“ In order to foster student development , information technology must encourage and foster the development of social connections between and among individuals and groups. Rather than replace the college campuses, information technology must be designed to strengthen and expand on the college learning community.” -Treue & Belote, 1997, p. 22
The use of technology is a key characteristic of the millennial generation, students born between 1980 and 2000 (Raines, 2002).
Today, traditionally-aged college students often have technology seamlessly woven into their daily lives and take it for granted.
In a 2007 study conducted by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR), 98% of the 27,846 college student respondents reported owning at least two technological devices, most typically a cell phone and computer (Caruso & Salaway, 2007).
In respect to using these forms of technology, students reported a mean of 18 hours per week and median of 14 hours per week.
Approximately 6% spend more than 40 hours per week engaging in some type of online activity (Caruso & Salaway, 2007).
For student affairs professionals today, this creates both challenges and opportunities for engaging students and enhancing current programs and services.
According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), marketing is “the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals.”
Marketing is the wide range of activities involved in making sure that the organization continues to meet the needs of customers and benefits from the relationship with the customer.
Marketing is usually focused on one product or service. Thus, a marketing plan for one product might be very different than that for another product.
Each student service is a product whose value is determined by the marketplace, college students who frequently question the purpose of these services and other administrators who wonder how to measure their effectiveness (Culp, 1987).
In the past materials promoting student services included brochures and flyers, reaching students and parents through direct mailings and postings.
However, printing is expensive and wastes both human and environmental resources. Posting flyers is not an effective way to reach students, and this static form of marketing may not be accessible to the entire student population.
The interactivity of websites allow for bi-directional communication between students and student affairs professionals. Now, a larger number of students can have access to the information provided by a department website.
Customers know where to go and expect to find information about services on designated sites.
College networked sites give access to multiple services in one location.
Emails, list-serv information, online college events calendars, and advertisements on student-run television and radio stations are effective marketing methods of increasing student awareness about available programs and services.
Developing a successful website to promote student services requires three distinctly different skill sets: (1) Excellent technology (2) Superb graphics (3) Meaningful content.
Typically one individual would not possess all of these. For example, an IT specialist, graphic designer, marketing specialist, and Director of Student Activities all contribute specific knowledge.
Creating a cross-functional web-management leadership team with a variety of skill sets enables a college to incorporate various skills and talents in order to provide students am effective centralized location for receiving information.
For example, creating a common user-friendly website where each student can personalize the information they wish to receive. In addition, designing one format for all websites at the college would create a streamlined visual experience for users.
However, “the challenge is to make it easy to do business with the organization in any way they want, at any time, through any channel, in any language or currency and to make [students] feel that they are dealing with a single unified organization that recognizes them at any touch point” (Pirani and Salaway, 2005, p 9).
Stage One Websites include the conversion of static brochures and program information to electronic formats. This is also known as one-way publishing. Anything in paper format can be posted online. Many departments create separate sites with little coordination between other departments and services (Kleeman, 2005).
Why do I have to print this form? Why can’t I fill it out on the website and email it to you? Four stages of website development on a college campus:
Stage Two Websites become more interactive and transactional. The ability to conduct business, such as filling out forms, ordering and receiving services, and paying fees are incorporated. Information is still organized based on departments and not personalized for each user.
Stage Three Websites are experienced differently by each student. Personalized and customized websites allow the user to receive information based on their needs and wants. This begins to establish a more personal relationship between the student and the institution.
This is fine, but I just want to talk to someone online right now!
Fourth Stage Websites are highly customized. The use of interactive formats such as e-portfolios, video demonstrations, and instant messaging with student affairs professionals allow for the development of relationships and an enhanced community (Kleeman, 2005).
This is great! The website lets me access the information I need and chat with a career consultant.
Customer Service: assistance and other resources that a company provides to the people who buy or use its products or services.
Role in Student Affairs:
Personal interaction has been the main means of providing student services.
This is a crucial feature; however, technology offers many opportunities to complement and streamline some aspects of student affairs work, which would result in more quality time to interact with students (Moreno, 2007).
This enables customer access at the student’s convenience. This is particularly important with the millennial generation.
With increasingly more online course offerings, providing adequate student services through technology is necessary.
Many services were provided by paper and pencil, such as record keeping, copying, database management, and registration forms.
These have been moved to digital platforms. While the process has not changed, the use of technology has increased efficiency of these processes (Barrett, 2001).
“ Systems and services need to appear seamless... Students need to be able to access their personal information on-line through some self-service technology… students can have access to their personal records and information 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This reengineering of service processes gives the student access to the right information quickly and efficiently.” - Aoki & Pogroszewski, 1998, p. 5
In addition to increasing efficiency, many offices have saved paper products and money on mailings because information and services have been moved online (Barratt, 2001).
Student affairs professionals may not be adequately trained to incorporate technology into their work to the degree of expertise that students expect.
Need for improved speed, reliability, and support of services provided online.
Increase awareness about how students differ in their technological ability and ensuring that resources are accessible to all students (Caruso & Salaway, 2007).
