How to Get Technology out of Your Way

We live in a world increasingly augmented by technology.

Tech is all around us solving problems, making tasks easier, and connecting us like never before. Even so, it can sometimes create frustrating pain points, be confusing, or become overwhelming. If it isn’t utilized properly, sometimes technology can feel like a burden and a barrier.

That’s why I’m reassured by recent developments where technology works better by simply getting out of our way. Whether it is the new iPhone X with facial gestures and fewer buttons or the advent of devices like Google Home that let you simply speak commands, or the potential of stores like Amazon Go where you don’t need checkout lines and registers.

All of these new tools improve our lives by seamlessly integrating into our existing routines rather than trying to change them.

This principle also applies to the student experience.

We have amazing tools at our disposal to support and engage our students, but if that technology is in our way, it’s just going to be a barrier to involvement — not an encourager of it.

We need to create systems that allow students to operate as they normally would while allowing student affairs professionals to record the actionable insights we need to help make sure we’re doing the best work we can.

Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

Barrier-free ecosystems

As campus professionals, we have amazing tools at our disposal that allow us to create seamless experiences for students to go to events, use services, and live their lives while giving us the information we need to best support them.

Card swiping technology can make check-in a breeze. Near field communication (NFC) can allow for smooth, secure payments. Digital forms can facilitate many student services without even leaving one’s room. Meetings can be booked through a few clicks so that meaningful face-to-face dialogues can happen.

You can see where I’m going here.

There are ways we can reduce barriers and increase utilization. All of these ideas also leave a trail so it helps with accountability and with tracking for future reference. The simple thing here is thinking about how we can make things as easy as possible for our students.

Students live complex, busy lives so wherever we can ease a process a bit, it will help tremendously.

Information-sharing

So once you have improved your campus services by getting technology out of the way, now you have to make the insights accessible and actionable. The right people need the right info at the right time.

Most database systems should allow you to give the appropriate level of access to different people so that things won’t get bottlenecked at one person who is the only one able to convey information.

You’re all on the same team of supporting student success, so don’t restrict resources that can help a colleague do their work.

Communication and action

Once everyone has access to shared insights from your various digital efforts, it can still be helpful to have a human touch, whether it is coordinating a united front between offices or reaching out to a student personally to give a strategic intervention.

The information you’ve gathered and shared out will do no one any good if it just sits in a database somewhere. Assessment is only as good as the person dedicated to doing it, so you need to make sure you’re measuring the right things, tracking it over time based on different variables, correlating data points, and getting input and coordinating with other stakeholders.

This all isn’t going to happen overnight, but devoting ourselves to making things better for ourselves and our students is a worthwhile pursuit — even if it is hard and takes time. Our students deserve it.

Smooth, seamless campus environments where technology augments — not impedes — the student experience will allow for more thriving, engaged communities.

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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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