Higher education is not known for its ability to adapt quickly to change. In fact, many of the strongest criticisms of higher education today reference an outdated model, lack of flexibility and refusal to adapt to the fast paced, technologically savvy student of today. Higher education must continue to acclimate to the rapid technology innovations that can enhance recruitment and adjust to today’s student and his/her use of technology.
Technology is never a substitute for strategy, relationships and the hard work of recruiting mission-fit students. In fact, it is what enables hard work, strategy and relationships to be most effective in meeting enrollment goals. As technology changes with amplified speed, the challenge to leverage that technology continues to increase, as well. The reality is that enrollment leaders must understand the purpose of technology before they can effectively leverage it. While this seems so basic, too many institutions are reaching for the next tactical “silver bullet” in the form of various technology innovations. Technology needs to be at the foundational core of all systems and processes, but when it is done in an exceptional manner, it should be virtually invisible.
In discerning how to leverage technology, we often tend to think bigger and faster. That is dangerous for many colleges and universities, where their strength lies in filling a particular niche within the larger landscape of higher education. Do you clearly know what your mission-fit student looks like, along with your audience and markets? Only then are you able to begin to identify how to utilize technology to strengthen your solutions.
If you are using the same methods of communication with your various audiences, for example, you are likely missing the mark. Even as we leverage technology, we would be wise to understand differences that are coming quickly with Generation Z replacing Generation Y from a technology standpoint. While we know that Generation Y had a short attention span, Generation Z has an attention span of 8 seconds. Generation Y initiated text messages as a norm, and Generation Z prefers communicating through images, icons and symbols. Gen Z-ers multitask across at least five screens daily and spend 41 percent of their time outside of school with computers or mobile devices, compared to 22 percent 10 years ago. If we start our use of technology with the end-user (student) in mind, might we better be able to utilize technology that makes for a more satisfied customer (student)?
Additionally, the selection of a strategic technology partner to enable the mission of an institution needs to be intentional and all-encompassing. It is imperative that institutions answer their “why,” which will then drive their decision-making and use of technology. To achieve true ongoing operational efficiency, every institution must determine the processes that are truly unique to the institution, while leveraging the best practices of higher education that are configurable within the technology platform.
For example, a CRM system to strengthen communication plans and streamline data enhances processes and frees time for the more personal touches that often are vital to prospective students’ final decision. With that said, relying solely on technology leads to transactional relationships with a generation that’s looking to engage in a transformational journey as it invests in a college.
One groundbreaking example of this is technology’s ability to view current job market data as it relates to the programs, degrees and skills that it provides to students. Integrating job market analytics can help students with market-driven decisions about their career and education paths. The data can be localized to show where the jobs are by market, allowing institutions to make decisions about curriculum offerings based on needs. This leveraging of technology clearly adds value for the student, and it is something that was probably unthinkable a decade ago. Connecting this kind of information into the recruiting process is vital to an audience who is questioning the VALUE of a college degree.
Our students are the customers, and we owe it to them to provide the best services to ensure their future success. Our use of technology in today’s world likely reflects our commitment to their success and ultimately is a huge factor in our institution’s success.