Digital apps are a huge technological and financial investment for higher education institutions. When too many are thrown into the mix, it can create a complex network of communication pathways and accounts to manage, leaving students overwhelmed or unsure where to find help.
More Isn’t Always Better
Apps like Canvas, Blackboard, People Grove, VMock, Handshake, Populi, eCampus, Synap, and so many more are designed to improve the student experience. Unfortunately, every app has a distinct user interface, requires a unique user profile and log-in credentials, and comes with a learning curve. Multiply that by 15 and a student is left bouncing from app to app while keeping up with a long list of user accounts and passwords. More, it creates separation within the university system as it silos off individual departments that should be connected with one another for the students’ sake. Suppose a financial aid situation arises and a student needs help ensuring all costs are covered for the upcoming semester. They visit the financial aid office, which needs 1) information about their participation in the work-study program, and 2) information and paperwork from the billing department. They’re stuck as a mediator jumping from financial aid to billing to the work-study office to gather paperwork and schedule appointments until the problem is solved. The whole process can take weeks.
A majority of the apps colleges use to connect and communicate with students perform very specific functions—one for class assignments, one for resume help, one for job interviews, one for networking, one for mentorship, one for online exams. That means instead of a single place to go for help, students have to figure out which platform to use to ask their questions. When they contact a professor, advisor, or other faculty member directly for help, they are often redirected to an app where they’re told they will find everything they need. They’re told to find assignment instructions in Canvas or get resume help by creating a profile in VMock. But what if the assignment instructions are unclear and filled with confusing jargon? What if a student needs feedback from a human—not an AI bot—on a specific portion of their resume? How are your students finding the right answers to pressing questions?
Are We Losing the Human Connection Without Realizing?
With increased digitization, we risk losing the personalized, human connection between a student and faculty member. Resume support from an AI bot, Zoom classes, virtual career fairs, and online tutoring have changed the student/administrator dynamic. Now, faculty and students are realizing the possibilities of virtual learning, and with that comes the challenge of maintaining human connection in a time of constant technological advancement. Perhaps the key to maintaining that human connection is the one thing missing from most digital education apps—one-on-one, personalized, on-the-spot support.
One-on-one connections with professors, advisors, and career counselors help students grow their network, build communication skills, gain confidence, and persist toward graduation. But if students don’t have the opportunity for one-on-one connections, they won’t receive the support they truly need. A lack of human connection and a surplus of digital communication can make the idea of approaching a faculty member seem scary. If students are used to receiving virtual support, they’re more likely to face uncertainty when it comes to an in-person meeting. Sure, they can still make it to graduation and go on to pursue a meaningful career, but the college experience is so much richer when one-on-one support from a human (not a bot or website) is right at their fingertips. This is all possible with EVAN360—it’s the ideal mix of human connectivity and digital efficiency in one single app. You can learn more about that here.
Getting Digital Transformation Right
Here’s what digital transformation should look like:
- Clean and simple. Apps are easiest to use when user interfaces (UI) are clean, intuitive, and free of fluff. They don’t need to be fancy with all the bells and whistles. Students should be able to get what they need and go without complications or unnecessary steps.
- Humanized. Students should have access to faculty members who can answer their questions quickly and correctly. An AI bot can’t replace human advice no matter how advanced they are. Students should be able to go right to the source.
- Centralized. Students should be able to find all the support they need in one spot. They don’t have time to run all over campus whenever they have a simple question or wait a week before someone replies to their email. Ideally, they should have access to everything from resume help to academic advising to financial aid support in one place.
The student and administrator experience can be so much simpler than it is. Navigating college is already stressful enough. It’s time to make it easier and more accessible to all.
Questions to ask when implementing a new app or software platform:
- How long will it take students to figure out how to use it?
- How will this simplify or improve the student experience?
- How will this fit into the network of apps students are already using? Will it just add to the heap?
- Is this app truly the best solution for the problem, or can you imagine an even better way of doing things?
Just because incoming generations of college students are technologically adept doesn’t mean more technology is better. Fresh, shiny innovations might be attractive, but if it doesn’t help the student, it doesn’t help. Innovation for innovation’s sake is unproductive. The goal of digitization is to refine and improve upon existing technology to simplify the student and administrator experience.