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Align IT With Institutional Priorities for Student Experience

Focus on data management to support insight and action on student behavior.

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  • The technology for learning and communication does not meet the students’ expectations.
  • The technology for operations is not optimized to support the students’ needs.
  • Data management is not mature, with siloed information and poor data governance.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

Institutional priorities for student experience demand effective integration of operations and insightful analytics on student behavior, neither of which can be achieved without strong data management.

Impact and Result

Leverage this research presentation to understand the issues around student experience and what the technology implications are.

  • What are the primary concerns of student experience?
  • What technology is required to address these concerns?
  • Why do student experience initiatives hinge upon strong data management?

Align IT With Institutional Priorities for Student Experience Research & Tools

1. Storyboard – Align IT with institutional priorities for student experience – A research presentation to learn about IT's role in supporting student experience initiatives at colleges and universities.

Leverage this research to develop an approach for IT to support student experience priorities.

This storyboard addresses the five areas of attention to improve student experience.

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Align IT with institutional priorities for student experience

Focus on data management to support insight and action on student behavior

Executive Summary

Institutional Challenge

The focus on improving the student experience is a challenge for colleges and universities because it expands beyond the institution’s historical area of competence:
  • Students have new and high expectations that don’t always align with those of the institution.
  • Institutions are assuming the responsibilities of social welfare.
  • There is static or declining enrolment, and funding is becoming increasingly tight.

Technology Obstacles

Technology has an important role to play in improving the student experience. However, the current technology ecosystem of most institutions is not able to meet the challenge:
  • The technology for learning and communication does not meet the students’ expectations.
  • The technology for operations is not optimized to support the students’ needs.
  • Data management is not mature, with siloed information and poor data governance.

Info-Tech’s Approach

Leverage this research presentation to understand the issues around student experience and what the technology implications are:
  • Identify the primary concerns of student experience.
  • Identify what technology is required to address these concerns.
  • Support the data maturity demanded by student experience initiatives using Info-Tech’s blueprints Create a Data Management Roadmap and Establish Data Governance.

Info-Tech Insight

Institutional priorities for student experience demand effective integration of operations and insightful analytics on student behavior, neither of which can be achieved without strong data management.

Student experience framework for IT

The student experience priorities are often highlighted in the mission and vision of the institution. There are five areas of attention to improve student experience.
A spectrum with an arrow leading from 'Less IT Involvement' to 'More IT Involvement'.
Strong data management is required to achieve effective integration of operations and insightful analytics on student behavior.

Identify student experience priorities

Improve technology for student engagement

Improve technology for operations

Optimize the SIS and CRM

Develop strong data management practices

Enhancing the instructional experience:
  • Student preference is shifting to hybrid instruction
  • Faculty struggle with technology
Connecting with students beyond the classroom:
  • Connecting early
  • Connecting socially
  • Connecting with the whole student
This technology directly supports the students’ learning and engagement
  • A mobile first, transactional student portal
  • Classroom technology to meet student preferences
  • Virtual engagement to support prospects, applicants, and current students.
These systems support operations in the pursuit of improving student experience:
  • Behavior intervention
  • Campus notification
  • Ticketing systems
  • Course scheduling
  • Shared advisor systems
The SIS improves student experience through:
  • Mandated access
  • Transfer credits
  • Data integration
An enterprise CRM:
  • Brings coherence to student communication and measures its value
  • Provides coherence to system architecture and data
Data management:
  • Ensures institutional unity in the approach to student experience initiatives
Data retention:
  • As more student data is collected in support of the student experience, data retention policies increase in concern.

Enhancing the student learning experience is interwoven with technology

Student preferences are shifting to more online learning.

Bar chart tracking the 'Change in student preference from 2020 to 2022 (percentage points).

