Digital Engagement — How Technology Enhances the Student Experience

Digital engagement offers up a variety ways to support student success in higher education

It’s amazing what we can do with a series of ones and zeroes. Modern technologies consisting of databases connected to interfaces that deliver functionalities that improve our day to day lives. The creative and imaginative ways in which we make meaning, offer services, engage, and even make predictions for future success are all predicated on a variety of technology-based solutions. In higher education, our use of technology has always run in step with the world around us. From the days of old when punch cards held reams of research to the present day when information is stored in data-rich, mobile accessible clouds, the student experience is directly connected to an institution’s technology.

Social Media

Social media are perhaps the easiest technologies to mention when we one is thinking about the student experience. Making connections, building community, improving digital literacy, and enhancing employability are just a few of the ways in which social media contribute to a more well-rounded student experience.

Student Information Systems and Predictive Analytics

However, it’s important to note that the student experience is impacted by institutional technologies in myriad ways that extend beyond our favorite social networks.

While they are not always amazingly designed, student information systems provide access points for services that benefit everyone within an institution. Of direct benefit to students are systems that aid with admissions applications, financial aid transactions, academic advising appointments, course progression/planning/scheduling, career development, etc. In other words, these technologies help with conducting the day to day experience of being a member of a campus.

Using the data gathered from student information systems as well as learning management systems (also known as Virtual Learning Environments), campus leaders can create large sets of data that can be analyzed via a process known as predictive analytics. The idea being that student progress can be assessed in real time so that success-based initiatives can be activated to support and retain students who are having academic difficulties. Sometimes the notion that data is being collected and analyzed in this manner can evoke thoughts of 1984 and “Big Brother.” Thankfully, the student experience is one of the main drivers at play for all higher education institutions. In a recent article in Times Higher Ed, it was shared that 77% of students at US universities “think that universities should use more of their personal information to enhance their college experience.” Fortunately for today’s student, technology allows for personalized services at scale based on individual need and circumstance.

Plus, one of the side benefits of a robust student information/services system is that students are learning how to navigate complex, data-rich, mobile-ready digital environments. It’s essentially a built-in experiential digital literacy program.

Mobile Messaging via Bots

Predictive analytics are definitely on the cutting edge of technologies that are being used to help support and enrich the experience of students. However, there has been a resurgence of a more familiar technology that’s been around for quite some time.

Mobile apps provide about as many services and functionalities as you can dream up, but it’s the ubiquitous text message that’s been seeing increased use on campus. Seen as being one of the last “uncluttered spaces” for campus communication, text messages (via SMS) offer up several innovative ways to assist students with tasks like admissions questions, FERPA applications, mentoring, orientation/induction registration, and academic advisor introductions. Using bots and machine-based learning, a lot can be done with a simple text message.

Being Human

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that almost all of the ever-evolving and sophisticated technologies that are implemented at universities in order to enhance the student experience lead to improved human interactions.

Social media interactions, intuitive text messaging systems, and student information systems all provide a variety of touchpoints/functions to assist students throughout their university experience.

Cross-posted at EricStoller.com

This post was sponsored by SAP as part of a higher education influencers collaboration.