How can campus technology help students succeed?
Students from Pearl River Community College weigh in
- Improving students' ability to view and plan coursework and degree progress are key elements of guided pathways reforms.
- Helping students communicate with their instructors and advisors removes a key obstacle to student success.
- Self-service options for students help them be more independent and proactive in their course planning.
With shopping, services, and media literally at their fingertips, today’s students have high expectations for campus apps and systems. These tech-savvy students know that outdated campus processes are relics at best, and impediments to their success at worst.
It’s a fact of today’s high-tech world that up-to-date technology is critical to the modern college experience. It’s also increasingly important to helping students reach their academic goals. To that end, many colleges are upgrading their campus apps and systems to support advising and curricular reforms.
So how can technology help today’s students navigate all the courses and paths of study available to them? How can it help students make smart, timely choices that move them closer to gainful employment or further education?
We spoke with two students from Pearl River Community College (PRCC) about their experiences with campus technology. Emily Brennan and Jonathan Dixon, both sophomores, shared how it gives them independence and control over their academic planning while also giving them the guidance and clarity they need to stay the course. Here’s what they said:
"It keeps me on track."
Brennan, who plans to transfer to a four-year institution after completing her associate’s degree in English, needs to stay on top of her transferrable credits. PRCC’s degree-planning tool makes it easy. “I like to use the Class History feature, which is like an unofficial transcript,” she says. “I can see what classes will transfer to the next school. And then it shows my progress for graduation here and makes sure I’m on track with that.”
Dixon, who is pursuing a degree in music education, also notes the user-friendliness of the tool’s visual aids. “It has a list of all the courses that you've taken and need to take—and the courses that you still need to take are in red,” he says. “There's just so many helpful tools on there that can help you. Like the ‘What If?’ plan if you want to change your major. You can fill out a form and it'll show you all the courses you’d need to take.”
The tool keeps Dixon on track for graduation. “I can go back and see all the classes that I could retake, or classes that are transferable, or classes that I've taken in the past,” he says. “It's just a great tool to have.”
“It lets me be more independent.”
Both students like the self-service aspect of the tool and say it helps them take charge of their own affairs. “It's helpful to see all the requirements so you don't have to call your advisor,” says Brennan.
Dixon agrees, and says he feels empowered by the ability to plan on his own. He likes being prepared before meetings with his advisor so he can have higher-level conversations instead of just focusing on course-selection details.
“When it's time to make schedules, my schedule’s already made because I've sat down and taken the time. ‘This is the class that I need to take. Boom, boom, boom,’” he says. “When I go and meet my advisor, they're like, ‘Oh, you've already got your schedule made.’ It lets me be more independent instead of being dependent on my advisor. It lets me choose my classes instead of letting someone else help me. It makes me be more responsible.”
“It helps me stay connected.”
Students say that feeling a sense of belonging on campus is key to staying engaged (and enrolled). For students who are balancing studies, activities, and sometimes work and family too, the right tools can help.
For Dixon—PRCC’s student body president, a peer leader, a singer in the college choir, and a part-time employee at the campus performing arts center—technology is critical to keeping him engaged and connected with the many people and groups he works with daily. “I carry a cellphone and a laptop every day,” Dixon says. “I'm highly involved on campus, so I have to.” Between his studies and his extracurriculars, he needs the campus app and degree-planning system to keep all the balls in the air.
Brennan, a work-study student and vice president of both the Honor Institute and Phi Theta Kappa honor society, similarly uses her laptop, phone, and smart watch to stay connected with peers, instructors, and other campus groups. Notifications, calendars, messaging—it’s all there for her at any time of day, no matter where she is on campus.
“It keeps me informed.”
For today’s students, mobile technology is their chief information source. Brennan and Dixon are no different: from college news to campus events to severe weather alerts, PRCC’s app, email blasts, and social media feeds keep them in the know.
As for staying on top of their grades, the college’s new degree-planning system is an essential tool. “Instead of logging in from my laptop all the time, I can just check on my phone and see that my instructor graded our assignment," Dixon says. “It helps me communicate with my professors, monitor my GPA, and check homework assignments and tests.”
Brennan agrees. She particularly appreciates a feature called the Term Calculator: “It shows you all your classes, and you can figure out, ‘If I make a B in this class, what GPA will I have?’” Knowing where and when to expend extra effort is important information when academic standing, transfer eligibility, or financial aid are on the line.
Brennan and Dixon know that to succeed in college and beyond, they have to combine academic achievement with preparation, planning, and independent follow-through. Through their everyday use of campus technology, they’re making the most of the tools available to them and taking control of their academic journeys.
It lets me be more independent instead of being dependent on my advisor.Jonathan Dixon, sophomore, Pearl River Community College