When was the last time you had to log into multiple systems to access the information you needed? Maybe it was when you had to reset a forgotten password, requiring you to log into your email before getting into the system you needed. Or maybe you needed to renew your car registration online, but that required navigating a DMV website *shudder*.
While these tasks are inconvenient, they’re not everyday occurrences. In our hyper-connected world, we’re used to information being easily accessible. (That’s why it’s so frustrating when you do run into one of these inconveniences.) Unfortunately, this same level of connectivity hasn’t fully proliferated higher education environments.
The Higher Ed Challenge
Higher education institutions often have a complex tech ecosystem. Between legacy software, homegrown solutions, systems from different vendors and slower refresh cycles, the technologies higher ed relies on don’t always connect and communicate. The practical result is that 26% of students report having to sign into two or more different platforms to find answers and access what they need to be successful every day, according to Salesforce’s 2021 Connected Student Report.
This clearly isn’t the ideal student experience.
Today’s students — more than any other generation — are used to having the information they need in the literal palm of their hand. They’ve grown up in a highly-connected, always-on world and are used to the convenience it offers. They want that same ease-of-access from their higher ed institutions. Nearly 85% of students want more centralized learning resources, according to Top Hat. (To hammer home how important centralized resources are for students, only 57% said they don’t want to buy expensive textbooks.)
Whether it’s accessing course information, checking on assignments, connecting with professors or looking up school services, students want easy access to all this information in one place. EDUCAUSE’s Center for Analysis and Research found that 74% of students would find self-service tools for conducting student-related business useful.
Luckily, many institutions are listening. A Collegis Education study found that 78% of institutions say their primary objective for digital transformation is improving the student experience. Specifically, student self-service tools and technologies are one of the most common areas of investment, and 43% of surveyed schools plan to invest in student self-service tools and technologies within the next two years.
The key is to invest in solutions that help pull vital data from all systems into one place. Creating a self service portal that doesn’t connect to all important systems isn’t going to help because some key information will still be missing. Schools need to focus on providing students with a centralized engagement hub that easily connects them to anything they might need:
- Student Information System
- Learning Management System
- School directories
- Informational webpages
- News feeds
- Anything else your students use on a daily, weekly, monthly or semester basis
By putting key information from all of these systems into a single view and giving students the ability to easily access the independent systems from within the same portal, institutions can create a centralized hub for student engagement. This requires a vendor agnostic solution that can easily integrate with any data-based system (and one that can support custom integrations if you currently use a lot of in-house solutions or have unique use cases).
Creating a centralized access point may not seem that important on the surface, but it’s something that today’s students are demanding — and many schools are already making moves to provide. You wouldn’t want to waste time searching for the information and resources you need or jumping from one program to another just to get work done, so why subject students to that experience? Centralizing systems into a single portal is a way to meet student expectations and set them up for success.