Skip to main content

Planning for Student Experience Services

Yesterday the Student Systems Management team met to review the draft “Strategic framework for Student Experience Services” and consider how our work can support this plan.  The discussion ranged over a number of topics.

One recurring theme was how to join services and information so that students can find what they need (sometimes even before they know they need it).  The recently released Path tool (requires login) is a great example of this: it shows students which courses they may need to take as precursors for others, while also showing them alternatives that may be available from other schools.  If the feedback option is enabled, they can see moderated comments from other students, such as recommendations to read a given book before starting the course.  This helps students navigate their way through the complex set of options available to them.  It also makes this information available to personal tutors, who otherwise may only have a partial view of the possibilities.

We can and should take this further.  For example, potential applicants to the university have to complete forms for scholarships which are separate to their application, and they have to hunt through the information on the scholarships web in order to find the scholarships for which they are eligible.  Why not have the IT system use the information on their application form to direct them to the appropriate scholarships?   On a more prosaic level, the web sites for student-facing services are currently quite disjointed and students need to know which departments to look for.  The web sites could be redesigned to give a list of all services available. 

This discussion led us to another theme.  How do we know what students actually want or need?  The University has several initiatives attempting to answer this question for different areas.  We, as IT professionals, need to be included in these discussions so that we can understand the requirements and make suggestions at early stages.  Then we need involvement from actual students to help design our systems so that they work to best advantage.

We also discussed how to support innovation.  The Path system is a great example; it was developed by student developers, supported by their school, and taken on board by IS.  Perhaps we could create programmes for students to propose changes to the support services, with a prize for the best idea and optional funding to take it forward.  We could support open data initiatives within the University, linked with the annual Innovative Learning Week.  And on our side, perhaps we could harness our developers’ knowledge by offering a similar competition to suggest ideas that would improve the student experience.

One final point to mention was the importance of steering suggestions through to actual changes.  There is a perception in some quarters that the University runs a lot of surveys and collects feedback but that people don’t see any effects as results of all this activity.  This makes them cynical and less likely to contribute feedback.  We need to extend the “you said, we did” mentality and consistently show how the feedback and comments lead to improvements in services (big or small).  We can help that by putting in a provision for small, quick changes in cases where the difficulties revealed can be easily addressed.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

2016 has been a good year

So much has happened over the last year with our Enterprise Architecture practice that it's hard to write a succinct summary.  For my day-to-day experience as enterprise architect, the biggest change is that I now have a team to work with.  This time last year, I was in the middle of a 12-month secondment to create the EA practice, working mainly on my own.  Now my post has been made permanent and I have recruited two members of staff to help meet the University's architectural needs.

I have spent a lot of the year meeting people, listening to their concerns and explaining how architecture can help them.  This communication remains vital, the absolute core of what we do and we will continue to meet people in this way.  We also talk to people in other Universities in order to learn from what they are doing and to share our own experience back.  A highlight in this regard was my trip to the USA last January.

Our biggest deliverable for the past year was the design of the data wa…

A new EA Repository

One of my goals since starting this job two years ago has always been to create a repository for architecture documents.  The idea is to have a central store where people can find information about the University's applications, data sources, business processes, and other architectural information.  This store will make it easier for us to explain our plans, to show the current state of the University's information systems, and to explain what Enterprise Architecture is all about.

It's taken a long time to reach this goal, mainly because we're often had more pressing and immediate work to be done.  The creation of a repository is one of those tasks that is very important but never quite urgent.  So I'm now very happy to say that we are in the process of deploying a repository and modelling tool.


This is the culmination of a careful process to select the most appropriate tool for our needs.  We began by organising several workshops to gather requirements from a rang…

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…