Giving students a connected and personalized academic experience goes a long way in boosting engagement and meeting their increasing expectations of higher education, according to a new study.

Colleges and universities are facing stiffer competition for students, while at the same time juggling tight budgets and struggling to improve engagement and retention. On top of those challenges, students are finding their voice and are demanding more of their chosen institutions–they want to know what their return on investment will be to ensure they’re securing the best future for their dollar.

Many higher-ed leaders look for one solution to address a variety of needs, in the hopes that one solution can streamline and improve processes.

Institutions using Salesforce.org’s Education Cloud leveraged the platform and experience management capabilities “to better attract, retain, and engage students, alumni, and donors through more data-driven decision making,” according to the study by Nucleus Research.

Those institutions saw increased productivity and student engagement, streamlined communications and processes, more data-driven decision making, and improved technology management.

The study surveyed 72 higher-ed decision makers on issues ranging from the challenges their institutions face, their current technology strategies, and how they would grade their institutions’ performance in areas such as student engagement, career placement, and retention.

Financial viability is the number one challenge, with one-third of institutions rating it as their top concern, followed by enrollment (a top challenge for one-quarter of respondents), and retention (identified as a top challenge by 15 percent of respondents).

A lack of cross-departmental coordination is one of the main contributors to both financial and student engagement challenges, according to the research team’s findings.

Multiple systems, applications, and practices hamper institutions’ ability to meet their students’ increasing expectations, and the lack of connectivity inhibits data-driven decision making.

Nucleus also asked the higher-ed leaders using Salesforce.org’s Education Cloud to discuss key benefits, along with how the platform enables better communication and outcomes.

Increased engagement: Surveyed leaders say they are able to support students and generate increased engagement through centralized student information and a responsive two-way communication infrastructure between student and institution. One respondent says that before using Education Cloud, only 11 percent of students knew they had a career adviser, but now 88 percent are aware. Student engagement increased by up to 40 percent in some cases.

More efficient communication: Departments communicate more effectively and data is more accessible. Automation tools help reach prospective students and alumni.

Increased user productivity: Task automation and less time spent searching for information leads to higher productivity–productivity increased by 12 to 18 percent in many cases.

The surveyed customers cite four main reasons for Education Cloud implementation:

1. Higher education-specific capabilities: Built-in customized capabilities support specific needs, which is why leaders at many of the surveyed institutions say they chose Education Cloud.

2. Data security: Handling highly-sensitive data ranging from financial information to medical records means institutions will need a tool that is protected and compliant with federal regulations.

3. Breadth of capabilities within the solution and the Salesforce system: Higher-ed customers using Education Cloud say they are comfortable making an investment because they have access to a wide range of capabilities and tools.

4. Investments in ongoing innovation: Surveyed leaders say they feel positive that functionality will continuously be assessed and updated.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura http://twitter.com/eSN_Laura


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