In a previous post, we discussed why higher education needs to prioritize student retention and success. Instead of simply providing students with access to education, colleges and universities have a vested interest in supporting students through graduation. Government funding and accrediting agencies expect higher and faster rates of degree completion, and the cost to recruit students is far greater than the cost to retain students. At the same time, students aren’t afraid to transfer if they feel they’re not receiving a fair return on their investment.
The increased emphasis on student retention and success in higher education has led to the emergence of so-called “success tech” tools. Success tech refers to technology that higher education institutions use to monitor and assess student performance and provide access to the right resources and guidance. From the student’s perspective, success tech also includes tools that can help them manage their time, connect with tutors and coaches, become more engaged, find financial aid, determine the right career path, and make connections with potential employers.
By proactively identifying at-risk students and providing the assistance they need, schools can do more than improve student grades and retention rates. They can help students graduate on time with as little debt as possible and find good jobs.
Despite the many benefits, success tech initiatives in higher education can be challenging. Some institutions collect the wrong data, use inconsistent data-gathering methods, or store data in silos, all of which can affect accessibility and accuracy. In other cases, the network can’t support increased traffic, or IT has difficulty integrating success tech tools with existing infrastructure. Because different departments and students will have different needs, a lack of flexibility can be an obstacle to success.
Significant planning in terms of both technology and strategy is required to make success tech work. As with any technological initiative, the first step is to identify specific objectives. What is the definition of success at your school, both at the student level and the institutional level? What are the obstacles to success, and what needs to be done to overcome those obstacles? How will success be achieved and measured?
The next step is to evaluate existing IT infrastructure. Can it support success tech tools in terms of bandwidth and storage? Will there be integration or compatibility issues? What data will be collected, how will it be collected and where will it be stored? What upgrades will be required? Based upon this data, institutions should then evaluate success tech vendors and solutions.
Successful implementation of technology is just one part of the equation. Having the right personnel to manage the technology, oversee the overall strategy, and provide assistance to at-risk students is critical to success. Resources may need to be added or reallocated to make success tech work, and training will be required. Schools should also involve students in the planning stages to ensure that the solution and strategy meet their needs. Having the support of students will also help to promote the success tech initiative and maximize usage.
Higher education institutions looking to improve student retention and success rates should be evaluating success tech tools and strategies. To make such an initiative work, technology, strategy and objectives must be aligned, and the needs of both the institution and the student must be satisfied.