Last month we held our annual Fall Summit, where professionals came together virtually to talk about creating modern college student experiences. This jam-packed day of sessions covered a wide range of topics that we wanted to help summarize for our community. While we’ll cover some of the major highlights and takeaways, you can also check out all of the session recordings to see the awesome discussions on your own.
Streamlining Your Tech is Critical to Modernization
The importance of streamlining disparate edtech tools a campus uses was a major highlight during the summit, which also included ways to accomplish this goal. The summit contained two sessions in particular where this came up as a prominent topic, Staying Ahead of the EdTech Curve: How InSpace and Pathify are Driving the Vision for Chaffey College’s Student Experience as well as The Students Have Voted! How VCCCD Modernized Their Online Experience with a Proven Approach. These sessions featured the perspectives of several of our university partners as well some of our strategic edtech collaborators such as InSpace and BIO-key.
We appreciated hearing from Rob Rundquist at Chaffey College, which included bringing “virtual first” paradigm to his work prior to the onset of the pandemic which helped prepare them for the forced digital transitions of that period. While the team at Chaffey navigated the disruptive time, they realized they collected an assortment of disconnected tools.
This spurred Rundquist to lead the campus towards making sure they use the best tools that work better together. He also knew there needed to be a strong “digital front door” to these platforms so students, faculty and staff navigated the resources they needed efficiently.
Our partners at Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) made sure to include student voices in determining how they were going to centralize their digital student experience. Main takeaways from this work included the necessity of a dedicated and robust mobile app option for students as well as an easier self-service login interface. The improvements VCCCD made produced significant gains in efficiency and overall satisfaction. Dan Watkins and Shawn Bochat from VCCCD remarked on these results by stating, “…Any of the time and money we are spending on these solutions takes away from what can be provided to students.”
While streamlining campus technology helps broadly to make everyone’s lives easier, there are also real impacts on students and the resources we provide to them. Modernization of the digital student experience is crucial to the success of any campus. Especially as many institutions grow concerned with student retention, satisfaction, and face limited resources.
What a Truly Inclusive Community Looks Like
Another theme we imbued into this event was around inclusivity, which we spoke of a lot over this past year. As more first-generation students, adult learners and students from underrepresented backgrounds study at institutions, campuses need to be intentional about how they engage and support these populations, especially given how more students study online as well. There were two sessions focused heavily on this, One Size Does Not Fit All: Creating More Inclusive Campus Environments and The Future of Social Media for Higher Ed.
When it comes to inclusivity, there was a lot of emphasis on adaptability and flexibility. In order to best support a diverse population of students, each of them will need varying levels of support from their institution. Dustin Ramsdell and David Glezerman highlighted this in their session on inclusive campus environments, stating this concept of “inclusivity” will look different for each student. Some will need more social and emotional support, while others will need more academic support.
Whatever it is each student needs, the institution must have a strategy to be able to engage their students in whichever modality, time, and place they prefer. There is not a singular way to go out about this. Faculty and staff must create an intentional plan to incorporate effective tools to augment their efforts.
There has been a large focus on social media as a community building tool for campuses over the past several years, but at this moment, the cracks are beginning to show. Dr. Kasandrea Sereno highlighted these struggles in her session, which made it clear the future of social media for higher ed is going to look a lot different.
While institutions need to maintain a relationship with the public, when reaching out to their students, they need to be far more direct and personalized with their messaging. Solely relying on social media does not create inclusive environments for students to know what is going on in their campus community. There is too much noise for the information to get lost in. Kasandrea emphasized the importance of bringing an optimized, private, centralized and personalized campus experience to building an inclusive digital community for students.
Personalization at Every Point in the Student Journey
Our keynote speaker, Robyn Hammontree, gave a presentation on The Importance of a Personalized Student Experience. This was a prominent theme throughout the summit given its connections to both student success and wellbeing. Robyn stated it is important for students to be able to see themselves in their course content and be able to take ownership of their learning. She also made it clear this concept is necessary to include both in and outside of the classroom. Institutions need to mirror what students encounter and expect from digital experiences elsewhere, where personalization is the norm. Any friction points, confusion or frustration simply gets in the way of learning as well as impedes engagement at any point in the student journey.
We are grateful to everyone who joined us virtually for our latest Fall Summit. Our team had an amazing time connecting with our partners and colleagues from all over the country.
For those who like to plan ahead, we are going to have another event like this one in the spring so make sure to sign up for updates today!