Higher and Further Education institutions in the UK all state a commitment to listening to students and enhancing the student experience. The student lifecycle has a number of different stages, from pre-application through each part of their experience in the institution to graduation and becoming an alumnus.
There are a number of key transitions in the student lifecycle. Articulating generic transition points is intended to encourage awareness of the stages at which students may be vulnerable, enabling performance and attendance at key times to be monitored.
The improvement in student achievement and/or graduate skills arising from increased and targeted support should lead over the course of time to increases in the number of students progressing to both Higher Education and employment outcomes… (Brady, 2012)
A further complication in streamlining a series of interactions such as the student lifecycle is the huge variation in the missions of institutions, learner types and educational provision. This also makes it hard to develop a sector wide picture. Institutions manage their relationships and communications with students in a variety of ways: face to face, electronic systems for administrative tasks, provision of virtual learning environments, email, social media as well as more traditional written and telephone contact. The tools available to them to do this are also varied, and used to a greater or lesser extent in different institutions.
However, relationships are about people and not systems. Within an institution, academic and administrative functions are co-dependent in providing the student experience. For example, a placements coordinator role could be pivotal in managing the relationship between teaching staff, administrative staff, the placement provider (possibly an alumnus) and the student. Whilst technology can provide a mechanism to facilitate, enhance and manage these relationships, particularly where the placement coordinator role is spread across different people, it cannot replace the human element.
Many institutions already use customer relationship management approaches and technologies to help manage their interactions with external customers. As students also exhibit certain customer attributes, such as paying for a service and expecting higher levels of choice, quality and experience, some institutions have applied commercial techniques, such as service design, to selected stages of the student lifecycle. By placing the student firmly at the heart of the process, it is anticipated that the “overall quality of the student experience, the efficiency and effectiveness of [institutions’] administrative processes and relationships [will contribute] to adding business value and delivering success” (Chambers and Paull, 2008).
The overall objective for exploring the challenge, both for Jisc and the sector, is an improved experience throughout the lifecycle. Furthermore, any developments in student lifecycle interactions will need to be future-proofed against institutional and sector wide change. The consultation currently being carried out should allow us to explore the issues and identify the ‘pain points’ in delivering a streamlined student experience.
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