The best student experience in the world? These are the lessons higher education institutions should take from the business world

Whether studying remotely or on campus, the time to develop an excellent student experience is now.

The remote studying caused by corona restrictions has made recent years challenging for higher education students. A sense of community and engagement have been absent as students have tried to manage their studies from home.

Now, if ever, education providers should have the understanding and tools to guide students, whether at home or on campus, proactively. Higher education institutions should look to the business world to develop the student experience.

The student experience is customer experience

I want higher education institutions to identify students more strongly as customers, each with their own unique student experience. The student experience – the same as the customer experience – should be managed, developed and measured.

In the business world, customer experience is already a familiar concept. It is formed in every encounter between the customer and the company. Correspondingly, the student experience is created in every encounter between the student and the higher education institution, whether the student is participating in remote lectures, enrolling for courses in the online service or in connection with study services.

I argue that investing in the student experience can improve students’ motivation and well-being and accelerate their studies. After an excellent student experience, students are more likely to consider graduate studies and recommend their school to others.

Help and support at the right time

We can also take advantage of the customer lifecycle model by thinking of students as customers. It provides a clear framework for the needs-based development of the student experience for different customer groups.

Students are not a unified mass but a wide variety of different customer groups with varying life situations and needs. Students’ situations are different, for example, in what stage they are in their studies, whether they have a family or whether they are adult students. In developing services, one must always consider how they fit the needs of different customer segments.

An essential capability in new digital services is the ability of the university to be proactive towards the student. I will give a concrete example of this: if a student fails in their studies, the student support services will immediately approach the student. Together with the faculty, support staff will find out how the student can best be helped and who is the right person for the job. Then they make a plan with the student on how to move forward, ensuring their wellbeing, success and continued learning journey with the school. All of this is possible if one has the correct data and the right tools.

The technology of tomorrow already exists

Pioneering universities have already started using a variety of Salesforce applications that seamlessly bring together the student, their learning path, and the employees.

One such application is the Student Success Hub, a part of the Salesforce Education Cloud product family for the education industry. The Student Success Hub is a digital platform that can create a fantastic student support experience by combining the student’s profile, the institution’s “Success Team”, and the engagement data generated by the student’s interactions with different services such as the learning environment. The Success team consists of the right study advisors, professors, tutors and other relevant members of staff for that student to succeed at their current stage of the student journey.

The Student Success Hub provides the Success Team with many tools to proactively support the student. It allows shared visibility to such critical data as the student’s curriculum, achievements, past meetings and meeting notes with the Success Team, and more, eliminating silos and data inconsistency between different parties. The student will feel that the school recognises them as an individual, and in other interactions, they don’t have to repeat the same things. This is how you can build genuinely extraordinary experiences and turn reactive student support into proactive student success!

Sounds quite a bit different from the old way of working that relies on the student’s proactivity, siloed teams and splintered legacy systems, right?


Kari Poutanen

Global Industry Lead, Education

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