Technology has increased the transparency around student success
- Analytics and early alerts are crucial for student success
- Technological tools guide students along the path to graduation
- Technology isn't a one-size-fits-all solution
Diana Oblinger says that the technology around student success has come a long way. “Twenty years ago, the ‘technology’ that we used were called one-stop centres,” she explains. “They were physical places. Before one-stop centres, students had to hopscotch across campus trying to find an office for this, an office for that.”
Today, Oblinger says, technology does the integration. For example, rather than having to go to the registrar’s office, an advisor’s office, and the financial aid office, those services are accessible online.
“Now we’ve moved into an era where we’re using analytics to increase student success—things like predictive analytics and early alerts let students know where they stand and what their options are. ‘Nudges’ remind students of things that they can do to enhance their performance or give them a pat on the back for what they’ve achieved. All this hinges on thinking about the student’s life holistically rather than where an office is located on campus. As good as technology is today, our understanding of students and how to support their success will continue to evolve.”
“Much of the evolution of student success is about transparency,” Oblinger explains. “Students often don’t see clear pathways, guidelines, or milestones. With student success systems, institutions are making higher education’s processes more transparent so that students can see where they are, where they’re going, and what they might need to do if they choose a different path.” An added benefit, Oblinger says, is that students can see what’s possible.
“Today’s student success tools help students select majors, choose careers, anticipate how long it will take them to get their degree, and better understand the labour market. Those are important elements of a college-to-career pathway.”
Oblinger points out that while student success initiatives are maturing, some challenges still exist. “Student success a few years ago wasn’t talked about as much as it is today. A common stumbling block is just defining what ‘student success’ means to your students and your institution and how you get there.”
She points to other challenges, as well. “One is having the technology in place to implement these student success systems. You’ve got to have good data and analytical tools. In addition, institutions have to work through data-governance and policy issues.” Whether technology or policy, the issues can be complicated, Oblinger says.
Oblinger continues, “Funding is always a stumbling block for any kind of major initiative. You need resources not just for technology but also for professional development. People need to know how to use the tools. A tool is only as good as the people who use it.”
Despite the challenges, Oblinger believes that institutions can use technology to achieve greater success. “Student success and the systems that support it will continue to morph and grow stronger because we know more, we have more technological tools, and we have a greater understanding of students. Now more than ever we need to ensure that students are successful. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, nor is it a one-time approach. We owe it to ourselves, our students, and society to help students be successful.”
DIANA OBLINGER, President Emeritus, EDUCAUSE
Dr. Diana G. Oblinger is President Emeritus of EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit association of 2,400 colleges, universities, and education organizations whose mission is to advance higher education through the use of information technology. Previously, Oblinger held positions in academia and business, including the University of North Carolina system, IBM, and Microsoft. She is known for her leadership in information technology, particularly its impact on enhancing learning and improving college readiness and completion. Oblinger has received outstanding teaching and research awards and holds three honorary degrees. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Ellucian.