March 26, 2021

6 Prompts to Guide Your Student Service Redesign

Designing Experiences

By Adam Griff

Student needs are increasingly complex and cut across the typical silos of student services. Consider a student who wants to study abroad and the questions he or she may have: How will this contribute to my degree requirements? Will my credits transfer? Which program best positions me for a future job? How do I pay for this? How do I obtain the right visas and the vaccinations I need?

Embarking on a study abroad program can involve enrollment, career services, financial aid, student accounts, and the health center. For students, study abroad is a singular coherent experience and process but from the perspective of universities it involves multiple workflows and providers.

At the same time, new student cohorts have brought their consumer experiences and its raised expectations into their educational life.

Students expect a cohesive, seamless, and personalized experience at every interaction they have online and in person, providing them the information and support how and when they want it.

What’s needed most is a way to build a shared understanding uniting students’ different perspectives. A cohesive vision and plan can be developed by answering six straightforward questions: Why, What, How, Who, Where, and When.

brightspot’s Service Strategy Approach

What follows are tips and tools for answering each question, illuminated with a relevant example.

Why? Service philosophy for a student success center.

Every endeavor starts with why and identifying the core values and principles that not only align the different service providers but also serve as a driver in every subsequent decision you make together in your service innovation project. A simple, concise phrase can at once be memorable and provide a nuanced set of values applicable to diverse situations. At one state university’s future success center, the service philosophy of “Treat students like they can succeed’ embodied the principles of providing a high level of hands-on support, while also seeing the student experience as a opportunity to teach students how to be independent as well.

What? Service portfolio for a knowledge and wellness commons.

A service portfolio articulates what future set of services will be part of your project and categorizes them in a way that will be intuitive and recognizable to students. Hampshire College planned to bring both their library and recreational center into one knowledge and wellness commons. Creating a unified service portfolio and categories to describe them — health services, coaching and counseling, clubs and groups, classes and events, and research — provided a roadmap for how the future commons could support the full student, embodying the college’s commitment of nourishing mind, body, and soul.

How? Service delivery for adult learners.

The service blueprint is an effective and compelling tool for thinking through ‘how’ service delivery works from the student perspective. At Portland State University the department of academic innovation and student affairs collaborated on improving the student experience for non-traditional adult learners. Given the complexity of student life for non-traditional students, service blueprints for the new service concepts helped the various providers agree on their internal interactions while keeping the student experience front and center, driving the process development.

Who? Service providers for an integrated advising hub.

At the core of the campus experience are the relationships students build — with other students, faculty, and staff. Rethinking who is delivering your services can be another source of innovation in the student experience. Is it by generalists or specialists? Through professionals or by peers? University of Virginia’s Total Advising — which brings together advising on academics, personal well-being, and career matters — answered the question of Who by creating a new role of generalist student staff, inspired by national park rangers who have a broad range of expertise from lacing your hiking boots to the best trails to take. The new student ‘rangers’ would act both as ‘guides’ who go with you and ‘travel agents’ that tell you where to go.

Where? Service points for a university library.

Rethinking where places of service delivery are located is a common driver in student service innovation projects, for example solving the ‘student shuffle’ as students are referred from one location to another. North Carolina State University’s Hunt Library recognized that students seek help at the most convenient service point regardless of speciality and developed a strategy of a single integrated service point with roaming mobile staff to resolve questions in one interaction and meet students where they are.

When? Hours of operation for a campus center.

Just as you would consider the best places to best meet student needs — for example bringing additional partner services into a library — rethinking when to provide services can ensure they are more responsive to the rhythms of student life as well as operationally efficient. At the campus center at Young Harris College, the center’s different providers — library, dining, meeting, and administrative functions — had varying hours of operations. Considering their operating hours together helps ensure the center’s operations best met student needs and stay within its staffing and space constraints.

Moving Forward

These questions need to be answered in any planning process, but when considered together and using the right tools it can build a holistic experience and be a prompt for true innovation. Good luck with your redesigning your student services and get in touch if we can be of assistance!

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