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By Adam Petrovsky, GovEd Practice Leader, Logicalis US

As summer gets underway and families traverse the country taking a series of life-changing college tours, I thought it would be a particularly good time to talk about the ways digital technology can influence the image a college or university projects to prospective students and their families.

When I talk with college and university executives, our initial conversations aren’t about technology.  They’re about what’s most important to the school – attracting and retaining the best caliber of students and professors and commanding the highest tuitions and donations possible.  And all of that depends solely on just one thing – the image the institution projects.

That image, however, often finds its roots in being a digitally prepared organization. A school’s digital footprint impacts its students’ learning options, the campus’ security strategies, its students’ ability to engage professors electronically, and their ability to quickly and easily navigate the school’s online learning environment. These are the kinds of things that, whether consciously or unconsciously, are noted by students and parents alike when they take the all-important college tour.  As a result, technology often forms the foundation for the school’s image as a progressive, advanced institution.

What Kinds of Technologies Project the Right Image?

When prospects and their families take college tours, they talk to current students on campus, and they ask a lot of questions: How much homework is assigned? How easy is it to navigate the online learning system? Do they feel safe on campus? Is distance learning an option? Are professors accessible? These are just a few of the questions that families use to compare institutions as they search for the perfect fit. And, often, digital technologies provide the foundation for students’ positive experiences in each of these critical areas.

Ease of Navigation

If you ask college students today how easy it is to find the information they need to navigate their coursework and college life online, some will unfortunately say they need to log in to a number of separate sites to check grades, to find homework assignments and feedback, to register for classes and pay tuition or housing fees, or to explore sporting and other upcoming social events. How much more satisfied would students be with the university’s online capabilities if the dozen or so apps they interface with on a regular basis could be seamlessly integrated, allowing them to manage their entire student life from a single screen via computer or smart phone? To give students this single-pane-of-glass experience, you’ll need to prep your data center, install automated IT service management tools, and integrate applications – a definite boon to your image if you don’t already provide this.

Physical Security

Today, more than ever before, parents are especially interested in the safety measures college campuses provide. When families take a college tour, they’re looking for video surveillance cameras and access control measures, and they’re asking about emergency notification systems. Some of the more advanced schools in the nation are even piloting innovative digital security programs that use each student’s cell phone as a personal safety device, allowing them to press an emergency button to summon campus safety to their exact location, pinpointed via wi-fi and GPS.  Others are experimenting with biometric capabilities in newer smart phones that could potentially be used as secure student IDs for entering access controlled areas such as dorms. If your campus security measures aren’t this digitized, it may be time to talk tech with an experienced solution provider partner.

Campus Extension

Students and parents want the most advanced educational experience their money can buy, which means they have expectations for the technology they see available as they explore your campus. At least some of the lecture halls they visit should have significant audio-visual support – not just a single camera that records the professor with a grainy picture and an indecipherable audio – but advanced AV equipment that includes multiple cameras positioned throughout the hall to simultaneously capture the professor, student interactions and critical whiteboard information. While this level of AV sophistication may not be present in every classroom, it’s important to have some digital learning capabilities available and to talk about what those include.  Can the professor invite guest lecturers from other countries to speak digitally to the class? Can students review a recorded class lecture if they’re out sick, away from campus, or prepping for an exam? Are you providing deaf or foreign language translations digitally? If not, it’s time to determine which needs to prioritize and how to implement them to gain the most bang for your budgetary buck.

Online Collaboration

Ask most students how easy it is to visit their professor in person during posted office hours and you’ll quickly see why some form of online collaboration is needed. Through immersive online video collaboration environments, students can see the professor’s available hours and schedule their own 15- or 30-minute sessions, or simply text the professor and meet in a digital collaboration room. Both student and professor can log in via VOIP from anywhere, at any time to see each other face-to-face, share screens and whiteboards, and even view recorded lectures. These kinds of online collaborative environments are the tools students and professors rave about for their flexibility and efficiency – and that kind of information quickly makes its way to the forefront of conversations with prospective students and their families.

Want to learn more? Find out how the Logicalis GovEd practice helps colleges and universities use technology to provide a borderless digital learning environment, then download this datasheet for added information. Explore three safety solutions every college campus needs. Then, read Logicalis’ expert GovEd blog posts and recent GovEd news.