How technology is driving student success at SUNY Oswego
- Technology can play a major role in improving student experience and graduation rates
- Start early with student education planning
- Personalize guidance and student communications
As registrar at the Oswego campus of the State University of New York (SUNY), Jerret LeMay is proud of the way his office and team are already improving student success, and he expects that success to only grow over time. “The way I see it, the first step toward good student service is to make sure your administrative functioning is in good order,” says LeMay.
“Are you setting up processes that are going to avoid problems? If there are problems, are you identifying them before anybody else notices? If you do identify them, can you remediate them? All these things really happen on the administrative side long before a student needs to pick up the phone, send out an email, or walk into the office.”
Providing a high level of student service at SUNY Oswego is still a bit of an art, with many “old-fashioned” techniques still deployed to personalize student communications and guidance—the sort of customization that comes from experience and can be difficult to institutionalize through technology. With more than 8,000 students at Oswego alone and 64 campuses making SUNY one of the largest higher education systems in the country, technology plays a major role in improving both student experience and graduation rates. For LeMay, two initiatives stand out as particularly notable.
The first, which was implemented two years ago on a limited basis and is now being rolled out more widely, allows students to create a unique education plan. “We really started to get into student educational planning in terms of providing electronic templates for students when they walk in the front door,” says LeMay. “These plans lay out academic programs in a way that not only helps students stay on track and take some of the guesswork out of the prerequisite structure but also see courses that are actually going to be offered.” Working with an advisor, students map out what their time at SUNY Oswego should look like, and experience demonstrates that having an upfront plan leads to greater success and higher graduation rates.
By mining the student plan data, university administrators can schedule course offerings more tightly to meet demand. Thanks to a good interface between Oswego’s registration system and its degree auditing and tracking software, there is less confusion between what advisors have recommended for students in their plan and the courses being offered at a given time.
“We know that students who use our planning templates avoid prerequisite errors to a much greater degree,” points out LeMay. “We know that they also run into fewer major or minor restrictions and our registration system also provides a visual layout for the calendar that helps students avoid time conflict errors. We know that all those errors happen at a much lower rate than for the general student population.”
The second initiative that excites LeMay is the transfer finder capabilities in its degree-planning tool that allow a student at any SUNY institution to sit down and essentially run a what-if scenario against any other SUNY institution. “That is a really powerful tool because if you are at a two-year institution and you’re targeting multiple programs at multiple SUNY campuses, you can know while you’re still taking courses at the community college exactly what the requirements are at your destination four-year institution,” says LeMay, who manages the project for the entire SUNY system. “You can make choices during those first two years that will put you in a better position when you do transfer to the four-year institution. In doing that, you can avoid a lot of troubles along the way.”
JERRET LEMAY, Registrar, State University of New York College at Oswego
Jerret LeMay is registrar at State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego and project manager for SUNY’s Transfer Finder initiative, which facilitates seamless student transfer among SUNY institutions. He has served on multiple customer advisory boards and development partner groups for higher education technology.