Kimberly A. Conner, IT Communications Associate, Division of Information Technology, Texas State University
Texas State University’s Division of Information Technology has implemented the Ellucian Experience platform as part of its ongoing commitment to providing students with seamless digital resources. Promoted to the campus community as “Bobcat Experience,” this customizable, user-friendly portal makes it easier than ever to access campus services.
A New Experience
Texas State’s Division of Information Technology, led by Vice President and CIO Ken Pierce, constantly strives to streamline student access to campus services. As platforms become almost exclusively cloud-based, the IT Division’s Technology Resources (“TR”) unit continues to unify digital resources. The Ellucian Experience product serves as a hub for student data and information. Unveiled to the campus community as “Bobcat Experience,” the Ellucian product offers a dashboard environment, giving students immediate access to services like dining, housing, academic calendars, learning management systems, financial aid, and academic counseling. The Experience environment also allows students to log in just once and access multiple resources, reducing the need for duplicate credential entries. Mark Hughes, Associate Vice President for Technology Resources, explains what drives this service: “Bobcat Experience provides an easier interface, more information dissemination, and [a] customizable dashboard. [It] is a steppingstone in the Division of Information Technology’s continuing commitment to student success.”
A Transformational Experience
Students are bombarded by information. Alerts for texts, chats, and social media compete with university notifications for attention. Sorting through extraneous information to reach important notices can be challenging. Nevertheless, universities expect prompt responses to time-sensitive information. To better capture and engage students’ attention to campus notifications, Bobcat Experience transforms digital interactions with university resources. With its customizable dashboard, Experience aggregates and centralizes information relevant to students. Hughes says, “[Ellucian’s] ‘Bobcat’ Experience offers a modern interface more in tune with students.” Jodi Steen, who spearheaded the planning phase as Hughes’ special assistant, elaborates, “It is a portal-like environment that pulls data from different systems and displays that information on ‘cards’ for the user.”
A Customizable Experience
In Bobcat Experience, information appears on tailored digital cards and each user interacts with a customizable dashboard. Designated student roles dictate which information cards are viewable. Student roles include applicant, undergraduate, and graduate. All student dashboards display general university announcements. Cards with links to often used resources, including the academic calendar, campus information, safety and reporting, parking, IT services, and the university libraries are also visible. In addition, each student has access to services applicable to their unique needs. A graduate student, for instance, may no longer want to see the on-campus housing links card. An undergraduate student, though, may need the housing links card to check their payment balance. Experience’s personalization feature makes the platform even more appealing. Bobcat Experience allows each student to add or remove information cards as their needs change.
The Experience environment accommodates the needs of all stakeholders. Not only are university-wide announcements and safety alerts communicated via Bobcat Experience, but users can request more cards. To meet the needs of all users, Texas State’s IT department devised a governance plan. A governing board, the Student Information System Coordinating Committee (“SISCC”), includes representatives from across campus. The committee includes members from stakeholder departments such as business services, the registrar’s office, instructional programs, academic advising, financial aid and scholarships, curriculum services, and information technology.
Rori Sheffield, IT’s Director of Mobile Web Services, outlines the process: “[SISCC] is the governance body for Bobcat Experience. New cards can be requested by groups across campus who want to share information or resources with students via Bobcat Experience or suggested by users via these forms. MWS routes requests to SISCC for approval, then once approved, our team works with the requestor or information owner (in the case of a suggestion) to design and configure the cards.” The SISCC strives to fulfill its role in developing innovative student information systems by inviting and vetting new dashboard card requests.
A Next Level Experience
College can be an overwhelming experience. Before ever stepping onto campus, requirements, decisions, and deadlines inundate students. In the chaos of notifications, alerts may be missed, deadlines overlooked, and opportunities lost. Now, more than ever, students need practical, user-friendly tools to manage the influx of digital information. Texas State’s Bobcat Experience is an innovative solution based on a simple mission. Mark Hughes characterizes it this way: “We try to put measures in place to better serve the students.”
Jonathan Daitch, Associate Provost for Online Education, Western University of Health Sciences and Jonathan Labovitz, DPM, FACFAS, CHCQM, Associate Dean, Clinical Education and Graduate Placement Professor, College of Podiatric Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences