Oct 31 2006

From Admission to Graduation, Students Expect the Latest Technology

Today's students–and parents–expect institutions to provide the latest technologies and services.

Technology has become a driving force for admissions and retention. From having high-speed wireless access to the latest classroom AV/IT technologies, students–and parents–more often than not are basing college selection on the technological amenities that colleges and universities provide. At the minimum, they are eliminating institutions that do not meet their high-tech standards.

Students live in a wireless world, and they expect their campus to be untethered. They demand high-speed Internet access points everywhere on campus. They expect the latest audiovisual technologies in the classrooms. They expect distance learning courses for the flexibility they offer. And they expect plasma screens and other “cool” technologies because they and future generations of students are the real power users of technology.

As you know too well, they demand network access any time and any place because their computer is an extension of themselves. It is their study and research tool, entertainment system and communication device because e-mail and instant messaging are cheaper than a phone call.

I recall reading a report that said roughly 25 percent of students make their college selections based on the school's Web site–second only to a campus visit. And yet so many institutions still provide only bare-bones Web sites that are hard to navigate, unattractive and dull.

Is that the first impression you want prospective students and parents to come away with? Of course not. In fact, many schools–realizing that technology is a marketing driver–are touting their technological sophistication on their Web sites to prospective students and parents.

Provide Added Value

The term “value” is used more and more these days by parents and students when it comes to selecting a college or university. Parents, anxious over the high cost of education, are steering their children to look at schools that offer the best perceived value for their education dollar.

Oftentimes, a school that offers advanced technology services and amenities scores big because parents see that as a value-add for their tuition payment.

Moreover, it isn't just technology that lures students and parents nowadays. It's having a first-rate fitness facility and dorms that don't resemble army boot-camp barracks. It's having food service that offers a variety of restaurants, cafes and gourmet takeout that cater to the discriminating palates of a generation that prefers sushi and stir-fry over sloppy joes and chicken fingers.

Prove ROI

Obviously there are only so many dollars to go around for upgrading and enhancing your campus infrastructure and for providing cutting-edge technologies and services. But that should not deter IT administrators from bringing to the table initiatives that can enhance admissions and retention, drive revenue, cut costs, and improve service and productivity.

Every stakeholder throughout your institution needs IT now more than ever to accomplish both the school's strategic mission and its departmental and administrative goals.

If the ROI can be proved, the money finds its way to the project. The business case, from the students' and parents' point of view, has already been made: Technology matters.

Tom Halligan is editorial director of EdTech.