Page 6 - CT Innovation in Education, November 2021
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Why the Student Experience Matters (and What You
Can Do About It)
It’s time to embrace the student experience as a crucial data set — and experience management as a core part of your institutional tech stack.
Omar Garriott
Global Industry Leader, Education Qualtrics
AFEW YEARS AGO, IN A SURVEY OF NEARLY 30,000 people, Gallup and Purdue University identified the six college experiences that graduates considered most important for finding success and happiness. They included items such as, “my professors cared about me as a person” and “I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations.” The wake-up call for higher
ed: Just 3% of respondents strongly agreed that they had actually had all six experiences.
That finding exposes a huge gap. While colleges and universities rightly put a laser focus on student success as their raison d’etre, there’s an outsize driver of that about which they must get a whole lot smarter: the student experience.
Commonly, tracking the student experience is done in siloed departments as a series of ad-hoc, largely disconnected projects; the exit survey done after an Admit weekend, end-of- semester course and instructor feedback, and the like.
Programs, not Projects
Here’s what’s needed instead: a programmatic approach, one that can systematically measure — and improve upon — the whole student journey, soup-to-nuts, campus- and departmental-wide. From admit to alum. The purpose?
To identify those key moments in the journey that disproportionately matter most to each individual student and also to your larger institution: applicant volume, yield, first- to second-year retention, graduation, transfer rate, job placement, graduation, donations, belonging, engagement, and brand perception.
If a project is served by a point product, a program needs a platform. And I consider a platform to manage the student experience to be as vital to the higher ed technology stack as the SIS, the LMS, and the CRM. This is the missing link that will drive the metrics you care most
about. Getting rigorous at a student-specific level about the experiences each is having is the only way to take actions to make them better — at both a campus level and at an individual level.
While the three other systems provide some insight into the student experience via the operational data
they generate, they mostly offer lagging indicators. They can tell you that someone hasn’t been in class for three consecutive sessions, isn’t completing assignments, or is in danger of being put on academic probation. But they won’t tell you how the student is feeling. If they’re actually engaged in teaching and learning. If your school doesn’t understand why a student is acting a certain way, it’s not addressing the root problem.
Experience data, by contrast, is a leading indicator.
You can’t prevent someone from dropping out if you don’t understand the experiences they’ve been having that got them to that point. That requires a comprehensive and real-time composite of student satisfaction from a number of sources — quick check-ins; listening in on social channels; pulling in some of that operational data; deeper-dive instruments at key moments; and then tapping artificial intelligence to recognize hidden patterns and get predictive.
That is the promise of an experience management platform. It’s not specific to any given office. It helps leaders elevate student voice and listen to it at scale, to understand what they’re most concerned about, and then take appropriate action.
Fortunately, you already have a running start toward implementing a student experience program.
Super Student-Focused
Higher ed institutions have embraced technology for well- being, contact tracing, symptom checkers, and vaccine status

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