October 17, 2014, by Zoë Goodwin
Project Transform and the Student Experience
Within the Project Transform team we have four recent graduates of The University of Nottingham whose role it is to make sure the student voice guides the project and that they remain at the heart of everything the project does. The three Change and Engagement Managers wrote the below student case for the project. This is their perspective of what students want. These issues will be addressed throughout the programme with the input of a large representation of current students.
Students invest significant amounts of time and money into their education; it is therefore not surprising that they continue to have ever-growing expectations. In order to stay ahead in this competitive market, offering an excellent student experience is more important than ever before. In fact the question what is ‘good’ about a particular university should be framed with the principal question of what a student wants.
In order for The University of Nottingham to offer the student experience which is envisaged within Strategy 2020, Project Transform needs to change the way the University works together, to make process improvements and to implement a supporting I.T system by putting the students at the heart of everything it does. This means placing students at the forefront of the project, giving them the guiding voice and the opportunity to shape their University journey.
The University of Nottingham needs to offer students a seamless student experience from prospect, to student to alumnus. It is necessary to ensure that students are fully and properly supported and that their needs are met 24 hours a day, every day of the year, on every course, at every level, in China, Malaysia and in the UK. Other universities are outpacing us so it is imperative that we ensure that students are able to make the most of the opportunities provided by studying at the University.
Technologies are increasingly pervasive in students’ lives and therefore experiences of interacting with technology are an integral aspect of their overall experience. Our student administration system needs to provide students with rapid feedback, is quick and easy to use. Seamlessness is again important; the university needs to ensure that the information provided to students is consistent across the University and is non-repetitive. This will create a better integrated University both across Schools/Departments, leading to less fragmented student administration, and across campuses, contributing to improved inter-campus student mobility. Students will feel more connected to the University as a whole.
It is more important now than ever before to offer our students choice in the way they interact with the University. This is both in terms of flexibility and accessibility. They want to be able to interact with the University from wherever they are, whenever they like. We are increasingly becoming accustomed to on-demand services and student’s expectations of the University are very much aligned to this. The design of our systems therefore needs to be responsive to this expectation. We need to design intuitive system interfaces that are accessible from mobile devices and tablets.
Not only do students want accessibility and flexibility, they also want a personalised experience. The University needs to interact and adapt to individual student needs by providing them with a bespoke experience that makes them feel valued. Effective use of data within the University will allow staff to target all information relevant to a particular student instantly, creating a greater personalised interaction between staff and student. In addition to this, students want and expect their online space to be personalised to their individual requirements and interests. This will lead to an improved student experience as students will begin to feel valued as important and at the centre of their own university experience.
In addition to the interactive expectations of our students, it is also important to meet their expectations of reliability and security. It is imperative to have a system that is resilient, secure and that does not crash. Unreliable systems have had detrimental effects including loss of personal data, loss of work, the inability to access data/documents etc. The University needs to implement a reliable system that students can depend on.
The benefits of Project Transform will not only affect students directly through the way they interact with the University but will also benefit students indirectly through the beneficial effects the project will have on university staff. Non-academics will be up-skilled and supported by a superior system and therefore will be better able to support students and provide them with the information and administration they need in a much more efficient and seamless fashion. Significant administrative time savings for Academics will free up more of their time to spend on research and teaching.
Finally, Project Transform cannot be seen as a one-off implementation. Project Transform is about changing the way that the University works together and about creating a University culture that supports continuous improvements to our student administration and to the student experience. Student expectations do not change between generations, they change constantly and in order to stay competitive in a flux market The University of Nottingham needs to understand these changing expectations and to advance accordingly.