Is Aging Technology Holding Your Institution Back?
We’ve all done it—held on to a phone or other device just a little longer than the recommended shelf life. Most of the time, the effects of not staying up to date with the latest technology has to offer are inconvenient. Perhaps pages load a little slower, applications don’t work as well as they could, or you’re missing out on a few new features that could make your life easier.
It’s your prerogative to lose a little efficiency when it’s for your own personal information, but what if we aren’t talking about your aging phone? What if you work in higher ed and the technology we are considering is responsible for thousands of records containing student data and tracking such vital details as degree progress, financial aid eligibility and more? Then, getting a bit lax in the technology department is more than inconvenient. Maybe your students are missing out on institutional efficiencies that can get them registered for classes quicker and through the financial aid process with less roadblocks, and powerful tools that can get them more engaged with your campus and help them actualize success.
So, what’s holding you back? Let’s take a look at some of the common pushback from higher ed institutions who prefer to cling to the familiarity of aging technology rather than embrace a future of endless possibilities.
Our legacy system might be outdated, but it works fine. Why fix what isn’t broken?
This is the age-old question, isn’t it? Why bother to improve something if it works “fine” without having to do any extra work? To answer that, let’s consider some other questions first. Are you happy with your institution’s student enrollment, engagement, success and retention rates? Are an above-average percentage of your students graduating from your institution, getting great jobs and enthusiastically giving back to the institution through your alumni channels? If the answer is yes to all that, then you’re right. Your system is already working effectively and there’s nothing you need to change.
If, however, like the majority of higher ed institutions, you still want to improve some—or all—of these rates, then there is room for improvement. That improvement starts at the very basic level of knowing who your students are and how to help them. You do that with data—collecting, storing and sharing data, and then leveraging that data to make informed decisions that lead to operational efficiency and improvement campus-wide. If you can’t do all that with your current, outdated system, then there is something worth “fixing.”
Students, staff and faculty are used to the way we do things—change will create confusion.
Okay, yes. Change can be hard. No one’s denying that. And in higher ed, it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. But, in this case, it’s a good thing, because it gives you time to plan and prepare, which can go a long way when implementing a new campus-wide SIS, CRM or ERP solution.
Internal communication is key. You have to spend time getting your constituents excited about what’s to come. Explain why the change is positive and necessary. It will be a lot easier to get them actively engaged in the implementation if they’ve already bought in to the new system’s need on campus.
Training takes time, but it’s essential. Take advantage of any training services and implementation resources offered. Some companies even include support and training far beyond initial implementation. Rely on those existing resources as you are getting your team up and running and keep going until you have a team of advanced users in-house who can be called on to assist others. It will be worth your while in the long run.
Students will be the easy part. Don’t go overboard telling students about the changes – they just need a high-level look at what’s coming and an announcement when it arrives. If you did your homework and selected a program that is user-friendly and efficient, then most continuing students will see the positive changes for what they are, and the first-years won’t even know the difference! Don’t forget, this generation of students is comfortable using new technology and figuring out a few new features and capabilities.
Migrating to a cloud-based system is a big investment in time and resources.
From time-saving processing efficiencies to a reduction in disconnected siloed data, the time spent migrating to a new system can be more than made up in the long-term. Not to mention all the additional products and tools that can potentially connect to an updated system. If campus-wide improvements are not reason enough, there are all the positive outcomes that will be possible for your students when that newly connected data is put to good use with the right analytics tools.
Imagine a scenario where instead of discovering that Jane Doe is in academic jeopardy when it’s too late to make a meaningful difference, there’s an artificially intelligent predictive system in place that can alert you before the situation reaches critical mass. Or, even better, an aggregated data system has already told you enough about Jane’s specific background and needs, so that she never gets to a point where she has to struggle in the first place. In these data-supported hypotheticals, not only can you help ensure that Jane graduates on time, but you can go even further, adding more tools to ensure that she has all the skills necessary to be competitive in the job market after she graduates.
How can I get my campus partners and administrators to buy in?
The examples above are not fictional—these are scenarios happening on campuses today in institutions that have already embraced modern technology. If you want your institution to be one of them, the best way to do that is by focusing on the challenges your institution is currently facing and finding the available technology solutions that can help you overcome those challenges. It might help to read success stories from other institutions and learn from their positive results.
The next step is to think ahead and look beyond the challenges of today. With cloud-based technology that can connect data from across campus, institutional change is not limited to solving a single problem or updating processes for one department. This technology supports a new way of thinking that can benefit all departments—it puts students’ needs first. Through this student-centric filter, your entire institution has an opportunity to reimagine its contribution to student engagement, retention, and ultimately, success.
Rachel Dickerson is a communications manager at Anthology, providing strategic communications support and original content for Anthology. She previously worked as associate director of communications, enrollment services division at the University of Southern California, where she partnered with the offices of admissions, financial aid, registrar, orientation and institutional research in communications efforts to prospective and current students. Rachel also worked in the entertainment industry for many years providing marketing support and story development. Rachel holds a master’s degree in communication management from the University of Southern California and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies from Fordham University.