How Universities Can Meet The Digital Expectations of Students

Cohort by cohort, higher education students are becoming more digitally proficient. Today’s students use intuitive apps to perform all sorts of day-to-day activities, from ordering lunch to banking or finding a lift home.

Guest Author, July 19, 2017

As technology continues to change the job market, students are aware that their careers will demand a high level of digital competency. As Jisc stated: “we know that around 90% of all new jobs require good digital skills”.

As a result of these factors, students have high expectations of how a university will use technology to aid the student experience. A university’s digital competency has become an important factor in an HE applicant’s application decision. However, not all institutions are getting it right.

A Jisc survey found that 75% of UK students believe that having staff with the appropriate digital skills is an important factor when choosing a university. In the US, EdTech Magazine reported that one-third of college students say they think less of their universities because of their digital strategies or lack thereof.

Here are the three main ways in which universities are failing to meet the digital expectations of their students – and suggestions for how they can improve their tech offering.

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Students expect institutions to collect their personal data and use it to improve their study experience. In the US, an Ellucian survey found that 77% of students believe institutions should use their personal data to inform academic, financial and careers development services.

Millennials and members of Generation Z are not only comfortable with companies and apps collecting their data: they even expect it as part of the service. As EducationDIVE reported in May:

“Many students already see their data being used across most platforms for a tailored user experience. The interconnectivity of devices, apps and browsers have led to highly customised ads and product recommendations on Facebook, in their email inboxes and on their mobile phones.”

One way that universities could make good use of student data is by utilising content recommendations. Current students may think: “If Netflix can suggest programmes based on which titles I’ve binged on and which I’ve abandoned halfway through, why can’t my university use data in a similar way to recommend ebooks, electorate classes, careers events or job vacancies?”.

Bibblio is a startup which offers universities the ability to recommend relevant educational content. The SaaS platform draws upon machine learning algorithms to provide users with resources they’re statistically likely to find useful, boosting engagement and retaining students on the university’s website.

Learning resources

Jisc states that “ 58% of HE learners have never used an educational game or simulation as part of their course and 48.4% have never used a poll or quiz to give answers in class.”

Games are proven to be a great way to package learning materials and encourage active learning. The Guardian published a blog by a university learning technologist in May which neatly summarised the benefits of gamifying learning activities:

"The students loved it, engrossed for an hour in a case study that would have taken them a couple of minutes to read and subsequently forget."

There are many edtech companies which make the creation of games easy even for staff whose digital skills aren’t advanced. WildFire takes any text file and turns the content into fill-in-the-blank learning tasks. Kahoot is a game-based learning platform which makes it easy for teachers to create an interactive quiz. Another option is Knowledge Guru, a platform of apps that use game-based learning, adaptive learning and microlearning to increase knowledge retention.

Universities can also use audience engagement technologies to boost students’ engagement with lectures. Common criticisms of university lectures are that they’re too passive: a one-person monologue which students aren’t encouraged to engage or interact with. There are proven links between passive learning and poor knowledge retention: as Columbia University states, “when students are passive, their brain doesn’t do an especially effective job of processing or retaining the information.”

It’s unlikely the traditional-style lecture is going anywhere soon, but universities can easily make lectures far more engaging and boost learning retention by implementing a tool like Glisser . The Student Response System allows students to closely follow a lecturer’s learning materials on their laptop, phone or tablet. They can easily save slides they find interesting, make private notes to reference at a later date, ask the lecturer questions, upvote fellow students’ questions and participate in polls – all in one place.

Administration systems

According to a survey by DJS Research, about 40% of students say their schools' administration systems are so clunky that using them causes lost study time. 7 in 10 students recommend their schools update their digital offerings and 87% said they want a more simplified solution - like single sign-on - for all the apps, tools and administration systems they use.

The message is clear: students expect the tech they use at their uni to be as advanced as the apps they use in their day-to-day life. They want tools to be clean and well designed, integrated, intuitive and built with the user experience in mind.

FULL FABRIC is a student management system which has been designed according to these considerations. Students can use one intuitive platform to register for a university’s events, apply for a programme, pay application fees and perform many other essential tasks. To discuss how FULL FABRIC could assist your university, sign up for a free, one-hour consultation regarding your institution’s admissions process.

To sum up

As higher education becomes increasingly competitive and students expect more and more of a university’s digital offering, institutions can’t afford to stand still and lose ground to competitors. It’s imperative for universities to adopt a digital-first approach which embraces edtech to offer the best possible student experience.


FULL FABRIC is an education software startup based in London. It has provided student management solutions to leading international universities for over five years. It takes pride in helping these institutions deliver a better student experience while making processes easier and more intuitive for all staff members. Visit our website, follow us on Twitter or visit our blog to learn more.


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