Students are frustrated with the poor state of digital in post-secondary

When speaking about the challenges of digital transformation in a rapidly-evolving market, the business/customer relationship is often the focus. However, we tend to forget that digital transformation is a conversation that is also of vital importance within education.

Colleges, universities, and other higher learning institutions are increasingly having to confront the necessity of digital transformation, as the education space continues to grow more crowded. Research shows that competition for students among higher education institutions is increasing; figures from the US Department of Education indicate the number of colleges and universities has increased significantly in the past 20 years. Further, this competition has been driven largely by for-profit educational institutions, and as well as other newer educational models. 

The need for digital transformation at higher education institutions is also being driven by concerns around the rapid increase in the cost of post-secondary education. Post-secondary tuition fees are increasing at around 4% per year in Canada – which is double the rate of inflation. And in the United States, the rate is around 8%. Given the skyrocketing cost of tuition, post-secondary educational institutions are facing increasing pressure from cash-strapped families to find efficiencies to slow the rate of tuition increases.

Lastly, the need for digital transformation at post-secondary institutions is being driven by the students themselves; today’s students bring the same digital expectations they have for interacting with businesses to their institutions of higher learning. They expect to be able to handle basic service and administrative transactions the same way they do everywhere else: digitally. This is further compounded by the growing importance of post-secondary education to students’ future financial success. When a university education is increasingly required to secure employment in an economy where young workers experience unemployment rates twice that of older workers, students have higher expectations for the institutions of higher education that are supposed to set them up for success.

The problem that today’s universities face is that educational institutions have not kept up with the pace of digital change. Today’s students are more digitally literate than ever before, and the gap between what students expect to be able to accomplish digitally, and what educational institutions actually support, has never been bigger. Digital transformation has the potential to solve many existing problems, as it is an excellent way for schools to realize efficiencies through streamlining needlessly complex administrative processes. But how are schools currently handling the transition from legacy systems to digital?

Students are frustrated with the poor state of digital in post-secondary

Student expectations for digital are, unsurprisingly, higher than ever:

  • 42% of college students use two or more devices during a typical school day.
  • Members of Generation Z use an average of 5 screens (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop and iPod)
  • 87% of surveyed students said they want a single digital application for managing their university education that is accessible from all digital devices.
  • 80% of prospective students judge an institution based on its website.

But institutions of higher learning are failing to meet those expectations, which is frustrating students:

  • 44% of students worldwide say their institutions manage student administration digitally either ‘a little’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 1 in 3 students feel poor student administration systems would make them less likely to recommend their institution to prospective students.
  • 41% of surveyed students would have a better student experience if they could interact more digitally with their school.
  • 36% of university and college students say that dealing with complex student administration leaves them less time to study.
  • 47% of students say their education should be easier to manage, given the fees they pay to support student administration.

So, what are the problems that post-secondary institutions should be addressing?

The problem of digital transformation in education is complex, and bigger than we have room to tackle in one post. In our next post, we’ll break down the barriers to digital transformation that many post-secondary institutions are facing. In the meantime, here is a quick summary of the current state of the digital expectation gap:

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About the Author: Anna Kreider