educationtechnologyinsights

Laying Emphasis on Enhanced Student Experience

By Link Alander, Vice Chancellor/CIO, Lone Star College

Link Alander, Vice Chancellor/CIO, Lone Star College

Please provide our readers with a comprehensive understanding of the changing facets of EdTech and how you are evolving in tune to it?

The question covers a vast area and cannot be summed up so easily. First, the technology landscape always witnesses dramatic changes to meet the diverse demands of customers. Secondly, immersive technologies have predominantly introduced changes in every sector. So, which technology an enterprise is using or whether it is in the cloud or not, does not really matter. The essential aspect is what you are delivering to your customers, in our case students, faculty and staff. In such a scenario, our goal is to satisfy students with the same experience they receive with consumer applications, a good example is the back tracking the student registration process and working to streamline the experience.

To be brief, from hybrid classes to simulation labs, EdTech has unquestionably evolved a lot, inviting a new era of education. But, for me, the focal point should be on moderately improving the experience of both students and employees through the seamless use of technology.

Can you elaborate on how schools or institutions are building programs for this uplifting user experience and how has it been changed from previous years?

Over a few years, the whole concept of user experience has changed significantly. Previously, the concentration was on anytime, anywhere, and any device which is critical and needs to be implemented. After tacking that, we looked at the student, degrees, and how they are using the technology. Our team has focused on trying to simplify complex processes. The end goal is an interface to allow students to register, plan degrees and navigate our complex process, using their phone, mobile device or a computer with the same experience. It is not a simple task; hence, we are attentive toward the integration of more updated interfaces and technologies and leveraging design thinking methodologies. Interestingly, instead of doing this in a vacuum, we bring in a lot of students to have the knowledge of unobserved issues. For example, in our registration system, even though everything seemed to work perfectly, we sat with the students to run a proper and unbiased user experience test. Using this information we are able to review business processes and the associated technologies to improve the student and employee experience.

"We are entrenched in an enterprise IT mindset, and it is to be highly regretted the process to transform this mindset is slow at the enterprise level. To deviate from the prevalent structure, we decided to take IT through design thinking courses and rethink our approach to a user-centric design approach"

I want to tell the readers thatour most exciting project is on its way and launches for our spring 2020 registration cycle. The new program enrolment, will enable students to take the right sequence of classes for their degree, will help with higher success rates, and student taking less hours to complete their degree. When the student signs up for their degree program, they will automatically receive the full class schedule and recommendation. Most importantly, if a student opts for part-time classes, the schedule with adjust automatically. We are continually striving to help students get through the process as effortlessly as possible.

What are those technologies and trends that you are envisioning in the next 12 to 18 months to cast an impact on student or user experience?

To answer this question, first, I would like to tell that in this era it has become essential to offer the right product at the right time. Then to enhance the adoption rate and make customers more content. In the retail space, it has been occurring for years. But I firmly believe that to build a robust student experience, we have to move beyond the mere core analytics to understand the pattern of students. We have to intervene when it is necessary. For example, it is important to bring in conjunction the diverse choices of students, such as the course they want or the mode of classes (through a brick and mortar building, fully online classes, or an amalgamation of online and offline) they prefer to.

What would be your piece of advice to the CIO community to mold their organizations and institutions in the forthcoming days in terms of trends and changes?

We are entrenched in an enterprise IT mindset, and it is to be highly regretted the process to transform this mindset is slow at the enterprise level. To deviate from the prevalent structure, we decided to take IT through design thinking courses and rethink our approach to a user-centric design approach. While this is critical, we also cannot limit our designs because we are wary of emerging or entrenching technologies, cloud, hybrid IT or blockchain. Our customers do not care how we deliver a service. Their expectations are simple, a quality experience that is reliable.

It is also critical that as a CIO, we are also the stewards of data. For me, the collection of quality data holds immense importance since it can provide improved visibility into both the health and future potential of an organization. While we have to be well-grounded in best practices we also must keep a keen eye on the opportunities that emerging technologies can offer.

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