We idolize technology’s presence in all the nooks and crannies of our day—and when we’re faced with a snag, our life comes grinding to a halt. Nobody feels the pain of technology headaches more than higher-ed students, who are now fully accustomed to sharp, snappy digital experiences. They’re such tech loyalists, that Gen Z students likely won’t even bother applying to schools whose processes look complicated. Here are six areas you can start using automation to build delightful online experiences that increase student enrollment at your college or university.
How a top-notch online experience can increase student enrollment
Students invest a lot of trust into their school—not to mention time and money. They want to feel like their college or university of choice takes this responsibility seriously. In 2022, how you manage your website and online processes are weighed heavily by both current and prospective students.
- One study by DocuSign revealed that 79% of prospects judge a school’s on-campus experience by the online application process.
- Almost 70% of applicants will go as far as to reconsider their top choice of university if they have a difficult interaction with the Office of Admissions.
- Unattractive websites with convoluted processes diminish a school’s appeal. A whopping 100% of students interviewed in a study conducted by Research in Higher Education Journal stated that a university’s website design heavily influences their selection process.
Toilsome, tenuous online processes can overshadow even the most remarkable campus life. The experience you offer online needs to match your high-quality student experience. Take CUNY Law School, an institution highly respected for its outstanding student services. By taking advantage of automation, they were able to eliminate time-consuming back-and-forths and paper-intensive workflows. The 10+ days of productivity they earned back through every workflow they modernized gave them more time to focus on building an even more revered student life experience.
Here are six ways automation and digitization can help your school better serve students and drive an increase in enrollment.
Increase student enrollment by automating and digitizing these 6 key areas
Your website should offer the very same level of quality services students can receive by standing in line at the Registrar’s, Financial Aid, or Admissions office. By using automation and other digital technologies, you can mimic this same white-glove service whether a student is in their residence hall across campus or traveling abroad.
Admissions applications have gone on a digital transformation over the last decade using sophisticated CRM and online application platforms. This initial experience sets an expectation with the students for the same seamless and quick response in all their interactions. But once the application is underway and they have to cross departments and other systems, the experience isn’t quite as automated, leaving them feeling frustrated with manual, slow processes. Here’s how digitization can streamline your entire admission processes to create an online experience students will love:
- Transform all forms to be an online experience: Give students a digitalized experience for every collection point of information. The admissions experience shouldn’t start with automation and then bottleneck in manual processes. In fact, since students live on their smartphones, you can even turn forms into a texting experience with 2-way dialogue.
- Power up those online forms by adding workflows: Once a form has been submitted, automatically route it for reviews, approvals, or other actions across departments and systems. Send automatic emails for confirmations and reminders.
- Capture information via smartphone: 9 out of 10 people on the planet have a device capable of scanning documents right in their back pocket—colleges just need the right technology in place to wield it. Let students enlist the help of their smartphone to take photos of documents and upload them right from their camera roll into a form.
Most importantly, automation gives students a real-time look at the application process. A business process automation platform brings all application steps into one portal. Every task is like a gate on a ski slalom run—you know precisely when one is completed and which one is up next. Instead of students waiting in the dark, hoping school faculty received essential forms, you can show them exactly how their application, transfer credit review, or new student onboarding is moving through the process.
Transient and transfer requests
Students rate transfer requests as one of the most frustrating higher-ed processes. Inbound requests can take weeks or months to verify. That can delay a continuing student registering for class or being awarded the right amount of student aid. And, it can impact an applicant’s decision to attend if you’re not one of the first to provide them the answers they are looking for. An ineffective transfer credit process can tank a new student’s likelihood of starting their degree with you. Students who receive limited credits for classes they took at another school are 2.5x less likely to stick around and graduate from yours.
Transform your transient and cross-enrollment request process into an automated one. That way, students will always know the course they are taking somewhere else will transfer back to your institution. Students submit the request online, approvals are automatically routed for the appropriate authorizations, and the student is notified via email with the decision. Everything is logged in the system and reminders can be sent from the workflow, as needed.
Once transcripts are submitted to your institution, intelligent document capture technology can transcribe courses from the transcript into a form, allowing a user to validate and prepare the data for a transfer credit evaluation. Here, you can also take advantage of machine learning. Software engines learn to read varying transcript formats, reducing the manual legwork required to sift through them. Feed enough transcript types through the system, and it can learn how to intelligently extract data from PDFs, images, and other unstructured file types.
Using business process automation, you can automatically match to courses at your institution using a business rules engine. Exceptions, or non-matched courses can be automatically routed to the appropriate academic department for evaluation. Plug in your subscription to a transfer evaluation system to lookup course descriptions and provide them to faculty decision-makers in an easy-to-use format.
Once you’ve determined a course equivalency, upload it into your equivalency database so systems can independently make that same decision next time. This reduces the amount of time students spend waiting for a resolution, improves your decision-making accuracy, and boosts student trust in your institution.
Course management requests
There are scores of variables that can clash when you’re arranging your academic schedule for the semester. It’s unlikely that the initially proposed schedule will run as-is—you’ll likely need a strategy for reviewing change requests.
Instead of using spreadsheets and inbox folders to do the job, enlist the help of automation to handle course management requests. You can gather requests for room assignment shuffles, time changes, and section additions. Integrate with your course management system to automatically update the catalog once a faculty member approves the change.
Student registration and records
Establish business rules so systems can automatically approve or deny changes to student registration and records.
- Add/drop requests: Any request deemed questionable can be sent to a faculty member for further review. Tightly integrated systems can alert students if the desired change conflicts with another class on their schedule or if they don’t meet the prerequisites to join a certain course.
- Declare or change a program of study: Allow students to switch or declare their major or minor. You can set requirements like a completed number of credits, or ask students to upload or fill out their quarter-by-quarter plan for graduation. Each submission is then sent to the appropriate advisor or Career Services counselor for review.
- Late course drop: Using automation, you can set rules to reject late requests, or have them routed to the appropriate staff member for evaluation.
- Faculty-initiated changes: Design a fully automated workflow to handle grade changes or appeals.
With these automations in place, you can make a solid dent in the 20% of time full-time faculty members currently devote to administrative tasks.
Implement self-service strategies to increase student enrollment
Add online forms to your student portals that allow authenticated students to change their name, pronouns, update their bio/demographic data, and initiate other requests with a self-service strategy. Allow them to upload supporting documentation from their phone. Change requests are sent over to the appropriate department for review and approval before the change is committed in the system.
This empowers your students to easily make changes from where they are, when they are ready to do it. It relieves your office from lines, telephone calls, emails, and more.
Work interruptions can cost you six hours per day. And once you’re off on a tangent, it can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus on your original task. One department highly susceptible to these time drains is IT—they’re constantly answering simple requests for WiFi credentials and facilitating lost passwords. Automation can take on the burden of these minor inquiries and get the job done without distracting a human staffer. That gives your IT team more time to focus on what matters most—developing the student-attracting online experiences that drive enrollment.
A rewarding student experience is one of the most valuable competitive advantages for modern universities to embrace. Students expect universities to prepare them for the future, and you can use modern, forward-thinking processes to prove that you’re a frontrunner.