The enrolment imperative

How universities are employing technology to improve the student experience – from enrolment onward

Student experience improvements that align with real-world requirements

In November 2019, TechnologyOne hosted its inaugural Global Mobility Program, providing our UK customers with an opportunity to visit top Australian tertiary institutions to see how they are transforming their businesses to improve the student experience. As part of this program, TechnologyOne hosted a roundtable with leading universities across Australia and the UK, where participants discussed the ways in which technology can deliver student experience improvements that align with real-world requirements.

This article was first drafted in 2019, pre what we know in 2020 as the COVID-19 Pandemic

Student experiences

The student experience is front of mind for every higher education institution, as university and colleges strive to attract, support and retain students. Increasingly, the challenge is to understand the broader student lifestyle – to look beyond the campus and appreciate how university and studying fits within the complicated and busy lives of today’s digital learners.

Armed with that understanding, higher education institutions are not only better placed to provide the services and support necessary to create an environment for success, but also to ensure they are delivered via a mechanism that meets with student expectations.

Technology plays a vital role

This shift highlights the change in philosophy that has resulted from digital transformation. As with many industry sectors, the traditional inside-out view once prevalent in higher education has been turned on its head – with a student-centric outlook now commanding alternate approaches designed to better deliver on student success.

Our roundtable participants unanimously agreed that technology plays a vital role in higher education, from a smooth admissions and on boarding process through to creating exposure for opportunities that will expand and enhance the learning experience and better prepare students for a working life.

As the first generation of learners raised entirely in a digital world, today’s students expect to connect and interact seamlessly online – an experience that few higher education institutions have traditionally been able to foster. Among the discussion contributors, some were able to deliver insight through their first-hand experiences with technology use in new or nascent university-developed projects designed to improve traditionally difficult student interactions.

“The enrolment process can be complex and confusing, and it is not uncommon for students to require access to and instruction from multiple information points.”

Enrolment efficiencies

Melbourne’s Swinburne University has recently embarked on a program intended to improve the onboarding experience for students. The enrolment process can be complex and confusing, and it is not uncommon for students to require access to and instruction from multiple information points – including online, by phone and in person1 – in order to effectively enrol and produce a timetable that avoids subject clashes. As a first interaction, this introduction to university life can be unnecessarily cumbersome and a daunting experience. In recognition of the issue, Swinburne decided to invest in onboarding improvements that remove the need for avoidable additional work by students.

When conducting research, Swinburne determined that a ‘good’ enrolment – ie. completion without issues or the need for additional information or input from university admin staff – involved sixteen distinct steps. By the university’s own admission, the majority of enrolments do not fall into the ‘good’ category.

Swinburne realised that it already had the data on hand required to facilitate simplification of the process, making it possible to offer a clash-free, on-plan timetable that would allow students to progress through their course without deviation and ensure that all course requirements were accounted for and completed.

To do this, the university is working to implement the use of nudge technology to capture all the inputs that a student needs to correctly complete their enrolment. Initially faced with an overwhelming array of subjects on offer, a student could be ‘nudged’ through the process as their selections are made, with subject choices thinning out as they proceed. Once major, minor and core units are identified many of the remaining options are prescribed, meaning that the technology performs the hard work for the student and removes the burden of confusion. The upshot is the presentation of a clash-free timetable ready for study.

1 subject to state social distancing at the time of publication

X, Y and beyond

The Swinburne project addresses a demand we know exists – for members of Gen Y, Gen Z and the upcoming Gen Alpha, anything less than a seamless digital experience is unacceptable. In the age of instant access to information and entertainment, today’s student expects their higher education experience to align – from enrolment onward. For universities hoping to attract and retain and to extend the student lifespan, investment in technologies that facilitate those expectations is imperative.

With the ongoing impact of COVID-19, it is now more vital than ever, as institutions are pushed to rapidly shift to online learning and virtual campus models. While this change has been difficult for some institutions, those that proactively invested in technology to enhance the student experience have been best placed to adapt to the new landscape and continue to deliver to the expectations of their students.

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