The chart shows how student preference for different modes of instruction decreased or increased from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. In general there is a trend away from face-to-face instruction and toward more online modes of instruction. (Source: Educause, 2022 n = 820)

Modality preferences
  • Student preferences are changing. Since the pandemic began there has been a marked shift in student preference toward online and hybrid modes of instruction.
  • Social interaction and academic engagement are the key success factors for successful implementation of learning technologies. It’s also important to remember that online doesn’t necessarily mean off-campus.
  • Twenty-nine percent of students still prefer completely face-to-face instruction (Educause, 2022). They represent a sizeable group of students that are resistant to the shift toward online and hybrid modes of instruction. This resistance may be related to access issues.
Access issues
  • Those with learning or physical disabilities will need accommodation for remote access. As the need for technology increases in instruction so do access issues. Also, the extra cost for technology impacts students affected by housing insecurity.

Faculty experience of teaching with technology differs from students

Faculty need support in the effective use of learning technology


Eighty-seven per cent of educators felt that the quality of their instruction depended on their comfort with the technology. (Source: KPMG, 2022)

Faculty will need support.
  • Adjusting their pedagogy to new instructional modes will require faculty support as technology becomes more essential to the delivery of instruction.
  • Faculty learning communities where best practices are identified and disseminated is the best way to support transformation. IT can have a supporting role in these communities.
Demands on faculty will increase.
  • Hybrid and online learning increases the workload demands on faculty. IT will need to prioritize technical support for these sections.
Advising reduces the burden on faculty.
  • Analytics can be used to help advisors know which students to target for support. Sources of data include the LMS, attendance at class, and library usage. This data is used to create an activity metric to alert which students are falling behind.

Connecting students beyond the classroom is now an institutional priority

Connecting early

Connect in high school: A key component of the student-experience focus is to communicate the value of higher education while the student is still in high school.

Connect with parents: This means both promoting the benefits to the student and assuaging any fears the parents may have.

Connect with applicants: Technology is key to facilitating the processes required of applicants and prospects, from virtual meetings and campus tours, to video explanations around financial aid.

Connecting socially

Likelihood of graduation increases with students who are socially connected.

Technology can be a barrier: The challenge here is that as instruction becomes increasingly remote, social engagement at the institution will drop.

Technology ensures success: As initiatives are proposed to promote social connectedness, technology will be crucial to both communicating the social opportunities to the students and measuring their effectiveness.

Supporting the whole student

Financial support is the top factor affecting student retention, and 42% of drop-outs are due to financial stress (Chronicle of Higher Education).

Mental health is also a concern with 41% of students screening for moderate to severe depression (Eisenberg et al.).

The responsibilities of social welfare are increasing. This means data integration and management are becoming necessary for using resources efficiently.

Student experience initiatives require student feedback, which can be a challenge to obtain

“You need to talk to the students to understand student experience.” (Ken Libutti, CIO, Palm Beach State College)

Info-Tech Insight

The best way to get students to attend a meeting for their input is to feed them.

Student idea of success
  • Students can have differing ideas of what success means to them: a degree, securing a job, a high salary, campus involvement, or personal growth. There is a fundamental obstacle when the institution’s objectives for student success do not align with the students’.

Methods for student feedback include:

  • Townhalls
  • Surveys
  • Leveraging the student council and other student organizations

Technology councils

  • IT should do their best to gain student representation on their technology or innovation councils. These committees are usually the best way to gain a pulse on user perception of technology.

Technology for student engagement directly supports the students’ learning and wider experience

Info-Tech Insight

Measuring the effectiveness and adoption of these technologies is a top challenge for the institution.

Three triangles labelled 'Student portal', 'Virtual engagement', and 'Classroom technology'.Most institutions have a student portal, but many come up short in meeting the students’ expectations.

A portal is not

  • An internal-facing intranet.
  • A public-facing website.

