Transforming the Student Journey with Digital (Again)

New technologies are the new normal for universities

February 19, 2019

It's the narrative of our era. Technology is transformative. It's a truism within higher education. Digital “anything” will change things, good or bad, for a campus community. The added layer of competition between universities has created a literal rush to bring about change using digital technologies in order to make “things” better for students, *staff, and faculty. And, that's not necessarily a bad thing. For those institutions where technologies and systems are a tad bit outdated, that's quite revolutionary.

Recently, I was made aware of the Student Journey Transformation Programme (SJTP) at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Beginning in 2016, MMU has embarked on a large-scale digital transformation project that focuses on enhancing “every aspect of its business administrative processes” which will “provide more efficient, responsive support for a students' journey from initial enquiry to becoming a member of the alumni community.”

What's really fascinating about this project is the timeline. Slated to complete in 2020, it's a 4-year-long initiative that will essentially 'bin' the existing technologies at MMU that have to do with the student journey with a replacement digital infrastructure from software provider Unit4.

According to Andrew Kemp, Transformation Director at MMU, “Universities understand the need to change to enable a more personalized, self-service, digital experience for students and staff utilising standard processes where applicable.”

Specific goals for the SJTP include:

  • Improve ability to deliver and support non-standard provision (e.g. Continuing Professional Development, Transnational Education and apprenticeships)
  • Provide better information to support student retention and progression
  • Enhance student support and the way services are provided to students
  • Simplify processes and update systems across the student lifecycle
  • Provide a modern infrastructure from which to compete in the current and future market

In many ways, the digital transformation project at MMU is just like any other long-term program that restructures technological systems and processes from top-to-bottom. The reality for most universities is that the "technological times" are always changing. Disruption isn't novel, it's the norm. Solutions providers are always going to be looking for institutions that are ready for a step above where they currently are with regards to various technologies. Each time a university implements something new represents a benchmark for the sector in terms of what works, what sort of works, and what should probably be put back on the digital shelf.

What's really impressed me with regards to MMU's initiative is the amount of public-facing documentation on the programme. Usually, these types of things aren't shouted out from the rooftops until they're complete. Perhaps this is part of the new way in which universities are promoting ongoing digital transformation as a value add for prospective students? It's definitely a way to showcase new thinking by way of transparent communication.



* In preparation for my family's move to the US from the UK, I'm switching from the UK's HE staff = academics to the US parlance of staff = professional services folk...even though this article was inspired/influenced by a UK university.


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