The generation of students entering college today can’t remember a world without the internet. They’re used to checking their grades online, using the internet to conduct research for their papers and even chiming in on discussions via class wikis. Students are constantly connected. As a result, when they head off to college, they expect their campus to be connected, too.
Besides enhancing the student experience, technological advancements such as a connected campus also create unlimited opportunities for institutions to become more efficient, productive and collaborative. Whether your university introduces a CRM to streamline communication with constituents or delves into big data to gain insight into students’ performance, these small advancements help ensure your institution will stand the test of time.
But despite the benefits of a connected campus, it can still be tough to get buy-in from university decision-makers—especially those that perceive such advancements as costly and potentially identity-altering for the university. But while tough, it’s not impossible.
Breaking Down the Barriers to Buy-In
The arguments for a connected campus are compelling, and there are several key strategies for ensuring their legitimacy is understood and fully taken into account.
- Tailor your pitch to your audience. Being “connected” means different things to different members of your community:
- Stakeholders are invested in the long-term financial and functional health of the institution.
- They are interested in how a connected environment will make the university a more appealing educational institution.
- Students are interested in how their institution is keeping up with the increasingly connected world that they live in.
- Professors want to know how the connected environment will streamline their communication with students.As a result,when pitching your vision, tailor the conversation so it highlights the benefits that appeal each unique interest of the audience you’re addressing. In doing so, you will create advocates across the university’s many departments to champion your ideas to other key decision-makers.
- Paint a holistic picture. To really sell the idea of a connected campus and explain why it makes sense, approach the decision-makers of your university with a unique view of its qualitative benefits, which often lead to quantitative outcomes.For example, university decision-makers care about providing a good college experience because happy students graduate with a strong affinity for their alma mater become willing donors to the university. When you consider how technology contributes to that quality experience that eventually leads them to supporting it, it’s much easier to grasp the potential for profitability.In addition, illustrate the potential positive outcomes of technological advancements by walking stakeholders through a real-world situation that demonstrates the advancements’ cause and effect. Explain how a prospective student likely expects a connected campus before he or she even arrives. Then, review in detail the student’s enrollment experience his or her with the help of a mobile course-selection tool, and how they can share thoughts with peers or communicate with professors during the crucial first six weeks of college.By weaving this human element into your picture of a connected campus, you help decision-makers envision the full, broad-spectrum impact of the technology.
- Start your argument by highlighting what the campus has already. A connected campus seems much less daunting when presented as a series of incremental steps rather than an immediate and complete overhaul. Reassure your decision-makers that the campus already has the foundation for connectedness: for sample, they have have a functioning website, course selection tools and interactive calendars. From this starting point, explain to them how creating a mobile app for all of these elements just takes a few more building blocks.
- Incorporate tradition and legacy into your vision. Universities are often steeped in traditions and legacies, which makes some stakeholders reluctant to change. They may fear that the technology will somehow cheapen the learning experience or that they’ll lose something integral to their institution.Help them keep an open mind by educating them on how technology will enhance the student learning experience. Remind them of all of the historical changes the university has been through so far, and how the changes and growth have mainly served to strengthen its reputation as an institution and its offering to students.
Companies everywhere are realizing the dire need to innovate or be left behind and are taking steps to revolutionize their industry to stay ahead of consumers’ needs. For example, Airbnb has brought new freedom and intrigue to travel, and Uber has revolutionized transportation. Similarly,your institution must also adapt to our increasingly connected world in order to stay relevant and appealing to the Millennial masses (and beyond). The students who will be arriving at your university this fall are a completely connected segment of society; they expect your institution to keep up with the outside world so they’ll be prepared for the astonishing range of careers the world has to offer. If you plan to engage these tech-savvy students, the time is now for getting buy-in for your vision of a connected campus.