A portal is a mobile-first solution, offering frictionless, transactional services for:

  • Course planning and academic advising.
  • Financial aid.
  • Registration, transit schedules, and so on.
Institutions are carrying over methods of virtual engagement from the pandemic:
  • Virtual campus tours.
  • Video explanations of financial aid processes.
  • Online meetings with advisors.
Hybrid learning environments are becoming increasingly prevalent:
  • Technology includes LMS, learning technology integrations, and video conferencing.
  • The key component is collaboration between faculty, instructional design, and IT.

Technology for operations supports student affairs and faculty in their student experience initiatives

Behavior intervention systems
  • These systems store information about student conduct and wellness, often pertinent to legislation like Title IX in the US. They are shared between student services, campus safety, and student health, with data also entered by faculty.
Campus notification systems
  • Campus notification systems respond to emergencies and are common across most institutions. These systems can now be used for messaging of wider safety issues.
Shared advisor systems
  • Case management platforms record the student’s advising history. It benefits the university to a have a shared system across all advisors, regardless of department. This creates a single source of truth and minimizes political strife.
Ticketing systems
  • Enterprise service management is rarely implemented at universities, but it is an initiative that can directly improve student experience. Any help desk request from students will be directed to facilities, residence services, or campus safety as required.
Course scheduling technology
  • Course scheduling technology ensures students have the right course, delivered at the right time, in the right modality. Course scheduling is highly complicated but has a direct effect on timely graduation. As student demographics and preferences become more diverse, a robust solution is needed to address the complexity.

As technology becomes increasingly vendor hosted, IT’s role in supporting the technology is changing

Ownership of technology
  • Functional departments are becoming more extensively engaged in the selection, purchase and implementation of business applications. IT’s role is increasingly one of facilitator, with clear technology requirements that conform with a future state ecosystem.
IT’s Technology Requirements
  • Seamless integration with the existing technology architecture
  • SaaS or vendor-hosted
  • Meets current standards for single sign-on
  • An easily accessible data layer
  • Compliance with government and institutional security policies
Student training and socialization of technology
  • IT has direct impact on student experience by providing training, creating awareness about technology, and delivering services.
IT’s responsibilities include:
  • Service desk support
  • Cyber security awareness
  • Scheduling of computers
  • How to use the technology
    • VPN
    • MFA
    • Remote desktop

The SIS needs flexibility to respond to the demands of the student experience priorities.

Three demands on the SIS impact the student experience:
  1. Mandated access Legislative bodies are granting students the right to access their information. Facilitating this access should be a priority of colleges and universities. The data should adhere to principles of privacy by design, meaning that the data should only be used for the purpose for which it was collected.
  2. Transfer credits Public pressure on institutions to close the time to graduation demands the SIS facilitate credit transfer, including dual credit with secondary schools, transfer from 2-year to 4-year institutions, and from one university to another.
  3. Data integration SIS information needs to be available to other systems with the appropriate access to facilitate non-SIS student transactions. The SIS contains the primary information about student demographics and education history. The SIS needs integration with the CRM and other operational systems related to student experience. Integration is also needed for analytics, ideally in real time.
Stock image of two people on different tablet screens handing off files through the screens.

In order to meet these demands, the SIS should be cloud-based and optimized to reduce the manual entry of data and to integrate seamlessly with other systems.

A CRM can help manage services to students in an increasingly competitive environment.

Institutions should consider the benefits of an enterprise CRM

An enterprise CRM
  • An enterprise CRM is an integrated solution to strengthen relationships across the student lifecycle. Many institutions will have a CRM for admissions and another for advancement, but not a single CRM for prospects, students, and alumni.
Benefits to student experience
  • Delivers personalized and bulk communications services.
  • Provides a single, shared view into communications and interactions with students across departments, to improve constituent satisfaction.
  • Measures the value of relationships to deliver powerful reporting analytics and business intelligence.
Benefits to IT
  • Replaces shadow databases with a single source of truth.
  • Simplifies the system architecture by making the technical environment more sustainable and easier to operate.
Bird's eye view of people with lines between them, representing a network.

