Pathify Customer Story
Creating a Modern Student Engagement Portal
Launching MyUSU 2.0 in August 2021 culminated a six-month process where Utah State University sought to update and expand their student portal to a true student engagement platform. The original portal was a static, link-based web page lacking personalization and communication capabilities, according to Rene Eborn, Deputy of Digital Transformation and Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.
The institution wanted to offer a cohesive, online experience helping students feel connected and access the resources they need to be successful. To achieve its goal, USU staff and student body government identified several key challenges they specifically wanted to address with the new portal.
Founded in 1888, Utah State University is Utah’s land grant institution, offering 168 undergraduate degrees, 143 graduate degrees and serving over 28,000 students in Logan and around the state at regional campuses and learning centers, as well as at USU Eastern. Known for its robust and cutting edge research, Utah State challenges students to pursue academic opportunities changing the world.
Identifying the Need for an Engagement Platform
Like many other institutions, USU reevaluated its needs during 2020. The previous student portal was disorganized, cluttered and felt generic from a communications standpoint. Especially given the shift from in-person learning to online, Eborn believed it was time for a change.
“The legacy portal needed modernization, and there was a need for a collaboration platform to encourage engagement,” Eborn said. “This was especially important during the pandemic because we had to rapidly migrate face-to-face learning into remote learning.”
The previous portal mostly looked like a link farm without much thought into the student experience. In fact, it mostly added confusion because the portal didn’t guide students on which actions to take and forced students to remember a variety of passwords for different systems.
“It was basically a website with a bunch of links, organized to look pretty,” Eborn said.
USU also noticed it lacked a level of community building within a digital space and a lack of infrastructure connecting students with their peers. The existing portal used one-way communication with students so it couldn’t answer concerns or send targeted communication. But it wasn’t only a digital community the institution sought to bring forward.
Utah State wanted the ability to provide specific resources for students based on a range of factors including persona, class status, time of year and semester. None of which the incumbent portal provided.
“Our goal was to improve the student experience and improve student engagement, especially within our digital ecosystem,” Eborn said.
It wasn’t only the administration wanting a change. USU’s student government president wanted to make services more accessible to students while creating a better student experience.
“While USU had contemplated updating the student portal experience before, the 2021 upgrade was largely driven by a dedicated student body president,” said Tessa Evans, Student Affairs Marketing and Communications Director at Utah State University.
With students and staff aligned around similar goals, the USU team gained complete confidence when they encountered Pathify’s Engagement Hub as the student portal capable of leading the institution forward.
Providing a New Modern Tool
Throughout Utah State’s RFP process, the Engagement Hub was the only portal to meet all of the criteria students and staff laid out for USU’s implementation team. Pathify offers a customizable, intuitive and user-friendly dashboard where users receive information on their terms. It also provides a way for students to connect with each other, their clubs, various departments and desired resources at USU.
Along the lines of student connection, USU found a portal capable of two-way communication. Not only did administrators receive the ability to send targeted messages, but students had a vessel for privately sending questions to student body officers and faculty in one centralized platform.
“There were a couple reasons Pathify stood out to us,” Eborn said. “The first was that Pathify met all of our requirements, including the ability to offer a secure ecosystem for our students to connect. Additionally, during the sales experience, all the way to implementation, Pathify met our extremely aggressive schedule.”
The USU implementation team understood Pathify offers more than just another student portal, but an entire platform dedicated to connecting all of its different point solutions under one umbrella.
I really like that it acts like a one-stop shop. I love how there’s multiple ways to direct people and get them where they need to go. I think that’s a big part of what makes it really useful.
Understanding how the Engagement Hub creates a campus-wide impact, USU hired Calissa Chandler, who now leads optimization for the MyUSU portal. Chandler enjoys everything the portal offers because of the multiple use cases for students and faculty alike.
“I really like that it acts like a one-stop shop,” Chandler said. “I love how there’s multiple ways to direct people and get them where they need to go. I think that’s a big part of what makes it really useful.”
Utah State published a report titled “Connect with Aggies Everywhere,” detailing key data from MyUSU and recommendations for strategically embedding it further within the institution. One of the biggest insights from the report included signs of student willingness to use the Engagement Hub.
In the first year of bringing on Pathify, users logged in nearly one million times, totalling 3.5 million sessions and 7.5 million actions. In fact, 60% of MyUSU users are active in the portal with an average of over 8,000 users taking action every weekday.
Despite being an early advocate of the Engagement Hub, Eborn said the data surprised her, given the time it typically takes to adopt technology in higher ed.
“User adoption is usually the hardest thing in changing a culture, but for us, it’s been very successful,” Eborn said. “The best thing is students are using it, and that makes me happy.”
It’s not only the level of adoption surprising Eborn. Students meaningfully engage with MyUSU for a variety of academic and co-curricular objectives. The report states the average user spent three minutes per session within the Engagement Hub.
To better understand the student perspective, Utah State held three focus groups with students, faculty and portal admins to understand current attitudes towards MyUSU.
Students praised the Engagement Hub’s ability to accomplish key academic tasks required for student success. According to USU’s report, “When using the portal, students are purposeful and task-oriented in searching and utilizing tools for class, registration, finances and degree progress.”
The user experience plays a significant role in driving engagement — and Pathify’s parity between the mobile app and website make it easy for students to engage with MyUSU on the go. Eborn notes the importance of holding everything in one place makes it easier for students to complete important tasks.
For example, first-year students receive equity and diversity training before coming to campus and the institution and it was a challenge to complete the training.
“We set up Pathify so students received notifications and knew how to register for the training,” Eborn said. “The success of that was amazing. Before Pathify, we had 500 or 600 students who didn’t register and when we put it on the portal, the number greatly decreased.”
User adoption is usually the hardest thing in changing a culture, but for us, it’s been very successful. The best thing is students are using it, and that makes me happy.
Deputy of Digital Transformation and Associate Vice President of Strategic Initiatives
Opportunities for Growth
Utah State’s focus group pointed to a desire for more communication of important topics and strong calls-to-action linked to actionable resources. The same students also mentioned an interest in seeing more group options matching their interests.
The institution took early feedback and made continual improvements building out resources, groups, widgets and additional pages. During the 2022-23 academic year, USU rolled out the Success module — aimed at giving students automated tasks and reminders for specific action items. It also rolled out global search to help students more easily navigate the Engagement Hub.
Each of these updates come with the goal of improving the campus experience for different segments in the USU community.
“We’re trying to make MyUSU a place to support all users in any area they need,” Chandler said. “That’s a part of their experience here at USU. We really want it to help bring a sense of belonging in all areas of campus life.”
We‘re trying to make MyUSU a place to support all users in any area they need. That’s a part of their experience here at USU. We really want it to help bring a sense of belonging in all areas of campus life.
Calissa Chandler, MyUSU Coordinator