Experience management is coming to higher education. In their April 2017 report, The Future of the Student Experience Is Personal, Gartner analysts Glenda Morgan and Terri-Lynn B. Thayer note that “the student experience is the totality of the student’s interaction with the institution, understood holistically rather than through institutional bureaucratic or organizational silos.”

This is big.

When we announced Academic Experience Management at the Qualtrics Insight Summit in March, we started writing a new playbook that would help colleges and universities engage with the student experience from recruitment through graduation. Schools need the ability to capture feedback at critical touchpoints along the student journey; and the Gartner report describes how important it is for institutions to measure, manage, and improve the entire student experience.

Gathering the data

When building a student experience strategy, many colleges and universities run into the silo problem. Often, teams work independently, usually only within their department or college, without creating essential conversations with cross-functional teams or involving key stakeholders.

“A personalized, integrated and coherent student experience will become a key differentiator for higher education institutions, and CIOs need to start building the strategies and infrastructure to make this happen.” ~Gartner

Siloed experiences create disparate data, which doesn’t empower institutions to create the kind of student experiences that will keep them competitive going into the next 5 years. Gartner estimates, “by 2021, more than 50% of higher education institutions will begin redesigning their student experience with the goal of making it more integrated and personalized.”

How do you start?

We recommend taking the following approach when implementing a student experience strategy to stay ahead:

  • Focus on the interconnected experiences, from recruitment through graduation. As Gartner points out, “in higher education, the student experience is seen as the totality of all aspects of student life — from recruitment and enrollment through postgraduation engagement — in a unified, student-centric manner.” We believe the way to accomplishing this vision is by building in a technology strategy that incorporates student, faculty and staff, campus, and alumni feedback, as well as integrating data from SIS, LMS, and CRM platforms.
  • Recruit your sponsors. When we build customer experience strategies with large and small organizations, one of the most important components of successful implementation and adoption is sponsorship from leadership, particularly from the C-Suite. Similarly, successful execution of any student experience program needs sponsorship from your institution’s leadership, including the president or provost, vice presidents, and deans.
  • Mind the gaps. In a recent Gallup-Purdue Index report, they asked guests of luxury hotel chain Ritz-Carlton if they could imagine a world without the Ritz-Carlton, to which 55 percent agreed that they could not imagine a world without the Ritz. When they asked the same question to college graduates if they could imagine a world without their alma mater, only 29 percent said they couldn’t imagine a world without their alma mater. We call this an experience gap. And when we work with colleges and universities, we help them identify where these gaps exist. Gartner makes the recommendation that “the CIO and the governance and implementation teams should use gap analysis to identify particular parts of the student experience where action needs to be taken in order to move from the current to the desired student experience.”

These steps, taken together, can put you on the path toward achieving your student experience program goals.