Student System Features Higher Ed CIOs Should Be Considering

Rebekah Russell |

Former Analyst

Top of Mind: Student System Features Higher Ed CIOs Should Be Considering
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

As campuses prepare to welcome students back for the fall 2021 term, meeting student needs is more important than ever. COVID-19 highlighted the need for a strong student system with robust features to support all facets of student life, not just record keeping. Tambellini Analyst Dr. Laura Gogia recently shared some student success insights that campus leaders and CIOs should consider before selecting and implementing technology. As an institution defines and matures its holistic student approach, CIOs should be prepared to use current technology or implement new solutions to support that definition. This will undoubtedly vary by institution; however, there are some common expectations and universal features to consider.

Start with the Student in Mind

Student systems should be selected and implemented with the students top of mind. In today’s mobile environment, students expect to access core functionality from any device, from any location, at any time. As your campus evaluates solutions to meet your student success goals, mobile-ready is essential. Additionally, students expect to access multiple functions in one place. The concept of a one-stop-shop is a critical piece in a seamless student experience. Institutions should not expect students to download multiple apps, visit several web pages, or log into numerous portals to meet their needs.

It is also vital that student solutions maintain the highest levels of accessibility. Platforms that are committed to achieving WCAG 2.0 should be prioritized. CIOs should also consider students who may not bring their technology to campus. Student systems should be accessible whether your student is on campus, off campus, sitting in an institution computer lab, or on a personal device.

A Path to Integrated Services

As your campus begins a student success journey, CIOs will need every tool in the toolbox to break down functional silos. Students and their families increasingly expect seamless services. If they speak to financial aid, then they expect admissions to know about the call. When students need to make changes to their dining allotment, they expect to do so in the same place they see their course schedule.

To ensure a top-tier, seamless student experience, CIOs should expect to integrate several core student services. COVID-19 highlighted gaps in student support systems, especially if a student cannot physically visit a location. CIOs must explore using a core portal or application where students can access support from several functional areas in one place—at a minimum, admissions and financial aid, advising and course planning, health and wellness, technical support, campus engagement, and career preparation.

Build a Solid Foundation

As the adage goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and neither will your portfolio of student success solutions. It will take time to align resources, platforms, strategies, and people to achieve your institution’s goals. In the initial phases of this journey, CIOs should consider using or implementing the following functions first.

  • Unified Calendaring. Allowing students to make all necessary appointments in one place is a great first project. Unified calendaring creates a seamless way for students to engage with faculty and administrative staff, regardless of their needs. Consider bringing together advisor scheduling, faculty office hours, functional business appointments (such as financial aid counseling), and even health services appointments into this single solution. 
  • Chatbots. AI-driven chatbots can allow your institution to support students 24/7. At many institutions, individual departments, such as admissions, have started using chatbots. However, covering more functional areas in chat increases the amount of information available to your students around the clock. This can also decrease the number of first-level calls your campus receives. Consider adding financial aid, technical support, student activities, or common registration questions to your chatbot knowledge base for full impact.
  • Parent Portal. For many families, parent involvement is core to the student experience. It is essential that campuses address this need while also staying aware of student privacy needs. A parent portal allows your institution to provide access to appropriate data while maintaining FERPA compliance.

Growing into the Future

Once your institution is ready for more mature functionality, these functions are vital building blocks to support the next level of student support initiatives.

  • Career Preparation. Student success not only encompasses timely degree completion and campus engagement; it also includes life after graduation. Providing a pathway to internships, study abroad experiences, and career counseling is necessary to help students achieve post-graduation goals. Consider integrations or platforms that allow students to search for growth opportunities outside the classroom and that include the ability to schedule career counseling sessions in your unified calendaring solution.
  • Advanced Reporting and Analytics. As your institution’s student success journey matures, the need for robust data analytics will also grow. Institutions should consider solutions that offer early alerts and the ability for student records to be seen holistically by faculty, support staff, advisors, and counselors. As you evaluate an analytics platform, don’t be afraid to ask questions to ensure that the data offered is what you need to support your institution’s goals.

Today’s CIOs have an incredibly unique opportunity to become campus leaders in crucial student success initiatives. While student success is not a singular IT project, CIOs can position themselves to be strong supporters and thought leaders as your institution moves forward. Thoughtful consideration and weighing of potential technology solutions is simply one part of the puzzle.

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Rebekah Russell |
Former Analyst
As a former analyst, Rebekah Russell researched and published in the student and CRM technology space, concentrating on platforms that focus on recruitment and admissions, student retention and engagement, advising, financial aid, and student management. Coming to Tambellini from Western Kentucky University, she has served in various roles at the university, including student engagement and retention, parent and alumni programming, information technology administration, and most recently, as AVP for budget, financial planning, and analytics.

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