The Evolution of the Digital Student Experience

Posted: 09/10/2020

The provision of support services has been a journey of evolution as technology has been developed. Back in the 1970s, the only real way to obtain support or get questions answered was to appear in person or make a phone call. Often these contacts weren’t recorded, so if you did not get immediate satisfaction your chances of resolution plummeted! Sometimes the only way to have some issues resolved was to camp in the service area until it was!

The 1980s saw the rise of the Help Desk. A centralised area that would receive, record, triage and assign requests for service. If you were lucky, these requests were recorded and could be tracked and managed to completion. The 1980s also saw the introduction of internal messaging systems (the fore runner of email), which enabled electronic interaction, at least in the back office internal workings of the University. By the end of the 80s, many institutions were beginning to invest in software applications that supported the provision of service to customers.

The 1990s saw the decentralisation of computing capability from large-scale central computers, such as mainframes to servers and dumb network-connected terminals to personal computers. This also led to another decentralisation of the provision of support services, which meant customers had to again, find the right area to communicate with about their issue. However, also at this time, frameworks for delivering ‘best practice’ in customer service began their rise and recommended re-centralisation.

The 2000s saw the rise of web-delivered technologies and, funnily enough, this led to the return of centralised computing and the generation of server ‘farms’. The service provided to customers has oscillated in this time from centralised to de-centralised, and the level of service has fluctuated from place to place across and within institutions.

Web technology saw the rise of portals and self-help capability; you could log and track your calls. Service provision has generally improved, though one thing has remained constant – the provision of service has remained reactive. If a student does not ask for something or request something, it does not happen. So, if they don’t know to ask for something like support services, then how can they?

Over the last five years, technologies such as virtual agents, chatbots, machine learning and artificial intelligence have emerged. Finally, now, there is a capability to provide proactive services to students and, in fact, all customers.

In 2020 all student information can be accessed and analysed, and services can be tailored and presented to a student predictively. Even better, this predictive analysis can be channelled to student welfare areas to initiate contact and the provision of support services proactively. Mapping this capability to a student’s journey and delivering services as and when they are required proactively is now a reality.

Imagine being able to identify individual students at risk based on pre-set triggers in the software that can enable your teams to intercede and apply retention techniques as soon as the need is identified, assisting students identify placement opportunities and to prepare for graduation.

In 2020, the student experience platform is real. If you want to chat about the possibilities for your institution, call Jeff on 0439 884 845 or email me at