Robust data management is the core contribution of IT to student experience initiatives

Rationale for data management

From the students’ perspective, the institution is a single organization they are engaged with to achieve their educational goals.

From this perspective, the students expect coherence in their interactions with the institution and the services they receive.

To achieve this coherence, institutions need a consistent and current body of information to inform their interactions with students and the services they provide them.

Institutional challenges

Leadership may be surprised by the level of effort and time required to put data management practices in place:

  • Six months of preparation.
  • The hiring of a data architect or chief data officer.
  • Building a culture of data governance and practice.
Data governance

Very often data decisions are made based on the system that manages the data. Decisions are often made regarding LMS data, SIS data, CRM data, etc. However, data is independent of any system and data decisions should likewise be made independently.

  • What are the boundaries for the decision-making rights for different domains of data?
  • Data decisions should transcend the siloes of data created by individual systems.

Info-Tech Insight

If you can’t manage your data in a trustworthy way, you can’t make student decisions that are trustworthy.

Data privacy for student information is a key priority of the data management program

Data compliance

In the growing digital economy, governments are legislating specific rules for personally identifiable information (PII). Legacy information systems, such as identity management tools, do not meet the expectations. For example, diversity, equity and inclusion preferences are not necessarily supported legacy identity systems. Similarly, privacy laws are outpacing vendors’ abilities to be compliant.

Stock image of fingers typing on a laptop. Build a Data Privacy Program

Take out data privacy’s grey areas with a quantitative approach to your program.

Data retention

As data practices consolidate toward the enterprise-level, IT will need to be concerned with its data retention policies. While it is beneficial for the institution to use data to inform the birth-to-benefactor view of the student lifecycle, the retention of all this data poses legal and privacy risks to the institution.

As the student passes from one phase of their experience to another, the institution needs clear policies of what information should follow the student to the next phase, what should be retained, and when should the information be retired.

Data retention can be complicated. At an elite university like Princeton, 20,000 students may apply, but only 1,200 are accepted. A university needs to have a policy in place to retire the PII of the applicants in a timely fashion.

Info-Tech Resources

Leverage our research on establishing strong data management and data governance practices to support student experience priorities.
Image of people and computers communicating.

Create a Data Management Roadmap

  • Effective data management requires a cross-functional approach that engages both the business and IT.
  • Despite the growing focus on data, many organizations struggle to develop an effective strategy for managing their data assets.
  • Effective data management is more than just a technical solution. It requires a change in culture from the business and investments in resourcing, technology, and process.
Sample of Info-Tech's Governance Framework.

Establish Data Governance

  • Organizations are faced with challenges associated with changing data landscapes, evolving business models, industry disruptions, regulatory and compliance obligations, as well as changing and maturing user landscapes and demands for data.
  • Although the need for a data governance program is often evident, organizations often miss the mark.
  • Your data governance efforts should be directly aligned to delivering measurable business value by supporting key strategic initiates, value streams, and underlying business capabilities.


Loretta Early
Executive counsellor
Info-Tech Research Group

Ken Libutti
Chief Information Officer
Palm Beach State College

Mark Roman
Managing Partner for Education
Info-Tech Research Group

Steve Di Filipo
Senior Executive Advisor
Info-Tech Research Group

Works Cited

Eisenberg, Daniel, et al. The Healthy Minds Study: 2021 Winter/Spring Data Report. University of Michigan, 2021,

James, C. J., and Rob Clayton. Reimagining Student Experience in Higher Education. KPMG, 2022.

Robert, Jenay. 2022 Students and Technology Report: Rebalancing the Student Experience. Educause, Sept 2022. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022.

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  • Ken Libutti, Chief Information Officer, Palm Beach State College
  • Loretta Early, Executive Counsellor, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Mark Roman, Managing Partner, Info-Tech Research Group
  • Steve Di Filipo, Senior Executive Advisor, Info-Tech Research Group
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