Compared to faculty, IT staff in higher education have little direct contact with students. One might think this means they have relatively little to do with fostering student success and improving the overall student experience.
In reality, student success is a top priority in academic IT. And school IT teams have an often-underrated ability to streamline the student experience – an ability that goes way beyond troubleshooting technical issues.
One way IT can help students is to make it as easy as possible for them to obtain the resources they need. Today’s students require a lot of software for their courses, and acquiring it all can be a huge headache. In addition to unnecessary stress, this can lead to low adoption rates, which can impact academic success.
Here are three ways school IT teams can improve the student experience by streamlining access to digital resources.
Centralize to Simplify
If you really want to frustrate students, make them search multiple sites and sign in to multiple platforms to get all the software they need for school.
Unfortunately, this is how most colleges and universities distribute digital resources (according to a 2020 study). Software is distributed in a variety of ways and through a patchwork of platforms. This makes it a hassle for students to track down everything they need. It increases password fatigue by forcing students to create accounts in multiple platforms. At worst, it can contribute to low adoption rates by discouraging students from bothering to acquire all software for which they’re eligible.
To simplify life for students at your institution, consider centralizing the distribution of software. Providing a one-stop shop where students can get everything they need in a single step will save them time and frustration while promoting academic success.
Offer Discounted (or Free) Software
If there’s one thing college and university students are famous for, it’s being strapped for cash. Purchasing all the software they need for their courses can add considerably to their financial burden.
Fortunately, there are steps school IT, Software Licensing, and Procurement teams can take to make course software less expensive for students. One is to centralize procurement as much as possible. Combined with good data on adoption rates, this enables schools to consolidate disparate orders for the same software and negotiate better bulk pricing with vendors. These savings can then be passed on to students in the form of lower fees or lower-priced software.
Campus-wide licensing is another way schools can save on software (and pass those savings on to students). Through programs like IBM SPSS Campus Edition, schools can license their entire student body for free access to popular software. Even if your institution chooses to charge students for the software, you can still save them money by charging far lower than retail price.
Ensure Quality Support
Students must access a plethora of platforms, set up countless accounts, and download numerous pieces of software to prepare for each new semester. That’s a lot of processes that could go wrong or cause confusion – which can result in a lot of support requests. When the support they need isn’t readily available, it can be profoundly frustrating.
IT staff must ensure that students have on-demand access to high-quality technical support. However, that’s not to say that IT is obligated provide all necessary support themselves. The reality is that many school IT teams lack the resources to provide the level of support students expect. But what matters is that students can get the help they need when they need it – regardless of whether it’s provided in-house or by a third party.
Outsourcing support around certain processes (such as accessing and installing software) can result in shorter wait times and more dedicated assistance for students. This can also take a considerable amount of work off IT’s shoulders. By outsourcing support around software access and installation alone, one university in Germany reduced their student-support burden by over 250 tickets within one year.