My guest is Eric Stoller, higher education thought-leader, consultant, writer, and speaker. Eric is currently based in England helping transform student affairs in UK higher education. He’s also the Student Affairs and Technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, where he generates conversations, answers questions, and provides insight about a variety of “tech topics.”
Listen as Eric shares his insights on how the student experience is changing and how student affairs departments must continue to grow and adapt to the technologies available to them.
LISTEN TO ERIC STOLLER TALK ABOUT…
The Differences Between The Student Experience On US and UK Campuses
“It’s phenomenally different in terms of in the US you have student affairs and you have academic affairs, sort of the typical split in terms of your administrative side of things in terms of student affairs, goal management, financial aid, dean of students and then you got your academic affairs, your faculty, your professorial is located in that space. Lots of times, your academic advising is there in the US. And then in the UK student services or student affairs is not that big of a deal in a sense. Those who identify as academics in the UK typically run the show—you don’t have nearly as many administrators. They just don’t have as much infrastructure in terms of the typical student life things that we talk about in the US. When you look at dining services in the UK institutions, recreation services, counseling—all these sorts of things are emerging but they are not necessarily as sophisticated or as part of the tradition of an institution as it is in the States.”
The Prevalence of Mental Health Issues On Campus
“In the US mental health issues have been at the forefront of every single student affairs conversation because you look at things like campus shootings, you look at people who have depression issues—there’s just a lot going on with mental health and then you couple that with some of the stuff that’s going on with Title IX and sexual assault and of students saying. “Hey, I should have the right to go to this institution and not be harassed.”
At the end of the day, administrators want to deal with what’s best for students as well as try to balance and work that line of these services that help the institution continue. Institutions are only as successful as the students that they serve ”
The Student Affairs Shift To Technology Competency
“I will say part of the biggest change—and maybe this is just my bias in the space I work in—is the adoption of technology as something that we recognize as being valuable for those who work in the profession. Student Affairs for the longest time has its historical underpinnings in counseling and the helping professions. And so in the counseling world you have some technology, but really the bread and butter of the work is face-to-face talking with people in person. You don’t need technology for that. Technology was seen as something that interferes with personal communication and connection and engagement. In today’s world, student affairs is taking gigantic leaps to become more competent with technology. NASPA and ACPA—the two largest student affairs associations—jointly released a new ‘Technology Competency’ for practitioners, which essentially lays out a road map for what it takes to be technologically competent in this profession. I think that’s a major shift in the way we look at things and I think that you will see more practitioners using more social media for their personal learning network and for student development activities. And there’s a lot more focus on digital identity and digital presence.
A great example of this is when facebook came out in 2004. The field looked at it as this space where students are—we are never going to be here, it’s not going to be useful for our work. You fast forward to now, 12 years later, and people are using social media for every single communications effort at their campuses as they possible can. From promotion and customer service to campus auxiliary services. From just engaging with students to academic advising services. Librarians are rocking social media—I mean it’s all over the place”
Two Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Department
“First, actually get together—as a division, a department, as a unit—and plan what the heck it is you are trying to do. When I go round to these places and ask, ‘Do you have a plan for how you communicate, tactically and strategically?” they will look at each other and say, ‘We don’t have a plan.’
And I will say if you want this to be intentional, if you want this to be something that’s built in to your structures organizationally, starting with a plan really matters because that way it’s not pinned to the individuals who are passionate about technology. It’s not connected to those people who might leave and go take that passion with them. You want it to be connected to the organization so that when people come and go and new people are hired, they are hired with the expectation they are going to have some of these technology skills and competency with them.
And number two: Look at your existing communications channels. Question if they are in alignment with your plan in terms of the goals and outcome you are trying to achieve for this year, next year, 5 years. And if they’re not in alignment with that plan, then talk about dropping things, talk about modifying things, talk about maybe trying some new channels. I think we have to embed and instill this idea of lifelong learning as professionals so that we are constantly challenging ourselves to try the latest and greatest. And some of it might not work—but we’re always going to be on the cusp, on the edge, rather than feeling like we are passive and sitting behind rather than leading the way.”
Check out Eric’s Student Affairs and Technology blog at Inside Higher Ed
Get in touch with Eric Stoller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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