Take a moment to think about how technology is such an integral part of our lives. From text messaging to email to mobile apps and beyond, almost everything we do uses some sort of technology. Just within your recreation center you have software that tracks user data, you have a website and maybe even a mobile app — it is all encompassing. The question is, are you effectively using all of this technology?
The first step in increasing efficiency is to streamline the various technology used throughout not only your department, but your division. It’s important everyone is on the same page when it comes to technology. When using tech, the question is how do you use technology as a division, not a department? “Start connecting some of our data points so that we are not speaking 10 different languages,” said Dr. Ed Cabellon, the director of administration for the division of student affairs and enrollment management at Bridgewater State University. “Some people might like using Evernote better while others might like Google Drive. All of these things are great, but if it is not in sync with what everyone else is doing, it becomes problematic. Find that common thread throughout the division so you have a common tech language.”
Once your division has a streamlined approach to technology, start examining how you can use it to advance the agenda of the department. Are there creative ways you can use technology to engage or retain students? “One example is, can you use technology to re-tool your student staff trainings?” said Cabellon. “Instead of having people come in a few days early for a training to sit in a meeting room and listen to a PowerPoint [presentation], you can flip the training. Send the PowerPoint in a Blackboard course or whatever learning management system you have on campus. Once they have all the information, the training becomes more hands-on instead of having to sit there. You can also use technology to record trainings, measure learning outcomes through assessments and so much more.”
Are there technologies you are using that simply aren’t worth it? According to Cabellon, the majority of universities have a mobile app, but it is not always necessary for your department to have one. The most important thing is how your web pages respond to mobile devices. “Your web pages should be mobile responsive — not mobile friendly — so they respond to the screen they are on,” he said. “Most web pages render on a mobile screen, but they are not responsive. You want to be able to pinch and zoom in without affecting the integrity of the web infrastructure. That is where people need to spend their time and resources. If you are pointing to a link that is crappy on my phone, then I am not engaging with you.”
It’s also essential to have a website that is engaging and captivating. One way to determine this is by your text to multi-media content ratio. If your website is text heavy, you might need to spend some time re-configuring the landing pages. “For the most part, web pages are still 75 to 100 percent text based, but that is not how people consume media anymore,” added Cabellon. “Our brains are wired to look at things quickly. We scan through things rapidly. It is challenging to expect people to spend time to read through all of the material on your website. “
You could also incorporate more dynamic information into your website. Can you add videos that show off programming? What about a video tour of the facility? “In terms of transforming those text-based pages into interactive pages, try using video, infographics or memes that will engage students more,” said Cabellon. “Then you can point them to a PDF that has all the text so they can read it if they are interested, but I think the front page should be something that is more engaging so people want to look at it.”
It might be time to ask if your department can be more effective and strategic in the way you use and implement technology. If so, Cabellon suggested asking the following questions: “It is great to get excited about new technology, but what does it do? How does it help you? Are there other universities that are using it? What kind of data can you gain from it?” he asked. “There has to be a process by which you have conversations within the department around technology on a regular basis.”