Over the years, colleges and universities have walked through a digital revolution. Technology trends have made their way onto college campuses year after year, dictating when, where, and how students communicate with faculty and instructors. Now that we’ve reached the peak of automated support (chatbots, early alert systems, etc.), many are wondering what’s next. More complex AI tools? Some sort of augmented reality? Or something else entirely?
Read on to see what we predict.
What’s Next: A New Wave of Digitization
Institutions are on the cusp of a new digital revolution known as “democratized support” that actually has less to do with technology than you might expect. Amid a constant stream of new technologies heavily focused on automation and artificial intelligence, we’ve lost a key component of the modern support model—people. At the university level, most faculty and staff have been replaced with chatbots, and those who haven’t have overstuffed inboxes and long lines outside their office with no end in sight. Today’s higher education technology isn’t working as well as they thought and they’re desperate for something new—something that actually works for both students and faculty.
There’s a misconception that refocusing on the people component of support will set us back 20 years. But what if we told you bringing people back into the mix could bring about more equity, success, and value at your university than ever before?
Here’s where we’ve been and where we’re headed:
What Is Democratized Support?
Democratization means making something accessible to everyone. It relates to the idea of making support equally accessible to every student so that no group or individual is inadvertently hindered by a university’s long-standing silos and structures that historically benefit only a select group of students (continuing-generation students vs. first-generation students, for example).
As you can see above, the first and second revolutions involved using technological developments to reach students. The third revolution, however, focuses on people.
The way to provide students with true democratized access to resources and services is by giving them real-time access to real people when they need it most.
Students don’t need a chatbot. They’re smart and they know where to find basic information on a website or help page. Most of the questions they have or problems they face are specific and nuanced, requiring a higher level of support from a real person who can give them real answers.
Students don’t have time to wait in Zoom waiting rooms or stand in line outside their advisor’s office. This is an annoyance for faculty and students—faculty because they’re trying to fit in as many students as possible, and students because they don’t have time to wait. They need to focus on studying, getting to class on time, and heading to work.
Students are more likely to struggle when they reach out for help don’t get a response until two days later. They might not hear back from a faculty member or instructor until the exam is already over or the financial aid deadline has passed, at which point it’s too late.
First-generation students are more likely to struggle to find support because they don’t have parental experience to lean on. Studies show first-generation students are more likely to grow discouraged, not graduate on time, or drop out because of this. The college system is completely new to them and they would greatly benefit from better and more accessible support.
As it stands today, access to university services isn’t democratized. Students don’t have the same access to the same resources whenever they need them. If we’re going to improve equity, enrollment, retention, and the student experience, it all starts with access to the right resources and people. Democratization will be the key to equity, success, and value in higher education in the next 10 years and beyond.
EVAN360 is designed to provide democratized support in a way you’ve never seen before. If you’re ready to step into the new revolution, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.