The COVID-19 pandemic has caused IT leaders in higher education to rethink their interactions and expectations with their students as they strive to better the student experience. Many are asking their teams, “Do you want to be the university of repetitious sign-ins, duplicate questions, and old technology–or do you want to be modern, seamless, and digitally integrated?”
While academic institutions worked quickly during the pandemic to shift to remote learning and provide a seamless digital experience, there are still many opportunities for further digital transformation that can deliver benefits to students and staff alike. Through IT modernization and the adoption of digital platforms, academic institutions can not only deliver the digital experiences students desire, but also improve equity and accessibility in higher education over the long term.
An example is the traditional college admissions process–often disjointed and requiring prospective students to submit multiple forms and visit numerous offices across campus. Even when digital application processes are available, prospective students often still need to navigate multiple, outdated systems that do not communicate with each other seamlessly. As a result, students experience slow processing times, crashing systems and a fragmented application experience.
Today, cloud-based application integration platforms are enabling forward-thinking academic institutions to digitally transform, setting the stage for a new student experience. With a modern integration strategy for systems, applications, and data, academic institutions can streamline the admission process, improve the student experience, and rethink the technology powering higher education.
Reimagining college evaluation and admissions
Rather than the traditional, disjointed college admissions process, academic institutions today can leverage easy-to-use, low-code integration technologies to create a centralized and unified digital platform that delivers a better experience from the beginning.
Before a student even sets foot on campus, an integrated digital application experience can attract bright new minds by simplifying the admissions process through unified branding and a simple, easy-to-use UX. With a unified, digital platform and integrated data workflows on the backend, as prospective students learn about the school, they can more easily access different components of the application and admissions process because all elements are connected — from the first campus visit to acceptance. Students need only fill out their information once, delivering a better admissions experience and helping them feel recognized by the school. This data sync can follow accepted students through the rest of their campus experiences. This is a powerful introduction to what the campus experience will be and, in turn, establishes a bond between the prospective student and the university brand.
More streamlined experiences can also increase equity by reducing or eliminating hurdles that have traditionally been barriers to application. For example, modern, integrated, application and admission platforms can be fully utilized via mobile devices. This means students don’t need access to a laptop or visit the campus in person for hours a day to apply to the colleges of their dreams.
Reimagining a seamless student experience
This seamless student experience doesn’t have to stop after acceptance. Academic institutions require students to complete tasks such as managing courses, selecting majors, paying bills, and purchasing parking permits–with application integration, students can accomplish all this from the same unified platform. Tasks that previously required students’ physical presence on campus can now be completed virtually through a centralized portal.
Moreover, students today face additional daily tasks due to the pandemic. Traditional student tasks like registration, assignments, and financial aid may now include additional steps like symptom checkers, contact tracing, proof of vaccination, and social distancing schedules. Higher education institutions should integrate these steps and their accompanying documentation in the portal to minimize student impacts and streamline backend workflows.
Students should be able to access everything on one platform with a single login–eliminating the frustration of lost passwords for numerous applications, and allowing them to navigate their environment smoothly, no matter what electronic device they are using. This approach helps students stay organized and allows universities to communicate with the entirety of their student body through the portal. It also minimizes the chance of confusion or the need to repeat messages, and maximizes students’ chances for success.
Improving experiences with technology
The transition to modernized technology can be a challenge for academic institutions that still require access to legacy applications. If not properly managed, crashing systems and slow processing quickly create frustration for prospective and current students, as well as administrators.
An integration platform as a service (iPaaS)-based approach enables access to modern, cloud-based applications while seamlessly connecting to legacy technologies universities depend on. iPaaS makes it easy to ensure reliable, real-time data exchange between all applications and databases so IT leaders can manage the sharing of information between software systems, optimize resources, and rationalize and connect complete application portfolios.
With a low/no code approach that does not require expert coding and development skills, iPaaS solutions also empower non-technical team members to advance digital transformation. Due to these platforms’ ease of use, integrations can take as little as three days versus weeks or months. Institutions like Cornell University have thrived on this approach after initially facing the daunting challenges of transitioning to a modern, cloud-first strategy. An iPaaS-based approach allowed the institution to cut months out of the integration of its 37 applications and build a connected campus in a quarter of the time needed with legacy middleware.
Universities are very distributed. Administration, departments, labs, and centers all exist as autonomous organizations within the university umbrella. This results in a fragmented and disconnected university-wide application and services portfolio which prevents forward-thinking higher education systems from achieving their long-term goals and establishing a positive reputation with students. When technology systems don’t seamlessly connect, it’s not merely a technology problem – it can have a significant, negative impact on student satisfaction and enrollment.
An integrated and unified, digital experience empowers students to take ownership of their success and eliminates frustrations with the administration aspects of campus life. Moving forward, colleges and universities can look to leaders in their space to implement best-in-class integration and automation platforms to help improve the complete student experience from the first campus visit until they throw their graduation cap.
- How higher ed can set students up for successful internships - September 27, 2023
- How to prioritize data protection this school year - September 26, 2023
- Creating a positive campus for the new academic year - September 25, 2023