Achieving the Student-Centered Experience: Bridging Mission, Technology and ConsumerismJudd Nicholson | Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Georgetown University
In today’s competitive higher education landscape, universities are adopting new ways to attract prospective applicants and meet the expectations of savvy students, consumers bringing expectations for a modern and personalized experience.
For Georgetown, the definition of a student-centered experience goes much deeper than traditional marketing efforts. We aspire to deliver an experience of academic excellence characterized by cura personalis: a Latin phrase meaning “care for the whole person.” We aspire to individualized attention to the needs of each student, with distinct respect for their unique circumstances and concerns, and an appropriate appreciation for their particular gifts and insights. In an age of increasing consumerism and technological innovation, thoughtfully implementing new methods of conducting business such as digital engagement, business intelligence, data analytics, constituent management technologies, and overall technology modernization can empower the campus community to deliver an authentic Georgetown student-centered experience in a modern context.
Georgetown emphasizes a student’s experiential journey as not just a four-year engagement but as a lifelong relationship. We cultivate and hope to maintain rich connections with peers, faculty and administrators that extend beyond graduation. Georgetown’s global reach and commitment to this engagement has driven our modernization strategy to embrace cloud-first, mobile, and agile platforms that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. For example, we are developing GU360—a Georgetown-branded, campus-wide constituent relationship management (CRM) service built upon Salesforce that will give our faculty, staff, students and alumni a consumer-friendly experience to communicate and connect with each other on a daily basis. By approaching CRM from a campus-wide perspective, Georgetown can facilitate connections between students seeking alumni mentors, research opportunities, volunteer and social justice opportunities and other interdisciplinary activities beyond the classroom.
The GU360 student portal being developed will give students a single path into the once-divergent on-line systems they need to access ranging from learning management to administrative systems. By providing one point of access, we can present timely information more simply, delivering a more modern consumer experience. Capturing these touch points will also provide the university with an integrated and holistic look at the student population, allowing us to assess and understand their evolving needs. By adopting an agile platform, the university will be well positioned to adopt future innovations and have the data to inform investments and priorities to further enhance the student experience.
A personalized experience has always been at the heart of how Georgetown students receive scaffolding for deeper learning, critical advising and support, and transformational research opportunities. Today, such an individualized approach requires a technologically complex environment, and many dedicated staff relying on disparate sources of data to be able to see the complete picture.
Modernizing the information technology platforms to provide an integrated and seamless experience that serves up meaningful data when it is needed not only improves the efficiency of those activities but also enriches the dialogue about how we are doing and opens up new opportunities to do more and to do it better. In addition, by aggregating the data over time in a modern business intelligence service, Georgetown can identify trends that lead to improved student outcomes and more dynamically adjust programming to meet student needs. This adaptability is critical for a student-centered, research university.
Our students have high standards and expectations. As digital natives, students bring to campus a need for robust, reliable connectivity and ideas to innovate in the classroom, in the research lab and in their daily life. While students are often eager participants in digital initiatives involving more personalized experiences, it is crucial for us to ensure trust, security and privacy as the stewards of the data. Georgetown’s modernization strategy includes replacing legacy applications, lifting up the entire foundation to build the next-generation network designed to support the mobility and research needs, integrating robust cybersecurity into the applications and building a culture of innovation. Our students are partners in innovation. Students are encouraged to develop prototypes, run hackathons and contribute ideas to improve the experience within a balanced security framework. As active engaged participants in this strategy, the student is an important contributor to shaping a more flexible experience.
While adopting a strategy to deliver a modern personalized student experience has enormous value for higher education, achieving this goal requires overcoming common challenges. These include balancing privacy and security, addressing numerous point solution systems with disparate data stores, and finding the balance between what can be shared across the campus and what needs to be unique. At Georgetown and many higher education institutions, the decentralized nature of the environment has led to many unit-specific business processes and systems. This creates a challenging historical data landscape in which to perform effective analysis and innovate. Georgetown modernized its enterprise reporting and business intelligence systems by engaging stakeholders, addressing disparities, and developing common understanding of data definitions. And we are not finished. We continue to work through data rationalization efforts to enhance data analytics. The GU360 CRM project takes these efforts to the next level by addressing real-time data analysis for daily engagement while further expanding an integrated data architecture.
At Georgetown, this effort is powered by people, not just technology. Through partnerships across the stakeholder community, Georgetown has been able to chart a course to build the modern and personalized student experience in a manner that enhances the institution’s traditions, unique identity and mission.
Author Perspective: Administrator