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Higher education is facing fundamental changes, especially after online learning during the pandemic. Universities are asking questions like how to support students and staff members impacted by educational system changes. How should they help students in uncertain economic times and an unsettled emotional environment? To what extent can technology help students and employees learn and work more flexibly or help institutions operate more efficiently?

Institutions have an incredible opportunity to build on their strengths, while also seizing opportunities to do more for the future of higher education. The time is now to lay new foundations for strong student-institution relationships through compassion, empathy, and trust.

Recognize students’ needs

Students want to feel a sense of belonging on campus, that they want to be lifelong learners, and that they expect their university to care for their wellbeing. Institutions can better serve these needs by prioritizing the onboarding experience, expanding support and career services, and providing resources students can access even after graduation.

Even as students want more face-to-face interactions, the survey results show that institutions will need to use current technology to develop personalized experiences for students and facilitate in-person connections.

Ultimately, students who have a tailored university experience are more likely to have a great experience. And it’s those students who become proud alumni and passionate advocates for their institution.

Based on the Connected Student Report prepared by Salesforce, only a third of students report having a great university experience, indicating that institutions have room to improve. Higher education institutions have room to improve experiences.

Students rate university expierience

Based on the report, four main areas of student needs to emerge:

  1. Students make it clear that their institutional experience depends heavily on their first few weeks on campus. Students who have a great onboarding experience are 35 times more likely to have a great overall university experience.
  2. Students want holistic support from application to graduation. Students also report needing more well-being resources (36%) and in-person events and activities (54%) to connect with their peers. Students worldwide say that social events, more than classes, help them feel like a part of the university.
  3. Students want to be prepared for the future of work. Nearly half (47%) of students reported selecting their institution for career prospects, but only 11% felt very prepared for work. Students who feel well-prepared are four times more likely to have a great university experience.
  4. Flexibility and diversity matter. Students who have a great experience reported having easy online access to data and resources (86% great experience vs. 49% poor experience), services available via mobile (82% vs. 61%), positive digital experiences (81% vs. 36%), access to sharing platforms (80% vs. 57%), and personalized experiences tailored to their needs (60% vs. 11%).

3 Ways Universities Can Improve Student Communications

A significant part of the student experience is closely related to communication. Problems in this area mainly concern the frequency of contact, its personalization, and sending reminders or alerts.

how to improve students communication

Nine out of ten students want organizations to contact them as frequently as possible, including email, targeted communications, and notifications.

25% of respondents say they would like a more individualized college experience overall, while about 4 out of 10 say they would like more personalized communications.

More than half of staff members say that email represents the most effective channel for communicating with alumni and others.

Videoconferencing was rated as the highest for soliciting gifts during the pandemic, followed by email and social media.

How staff predicts future investments in technology

University employees observe university investments in technology from a unique perspective – from the inside. They directly experience student requirements and organizational shortcomings in the online area.

how staff predicts technology investments

While a slightly smaller percentage (46%) expect to see more money going toward research tech, more than half of the faculty (52%) believe that their institution will invest in classroom technology.

A sizable percentage (44%) anticipates spending on opportunities for faculty and staff involvement and learning.

Regarding modifications to marketing tactics, nearly half of the workforce (45%) reports that there has been an increase in digital advertising since the outbreak of the pandemic, indicating that enrollment and recruitment offices have altered how they connect with potential students.

The top strategies developed during the pandemic for reaching and enticing new students, according to staff, were live chat sessions, virtual events, campus tours, and webinars. Virtual campus visits will probably still be offered after the pandemic, according to one-third of the personnel.

technology investments areas for universities

Less than half of organizations (47%) prioritize IT integration efforts, whereas 45% prioritize CRMs more highly (Constituent Relationship Management Platforms).

Only 40% of companies are putting a focus on data analytics technology. Colleges should focus on making improvements in that area.

There are many concerns regarding virus surveillance and student privacy, yet real-time data analytics can boost student success while also making everyone’s experience safer.


To fulfill these changing needs, institutions are also making investments in the digital infrastructure. They keep automating and updating their technology, and many recruiting managers are tasked with enhancing the online experience.

Nowadays, Institutions involve more people in the decisions they make about technology.  As institutions chart a course through the pandemic and beyond, they are looking to integrate technological innovations into a wide range of campus activities, from admissions and alumni relations to communications and enrollment, as well as around more comprehensive strategies intended to support them and their students.

Case Study

Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Marketing automation
at the University

Read the case study

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