COVID-19 accelerated and emphasized the need for change, but the movement towards a more holistic and humanizing understanding of student success has been in the works for a long time. By now, most higher education CIOs know that expectations for student success in their institutions are evolving. What was once the purview of faculty, advisors, and select frontline student support staff is now the responsibility of everyone on campus. New definitions encompass the entire student experience, including personal wellness and growth, financial security, social engagement, professional development, and academic performance. Everyone, including the CIO, is responsible for student success.
I’ve noticed that some higher ed CIOs have embraced their role in student success, while others struggle to understand it. It can be challenging to operationalize abstract constructs, particularly for campus IT leaders without direct access to student constituents and their experiences. Nevertheless, these CIOs need to try. Since so many student success initiatives involve data and technology, IT leaders tend to have a seat at the table. They need to use it to elevate student voice, educate colleagues on the principles of next-generation technologies, collaborate with functional leads to improve business processes and workflows, and help lead the significant cultural change that must occur at many US higher education institutions.
Earlier this summer, I wrote about how CIOs can help to humanize learning by prioritizing student access, privacy, respect, and empathy in their technology decisions. One approach to putting this framework into effect is for CIOs to partner with functional leads to find and reduce friction in interactions between students and the institution across campus and throughout the student lifecycle. Higher education institutions are complex systems with many moving parts. Helping students navigate the system through good design, workflows, and human navigators is essential to their success.
CIOs committed to student success are working to improve the following pain points in system navigation—either directly or in partnerships with other campus leaders. In doing so, they are preventing students from falling through the cracks and enabling them to focus on their coursework.
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