When college students head back to school this fall, most will bring along a laptop to take notes in class, a desktop computer to do homework in their dorm rooms, a smartphone to stay in constant communication, a TV that connects to the internet, and a couple of gaming devices just for fun. Students aren’t just digitally savvy—they’ve come to expect a style of communication and services reflected by their digital experiences. They want a more personal relationship with their colleges, and they expect administrative transactions to be seamless and intuitive.
Those observations come courtesy of Jason Wenrick, the CIO of Sonoma State University in Northern California, who is charged with running a seamless computing environment on campus for staff, students, and the 30,000 or so devices they will bring with them to campus.
Wenrick’s focus on providing technology that helps students succeed informs the advice he gives as vice president of Oracle’s Higher Education User Group. The group’s members represent 900 colleges and universities around the world and give Oracle feedback about what today’s students want and need to be successful during their college years.
User group members have been actively engaged in the development of Oracle’s new cloud-based, next-generation student information system, Oracle Student Cloud. And students themselves gave feedback directly to design team members who traveled to campuses for in-person meetings and interviewed other students via Skype.
The students advised Oracle to build one student information system to replace the several different systems they now must use to register for a parking pass, say, or buy a meal card. And they lobbied for an interface that looks the same and is easy to use from device to device and that works well on all forms of social media, Wenrick says.
Effectively Recruiting Qualified Students
Now college admissions officers are using Oracle Student Cloud to identify prospective students who have expressed an interest in attending through their social media posts, combining that information with university records of student phone inquiries, visits to campus, and even attendance at events such as a fifth-grade band camp years earlier. The schools then reach out to prospective students with very specific, personalized pitches.
“Prospective students get marketing pitches from many different colleges,” says Steve Hahn, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Wisconsin, an early adopter of Oracle Student Cloud. “They don’t want the one-size-fits-all, mass-marketed, broadside communications that are sent to everybody. They want us to be aware of their interest in a certain field, and they want us to send them information based on their interests.”
Supporting Students From Admission To Alumni Status
Once students are accepted, campus administrators use Oracle Student Cloud to support and engage students throughout the student lifecycle, from the time they first become interested in attending through graduation and the search for a job, says Vivian Wong, the Oracle group vice president who oversees development of higher education products. And students use the platform to get quick answers to their questions about life on campus, course requirements, and the quickest route to graduation.
As a result of student feedback, Oracle Student Cloud can engage with students via alerts, chats, tweets, or texts and with their parents via old-fashioned emails. If students’ grades start to slip, the system flags them for personal attention from the school’s counseling staff and sends information about how to meet with an advisor or tutor. The system can detect if students are following up and adjust further outreach accordingly. “It’s all about trying to find out which particular issue is troubling a student or keeping a student from being successful and then approaching that student with the solution,” Wong says.
After the students graduate, the system helps the institution nurture satisfied graduates who might want to become alumni boosters and financial contributors.
Oracle Student Cloud offers students the experience they have come to expect, says Nicole Engelbert, director of research at Ovum, a London-based information and communications technology research and advisory firm.
“Students watching Game of Thrones at home on Sunday nights can start watching on their iPad, then, when the dragon starts burning carriages, switch to their phone and pick up the show, and then later switch to their internet-connected TV and finish watching the episode there. Unfortunately, that kind of multiscreen seamlessness has not been enabled in higher education in the same way,” Engelbert says.
Linda Currey Post covers science and technology advances as a senior writer at Oracle.