Student success analytics can help you answer important questions: which programs, policies, and initiatives positively impact student success, what barriers hinder student success, and what patterns and predictors are evident for successful students? These insights can guide your institution in identifying areas where change can be most beneficial and help develop strategies for improving student success.
While data and tools enabling effective strategies are essential to a thriving student success model, improved student outcomes and institutional goals are often limited by poor change management around these initiatives.
Change management is an ongoing process. It requires regular assessment for continuous improvement opportunities. The most successful campuses never settle for the status quo but always strive to do better for their students. Learning from the data, insights, and actions taken is crucial for maximizing student success and creating a culture of continuous improvement. They understand that impactful change takes investing in people and tools that can support the implementation of effective strategies and initiatives to improve student success.
5 Common Technology Change Management Challenges
Change management is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. While many factors can contribute to the success or failure of a change initiative, there are also common challenges our community partners share that hinder the progress of change.
Here are five common challenges to avoid in change management:
- Lack of Clear Direction
- Neglecting to Involve Key Stakeholders
- Insufficient Communication
- Overlooking the Institutional Culture
- Lack of Flexibility
Lack of Clear, Shared Direction
One of the most critical factors in change management is having a clear vision and direction for the change initiative. Change efforts can quickly lose momentum and direction without a well-defined goal and plan. It’s important to set clear, shared objectives, establish a timeline, and communicate the vision to all stakeholders involved in the change process.
The University of Cincinnati provides an excellent example of a university that has strengthened enrollment, retention, graduation, and equitable access by organizing around a unified goal. Bearcat Promise is UC’s umbrella student success initiative to build academic and professional competencies on the path to graduation.
With an ambitious goal to provide each student with a graduation and career development plan and enhanced career learning opportunities, Bearcat Promise is changing the face of academic support and career preparation on campus. UC has achieved remarkable progress toward its student success objectives, intentionally organizing around a shared goal and investing in the infrastructure and tools needed for leaders and their teams to deliver on their promise to students.
Neglecting to Involve Key Stakeholders
Changes affect people, and it’s important to involve key stakeholders in the planning and execution of the change initiative. This includes top-level leaders and employees at all institutional levels who the change will impact. Failure to involve key stakeholders can result in a misaligned understanding of goals, lack of buy-in, and ultimately, failure of the change initiative.
Dr. Chelsy Pham, Vice President of Information and Technology Resources at Hartnell College in Salinas, California, employs a four-step process when selecting new technology solutions that build campus buy-in from the start. Since new software affects the experience of so many stakeholders, selecting the right student success software is a multi-faceted, time-consuming project.
In addition to the standard list of required features and capabilities, it’s essential to consider various other variables to ensure the long-term success of any technology investment. These include your institution’s culture, key stakeholders’ needs and desires, and the institution’s desired outcomes for the purchase.
Institutions that address these considerations may take advantage of an opportunity to build cross-functional support for the new platform. A lack of institution-wide buy-in will jeopardize the success of the implementation process and the return on investment gained from adopting a student success platform. Even the best software can become ineffective if it’s not broadly adopted and used across campus.
Communication is a critical component of change management. Organizations often need to communicate more effectively about change initiatives. Poor communication can result in misinformation, rumors, and resistance among staff members. Establishing a comprehensive communication plan that includes regular updates, feedback opportunities, and open communication channels is important to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and engaged in the change process.
Northwest Missouri State University’s (NWMSU) student success model relies on successful collaboration and communication between faculty, advisors, and student support units. The NWMSU leadership team invested in a connected student success platform to enable faculty and staff to access information and document their interactions with students easily. This ensures the most critical student information is easily available in one place.
NWMSU’s leaders understood that shifting to a proactive student success model required staff and faculty to access the most complete picture of a student’s experience. With a connected platform, NWMSU’s student services teams can review students’ history and real-time progress, document their appointments and interactions with students, message students via text and email, and manage alerts in one system. Wherever a student goes to seek guidance and support on campus, staff have access to a single source of information about that student. They can document their own interactions to contribute to the full picture of that student’s journey.
Overlooking the Institutional Culture
Institutional culture plays a significant role in change management. If the institution’s culture is resistant to change or does not align with the goals of the change initiative, it can hinder the progress of the change process. Assessing and understanding the culture and identifying potential barriers to change are essential. Addressing cultural issues and aligning the change initiative with the existing culture can greatly enhance the chances of success.
At the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), student success isn’t the responsibility of just one office or division but the duty of the entire institution. To live this wisdom, UTSA has implemented an organizational structure and operational practices that reinforce student success as a key initiative of the entire university. The “hub and spoke” model, UTSA’s organizational structure for student success, consists of the centralized Division of Student Success and Student Success Centers within each academic college.
The Division of Student Success, prominently located in an area of campus known as the Academic Success District, offers a slate of centralized programs and services designed to support overall student success. Additionally, each individual college has its own Student Success Center that provides resources, programs, and services tailored to a student’s academic discipline.
This organizational structure reflects a collaborative and cross-functional approach to student success. Campus leaders meet weekly to review student success data and determine targeted initiatives. The staff who oversee key departments come together to operationalize these initiatives and coordinate services.
Lack of Flexibility
Change is dynamic, and it’s important to be flexible and adaptable throughout the change process. Institutions often rigidly stick with the initial plan, even when it’s not working. It’s crucial to regularly assess the progress and timeline of the change initiative, gather feedback, and make adjustments as needed. Being open to feedback, learning from mistakes, and making necessary changes can help keep the change process on track and increase the chances of success.
As a result of a data-informed strategic enrollment and retention planning initiative, the Snow College team learned that rethinking a long-held belief could help it more effectively reach students. Snow had traditionally provided one-on-one advising to all who enrolled at the institution. Armed with student success data, however, the college learned that this one-size-fits-all approach wasn’t the most efficient way to assist students.
Lower-performing students saw a 20% boost in persistence with one-on-one advising support, compared with just a 3% increase for higher-performing students. Snow used this insight to adjust advisors’ caseloads, targeting individualized advising to those who needed it most and offering group advising to high-performing students. This proved to be a more equitable—and, ultimately, cost-effective—way to ensure strong student support.
Increasing the Success of Change Initiatives
Colleges and universities can increase the likelihood of successful technology change initiatives by avoiding these common mistakes and implementing effective change management strategies. Change management requires careful planning, clear communication, involvement of key stakeholders, consideration of organizational culture, and flexibility. By taking an intentional approach to change management, leaders can enhance the effectiveness of their institution’s student success model leading to positive and sustainable student outcomes.