women surveyed didn’t complete college because they were putting other priorities first–family, work, and financial obligations, just to name a few.

More than half of the women in the survey, which focused on 2,000 women ages 25-44, had attempted to but never finished their degree. Of this segment, 94 percent claimed they would feel better about themselves if they received their bachelor’s degree.

The majority of women surveyed shared that in the past, when attempting to balance education and other life commitments, their previous higher-education institutions did not provide the flexibility they needed to continue: lack of access to online learning, faculty support, and accessible financial assistance.

(Next page: Barriers preventing women from earning a bachelor’s degree)


4 actions to improve the future of higher education

Following four national priorities, including increasing completion rates and strengthening the student educational experience, could exponentially improve the future of higher education, according to a report based on two years of research.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, with funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York, convened the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education (CFUE), comprised of leaders from higher education, philanthropy, business, and government. The Commissioners were charged with assessing the state of undergraduate education and making recommendations for a future with better institutions and better-positioned graduates.

The report, The Future of Undergraduate Education, The Future of America, zeroes in on four national priorities that offer actionable solutions to improve undergraduate education and increase the number of students who complete their education without unmanageable debt, said said CFUE Co-chair Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO of TIAA.

“These very practical recommendations build on the strengths of our students and schools, and on a shared vision for the future of our country,” said Commissioner Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, part of The City University of New York (CUNY). “To support both economic opportunity and a strong democracy, we must invest in higher education as it’s an effective and proven way to boost both.”

(Next page: Four focus areas to improve higher education for students)


Why chatbots are not the future of student engagement

The higher ed space is evolving as more schools look to implement artificial intelligence (AI) in a variety of ways to stay innovative. From discussions of AI replacing educators to helping students enroll, universities are looking to use this technology to improve student engagement and retention both in the classroom and on campus. Many higher ed institutions use AI through chatbots, allowing an automated form of communication between staff and incoming or even current students. These chatbots help inform students by answering common questions about tasks like enrollment and financial aid. While there are positive returns on implementing this type of technology, chatbots are not the future of student engagement in higher ed because they lack several crucial aspects.

These aspects cause chatbots to fall behind when compared to one-on-one communication between students and higher ed advisors or educators. Below are two notable reasons why chatbots are not the future of student engagement, along with what a more engaging solution looks like.

(Next page: The pros and cons of chatbots)


3 ways higher ed can avoid social media devastation

A tenured sociology professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., landed in hot water because of his activity on Facebook. A college news site found the professor’s posts—one of which included an offensive hashtag and reference to last summer’s congressional shooting in Virginia—and published them online. Instantaneously, the story sparked national attention. Trinity had to close its doors at one point as the professor and campus received death threats.

In the age of social media, incidents like this occur frequently. The solution: Colleges and universities need to proactively prevent these types of social media issues from wreaking havoc on their reputations and day-to-day activities.

Most higher-education institutions have social media policies, but applying and communicating these policies often falls into a gray area. When colleges and universities leave social media dos and don’ts open for interpretation, they leave their institutions vulnerable to unwanted controversy.

(Next page: How to avoid social media mistakes)


Admissions officers spy decline in international applicants

More than half of admissions officers said they are concerned that a decline in international applications could become a nationwide trend, according to a Kaplan Test Prep survey.

Though 63 percent of the 392 admissions officers surveyed were alarmed at the implications the decline could have for higher ed as a whole, just 32 percent said they anticipate a decline in the number of international applicants to their own schools.

Additionally, more than one quarter of admissions officers (28 percent) say they are concerned about their school losing American and international students to colleges in Canada and elsewhere.

According to the Institute of International Education, a nonprofit that promotes international education and education access around the globe, just over 1 million international students were studying in the United States in the 2015-2016 academic year, a record high and seven percent increase over the previous year.

(Next page: The largest sources of international students)