Often there is limited communication and coordination between offices, with some offices lacking strength in providing customer-service.
Typically academic and service units are organized into vertical functional silos, but students are best served across horizontal functional silos (Kleeman, 2005).
“ If that experience is convenient, efficient, and student-centered, they have a positive reaction. If it provides a virtual runaround and inaccurate or outdated information, they have a negative one.” - Shea, 2005, p. 15
“ Community is no longer defined as a physical place, but as a set of relationships where people interact socially for mutual benefit”
- Andrews, 2002, p. 64
Community building happens in the context of interactions between student affairs professionals and students on a campus. It is important in the higher education realm to improve student engagement and retention as well as information sharing between professionals.
“ Key reasons people participated [in community activities – in person or online] were to fulfill personal needs, to learn, and to advance the common good” (Ludford et. al, 2004, p. 632).
“ Cohesive web-based services and community-building tools are no longer a convenience; they are a necessity that is critical to student achievement” (Blackboard, 2007, n.p.).
“ Facebook is nonetheless the most significant [social networking technology] to higher education because of its original focus on the college or university market.” - Tracy Mitrano, 2006, p. 22
Prior to online social networking, students came to college and had a bound “face book” for all first-year students including name, photo, area(s) of interest, and hometown.
Today students typically set-up an account on Facebook before they even arrive on campus for first-year move-in.
Areas of Interest for Student Affairs Professionals:
Online social networking raises questions about personal safety, content moderation, and the relationship between institutional missions and the millennial generation’s expectations of privacy.
Institutions are receiving many roommate change requests before students arrive on campus based on Facebook impression of the assigned roommate, resulting in some institutions “placing a moratorium on roommate change requests…until a required period of time spent living together” has been met (Mitrano, 2006).
Colleges need to be clear about how these social networking sites may impact their student employee hiring process.
Administrators need to be upfront with the consequences of online computer policy violations for both students as well as faculty and staff.
Student engagement can be enhanced by utilizing social networking technologies such as Facebook because of students’ reliance on technology.
Student affairs utilizes interactive multimedia to engage various learning styles by presenting information in ways that stimulate different senses.
Programs, services, and information were presented through lecture, one-way, and linear communication techniques.
Computer programs (PowerPoint), multimedia downloads, blogs, vlogs, instant messaging, podcasts, webinars, touch screens, interactive kiosks, and online trainings all promote active learning.
Companies such as e2Campus provide colleges with a mass notification system utilizing text messages, emails, digital signage throughout campus, loudspeakers, PA systems, and school websites in order to create a safer and more connected campus community.
Blog : provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic.
Vlog : a blog whose medium is video.
Instant messaging : a form of real-time communication between two or more people based on typed text. The text is conveyed via computers connected over a network such as the internet.
Podcast : a collection of digital media files which is distributed over the internet, often using syndication feeds, for playback on portable media players and personal computers.
Webinars : a type of web conference that can include polling and question and answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter.
Why are these useful?
Provide bi-directional forms of communication, which allows for opinions and immediate feedback.
The language used can be more informal and digestible (Dowdell, 2006).
“ Assessment is a means for focusing our collective attention, examining our assumptions, and creating a shared culture dedicated to continuously improving the quality of higher learning” (Angelo, 1995, p. 11).
Assessment is critical for student affairs professionals in order to demonstrate the value of their programs and to continue to receive funding, support, and room for growth in their institution.
Technology has revolutionized the way student affairs professionals: 1. Evaluate programs and services. 2. Provide assessments for students.
Program Assessment : provides the opportunity for the evaluation of what services and programs are currently doing, how well they are accomplishing goals, what is still needed for students, and the potential for growth in their program.
Utilized by student activities, residential life, dining services, academic departments, and other student services programs to obtain feedback from students on programs and services.
Statistical analysis programs, such as SPSS, revolutionized the ability for professionals to assess greater numbers of respondents and utilize the information more efficiently.
Individual/Self Assessment: is the process of gathering information about yourself or an individual in order to make an informed decision. An individualized assessment could include reviewing the following: values, interests, personality, skills, ability, at-risk status, or mental health conditions.
Online Screening and Evaluation Assessments:
Often utilized by career services, counseling and mental health, student health, disability services, and orientation services.
Provides faculty and staff the ability to review warning signs or to assist students in identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
Provides students the ability to identify their own struggles and/or areas for improvement.
Also provides appropriate resources in a timely manner for students to access both on-campus and off-campus.
As technology continues to evolve, student affairs professionals need to stay current with technological advances in order to provide the most efficient service to meet students’ evolving needs.
Although technological advances provide opportunities for a new delivery of services, it is important to remember that technology can never completely replace face-to-face interaction and interpersonal relationships.
An effective student affairs professional will need to maintain a balance of both technological and personal interaction when working with students.
“ Information technology in student affairs has the potential to provide student services, programs, and activities that promote learning while also improving the quality, efficiency, and effectiveness of administrative operations. The senior students affairs staff set the tone for how information technology is introduced in the division and possibly the greater campus community.”
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