Dec 07 2017

Universities Revamp IT Structure to Support Student Success

Higher ed tech investments look to boost retention and support student services.

Higher education institutions aren’t shying away from revamping their IT and embracing new technology. A Unit4 survey found that 73 percent of universities have changed their organizational IT structure to support student success in the last two years, Campus Technology reports.

The survey of 150 higher ed IT decision-makers — CIOs, CTOs and directors of IT — also found that 81 percent of universities have invested in technology for the benefit of their students.

“Higher education institutions are investing more in enterprise technology than they have in the last two decades, but there’s a long way to go,” said Jami Morshed, the former global head of education at Unit4.

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To Boost Retention, Colleges Turn to Data and Automation

The Unit4 survey found that retention initiatives are the most important student support measure that leads to change for universities. One of the ways that universities have changed their tech strategies to boost retention is through the application of data analytics and automation.

While the survey indicated that only 37 percent of higher ed leaders are using data analytics as a part of student success initiatives, 60 percent are at least using automation to generate alerts for at-risk students.

At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, instructors use a combination of automatic alerts and data analytics software from Splunk to intervene before students fail a course, EdTech reports.

“Students really are generating the same data that can inform their own learning practices, if we can provide them with some sort of intervention based on it,” says Matthew Bernacki, an assistant professor of education psychology who has led the student success research at UNLV.

It’s likely that universities will continue to use technology to drive retention. A report from rpkGROUP found that colleges could boost profits by an average of $1 million annually if they are able to increase student retention.

Mobile Apps Drive Student Services

Better self-service is another aspect of student support that has brought about changes in higher ed IT. Unit4 found that 62 percent of survey respondents have overhauled their information portals, self-service options and apps.

Some universities have used mobile apps to connect their students to services across campus. At the University of California, Davis, the financial aid office has streamlined the process of filing for aid.

At Florida State University, an app makes it easier for staff to deliver safety alerts to students. The SeminoleSAFE app sends alerts on everything from weather hazards to an active shooter and lets students report emergency and nonemergency incidents in the app.

Apps also can help boost retention. Colleges such as Shawnee State University have embraced apps to support first-year students with everything from dining hall schedules to class organization.

As technology advances, it’s likely that universities will continue to shift IT structure and embrace new tools to better serve their biggest stakeholders: students.

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