Powering High Touch With High Tech

Higher education is experiencing a time where new technology inventions are transforming the way we interact with the modern college student.

With new technology tools, there is so much potential for augmenting the work we do as student affairs professionals making sure learning and engagement happens at our institutions. No longer will our efforts be left to guesswork or estimations. We can have hard numbers for what our students are doing (or not doing). Technology is now even included as a competency area in the NASPA/ACPA guidelines for our work.

These tools aren’t going to drive us further away from our students; with more of this data, and better access to it, we can be far better poised for success. We can be better informed, and make sure we’re doing all that we can to support all our students each day.

The Role of Technology

Before I get into some of my other points, I want to make something clear; technology isn’t meant to replace the interactions we would normally have with our students. It is meant to supplement and augment our efforts that have worked for decades (or centuries). We aren’t getting rid of much, we’re working to include these new tools in our current efforts. For example, smartphone card swipes supplement our already happening campus programs, social media is sharing the initiatives we’re currently doing, and apps connect students with the resources we have always offered. The role of technology shouldn’t be intimidating or foreboding. It is something that can help us do our jobs better.

See What’s Trending

Technology provides many windows into what is going on in our campus communities. We can track social media conversations (with tools like TweetDeck), and gain feedback on our efforts. For example, if you want to improve your residence hall environments, track a particular hashtag on Twitter, or search for mentions of your institution and “housing” or “dorms”. Some simple, different parameters will connect you to what is happening real time on campus, so you can adjust your efforts or even better yet, respond to questions and concerns from students. With different technology tools, you can also track attendance at events, and manage the reach of different initiatives to see what is (and isn’t) trending with your student population (Twitter and Facebook have gotten a lot better lately with their analytics). This information can be so valuable as you decide what to spend time and resources on.

Flags and Notifications

On the flip side, just as you can see what students are enjoying and talking about, with technology you can also get insight into what is noteworthy in a negative sense with your students. We gather so much data from card swipes across campus. Monitoring this and combining it with information about things like event attendance and perhaps class attendance provides the opportunity to set up flags and notifications.

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One professional can notice a trend of a student not going to the dining hall, for example, and check in with their colleagues across campus to see what other context they can give. They can then figure out a plan of action to reach out to support the student if needed. Some of these things can be setup automatically to notify us of troublesome trends. This provides a great opportunity to collaborate with your campus IT professionals to work together to create a system that allows everyone to do their best job helping your students.

Ease of Use

This one applies as much to professionals as it does to students. Students crave the answers to questions they have. They have the world in their hands now, and they want to get an instant solution no matter when or where they are. By providing resources online in mobile friendly designs or apps, helps reduce the backlog and workload on our shoulders since students can solve a lot of their own problems, but it also encourages the maturing of our students to feel empowered to figure things out themselves. Also, if they need our help, we can use tools like YouCanBook.Me to book appointments for our counseling or advising offices. On the other side, creating systems that allow for greater ease of use on the back end helps us get more work done in a better way than before. This can take the shape as using the always useful (and free) Google Suite, migrating to shared cloud storage (Dropbox or Google Drive work great), and utilizing various tools for project and team management. It all allows for more collaboration, greater remote access, wastes less paper, and gives data on past efforts. This all coalesces together to remove silos on campus, and allow everyone to do their best work supporting the students at your campus.

Powering Your Job With Technology

The current state of higher education demands that we do our work better, achieve the best outcomes for our students, and use all the tools we have at our disposal to do this. Technology provides an amazing opportunity to increase the high touch nature of our work and bring us closer to our students, not further away. Our students crave more technology implementation in almost all aspects of their lives. We need to understand the potential of technology to grant us more information, and more chances to make a positive impact on the daily lives of our students. Get ideas from your students, find your “tech buddy” on campus, or challenge your team to redefine how they do their work by finding new tools. Have them report back on what they find and how they feel they’d positively impact the work you all do. By doing any or all of these things I’ve mentioned in this post, we’ll all work to create campus cultures that are welcoming, engaging, and supportive.

Have great ways you use technology to be successful with high touch? Share them with us @CheckImHere. We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

Don’t worry, we won’t share your email.
Dustin Ramsdell

About the author: Dustin is a graduate of the Rutgers University College Student Affairs Ed.M Program. He is a proud nerd and self-affirmed "Higher Ed Geek" who is excited to connect with folks who share his love of deep conversations! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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