As the importance of information technology in higher education expands, so too does the influence of IT leadership. IT teams are no longer only asked to implement and maintain systems, they are increasingly looked to and relied upon to help achieve the highest level institutional goals.
As evidenced by a recent article by Educause, ‘What Higher Education Stakeholders Say About the 2019 Top 10 IT Issues,’ student success (#2) and optimizing a student-centered institution (#4) are top priorities for today’s CIOs and CTOs.
System interoperability and data integration are a primary focus for higher ed IT departments. Many institutions have made great progress in integrating data and systems on the back-end, allowing administrators, advisors, faculty, and staff to access holistic data on the students they support. Clearly, aggregating and streamlining access to information is beneficial, and now the next step in furthering student success and optimizing a student-centered institution is to do the same on the front-end, for students themselves.
Prior to the push for interoperability and data integration, advisors and admins had difficulty locating and accessing the information they needed, and were often unable to see the larger picture due to disaggregation of data. These are the same challenges students currently face. Institutions work hard to provide excellent opportunities and resources for their students. But siloing, disaggregation, and a sometimes seemingly endless number of portals, websites, and applications make it difficult for students to find what they need, let alone to be aware of the full range of options and supports available to them. This has a direct negative impact on student success, and detracts from the student-centricity of the institution.
Institutions must address this issue as they strive to further student success; a recent report published by Tyton Partners found that institutions with integrated student supports see higher rates of retention and completion. While this integration should be made organizationally on campus, it must also occur digitally, as the vast majority of resources and opportunities -- even at schools with no online programs -- now live online, not to mention because of the digital inclination that characterizes today’s students.
uConnect has partnered with a wide variety of institutions to build integrated digital student success platforms, focused on student end-users. While university IT teams are looked to for consultation and expertise, the technical burden of implementation and maintenance is managed by uConnect.
uConnect’s solution helps institutions aggregate, integrate, curate, and contextualize student success resources and opportunities in a highly accessible platform that is user-friendly to all stakeholders. The customizable platform makes it easy for students to view and access the full range of opportunities available to them, and makes it simple for advisors, faculty, and mentors to be integrated into these conversations and direct students to the resources that will help them succeed. Simplifying access to and increasing the visibility of student success resources and data has, not surprisingly, a positive impact on student success.
Ithaca College is one of many institutions that uses uConnect’s deep technical integrations to integrate student success tools into their uConnect platform; in Ithaca’s case Graduway, Handshake, Engage by CampusLabs, and Banner. Previously disparate event calendars from across campus are also brought together on the platform. Single Sign On allows users to navigate to other systems from the platform without the need to input credentials. Additionally, Ithaca has implemented uConnect’s Outcome Data Visualization tool on their platform, which allows prospective and current students to filter and dynamically view student outcome data, inspiring and informing enrollment decisions and career pathway decisions. “With uConnect, we can easily and publicly present the career pathway data we collect, to show the impact of an Ithaca education, and to motivate students from enrollment through graduation and beyond,” says Dr. Yuko Mulugetta, Chief Analytics Officer at Ithaca. Ithaca is well on its way to creating a fully integrative digital student success experience.
Having effectively led the charge integrating data and information behind the scenes of institutional student success efforts, leaders in information technology now have the opportunity to do the same for students themselves, and make a foundational positive change in the student experience.