Every year, publishers in the education space roll out articles detailing the greatest education technology (EdTech) tools for the upcoming year. But while education technology encompasses various apps, websites and games, that’s a pretty limited view of the term.

The future of EdTech is broader. Colleges have an opportunity to think about education technology in a holistic sense, applying it to outreach efforts, online user experience, student enrollment, retention rates and more. Integrated technology has the potential to yield better student experiences and help institutions meet goals like an enrollment target.

Given the struggles many institutions are facing in today’s competitive climate, this is significant. Consider for a moment that a survey conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed found only 38 percent of colleges had met their new student enrollment goals by May 2018. The good news is some higher education institutions are already seeing positive results using integrated technologies.

If colleges can connect all their systems in one environment, it becomes much easier to share data and generate new insights they can act on to work toward enrollment goals. It sounds complex, but this approach to EdTech can help you achieve a few primary objectives.

You can better understand students

What do colleges know about their students? Most would probably mention things like the geographic location they’re from, their age and ethnicity. This basic demographic information is pretty limiting. It doesn’t help institutions understand an audience’s interests, goals or primary concerns, which are all essential if colleges are to attract students and provide them with a great experience throughout their education.

There’s a good chance your school already has a lot of what you need to understand students. It can be tricky to see the full picture if all that information is stored in different ways in disparate systems, though. It’s much easier to glean insights if all those different systems communicate with one another. Healthcare professionals call this interoperability.

By connecting different systems and collecting data, you can gain new insights about students. Once colleges have this new intelligence, they can then use it to make smart decisions.

You can communicate more effectively with key audiences

Understanding students’ wants and needs is certainly important. But to actually have any value, those insights need to inform actions. It’s essential to deliver the right message to the right students at the right time. One audience that’s years away from enrolling in college is very different from another that plans to start a financial management program in eight months.

And note that all students, not just prospective students, benefit from personalized communication. This is important because effectively nurturing students throughout their entire educational journey can affect your institution long after they graduate. Students are a lot more likely to provide a word-of-mouth recommendation if they have a positive experience at your institution.

The impact firsthand accounts can have is significant, too. We know that online users, particularly Generation Z, value reviews. A survey from the Center for Generational Kinetics reports more than half of Generation Z read a minimum of three reviews before making a purchase. It’s not unreasonable to assume this population would devote even more research to a degree program.

Also consider that students often involve other parties when making decisions. For a college-bound teenager, parents could be key influencers. An adult learner who has a family, on the other hand, might consult with their spouse or partner when considering their education options. There’s a huge opportunity for colleges to leverage data to communicate with these influencer audiences as well.

You can become even more efficient over time

As colleges learn more about their current and prospective students, they can continuously adjust and refine. An effective integrated technology system should enable this through machine learning, which really isn’t as scary as it sounds.

Think about the natural learning process as it applies to riding a bike. A child might lean a little too far to the left the first time they step onto the two-wheeled vehicle. This results in a tumble to the ground. Learning from that mistake on their next attempt, they lean a little farther to the right and find their balance. This same child can make many other micro-adjustments over the years to become both faster and more efficient.

Machine learning does the same thing. A platform that compiles everything in one place can use existing data to inform decisions to adjust, and the process repeats indefinitely. Think about how powerful that is in the higher education space. It has the potential to help you meet any number of goals, including enrollment growth.

Be a leader on the front lines of EdTech

It’s clear that colleges need to start thinking about EdTech in a different way. Adopting new products or services won’t be particularly beneficial if they don’t work with one another. Colleges would be better served by creating an ecosystem that allows information to flow freely among all their systems. The path to this level of integrated technology isn’t quick and easy, but it is possible. If you want to learn more about how you can take your school’s technology capabilities to the next level, contact us at info@collegiseducation.com.