STATS: Online Student Services Come of Age

From the Syllabus2005 Executive Summit Survey: Institutions leverage online student services to foster community and value the customer.

ONE OF THE MAJOR THEMES explored this past summer at the Syllabus2005 Executive Summit (www.campus- technology.com/summer2005) was “Students as Customers: Online Student Services.” The report compiled for Executive Summit participants by Eduventures Inc. (www.eduventures.com) includes the results of a survey of available research, along with selected expert and participant commentary. The following is derived from that report.

Key Drivers of Online Student Services

Driving institutional interest in providing new services is the increasing sensitivity to student expectations of a lifestyle comparable to the ones they are familiar with as digital consumers. Simply put, students’ experiences with the likes of Amazon.com and iTunes have conditioned them to expect the same level of service from their institutions.

Strategic institutional goals. While online student services take many forms and provide access to several types of services (e.g., registration, eCommerce, and financial aid), student retention and student services are identified as two of the truly high-impact areas for technology inside post-secondary institutions. Those areas are undergoing fundamental changes as their operations and systems shift from traditional, paper-based ones, to 24/7/365 availability. This shift is often tightly linked to an institution’s strategic academic and economic objectives; the goals are to provide value to students while also providing institutions with the means to better shape admissions-yield demographics and realize staff-productivity gains.

CRM and relationship management. A cornerstone of many institutions’ new approaches to customer service: maximizing the use of the latest customer/constituent relationship management (CRM) technologies. Similar to CRM practices in the commercial and corporate world, the move to online student CRM addresses the economics that drive institutions, by quickly leveraging the student relationship into an institutional commitment.

Student-Centered Recruitment/Admissions: Data Points

Enrollment management/recruitment systems represent the vanguard of a shift toward relationship-based systems. “Increasing enrollment” ranked within the top 10 institutional strategic objectives in a 2004 Eduventures survey, Higher Education Survey on Leadership, Innovation, and Technology, with 64 percent of senior administrators citing technology as contributing to the attainment of these objectives. From a student lifecycle point of view, technology is increasingly being used to facilitate relationship management. Web sites are a first point of contact for many prospective students, as institutions move from using the Internet as a supplemental means of offering institutional information, to the primary mode. A March 2005 survey of 661 higher ed institutions by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC State of College Admission; www.nacac.com) found that 36 percent of students inquiring about application to the colleges and universities surveyed use the Web or e-mail.

Applications only, or end-to-end? The admissions process is conducted online to varying degrees across institutions, while the general trend is toward end-to-end online capability. The December 2004 Campus Computing Project (below) shows high numbers of admissions-related resources offered on college and university Web sites. While there is little doubt that providing online access to admissions and other services provides compelling value for institutions in terms of staff productivity and competing for new students, students’ technology expectations are paramount when it comes to delivering student services.

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