How to use technology to increase the success of our students

banish waste

This fall, it’ll be time to send my youngest child off to middle school. I’m sure many of you have gone through this late-spring transition too. Students joyfully go off during a school day, visit their new middle schools and eat lunch in the cafeterias. (A big deal that I’m told includes free ice cream.)

A few nights later, parents head to the school to hear what awaits their children and how the school will support them on their journeys.

They also shared the four things that today’s middle-schoolers are typically nervous about. You know what they are?

  1. Getting lost
  2. Being late
  3. Navigating lunch lines
  4. Opening lockers with combination locks

Sound familiar? If you have ever sent a student off to college (something I experienced two years ago), then you might recognize a few things on that list – though college students cover it up a little better.

But, like middle school, colleges have fabulous programs to orient students to their campuses, help them find success, feed them and keep them safe. Because of this, everything settles down quickly and most students do very well.

But there was one bit of information I heard that left me shocked and a little nervous. One advisor handles the entire incoming class of 6th graders. 240 students. One advisor.

One heroic person works the ratio of 240:1. Let’s call her Janet. Janet will answer all our questions about choosing the best classes for each student, teaching them to be organized, improving their time management and coaching them to develop the best study habits.

Janet will “travel” with the class through the years of 6th, 7th and 8th grade. Then, in 8th grade, Janet – all by herself – will provide critical guidance for the best classes for each of those 240 students to take in 9th grade as they transition to high school.

At the same time, Janet is busy reassuring the incoming class of 6th graders and parents that everything in middle school will be fine.

Everywhere I look, I see processes I can optimize
I’ll admit, my work experience crept in. I started thinking of the processes involved with all these students and all their critical information – and all the paper it requires.

I wondered how much time Janet spends filling out paperwork. Does she have the best online systems? Does she have the ability to route information to my daughter’s teachers, so she gets the help she needs? Can Janet quickly pull up my daughter’s student record and see everything she needs – like her previous grades by subject and her 5th grade teachers’ recommendations? Can Janet do that without grabbing a paper file that could easily be lost or misplaced?

We have a fabulous school district and everyone does a great job. But if they had great technology, employees like Janet the advisor would have much more student-facing time. And with that ratio, every second counts.

The end goal: Graduation
In higher education, everyone is focusing on advising and completion. As a parent I say, “thank goodness.”

It’s not something I can focus on for my college student. I need informed people telling him what his best next steps are, where he is likely to succeed and to help hold him accountable for making it across the stage at graduation.

We recently had two clients tell their stories about applying technology to improve student advising. Using OnBase, Notre Dame implemented its own First Year advising experience, while San Diego State University reduced transcript processing time from eight weeks to two days.

Want to see for yourself? Just send me an email and I’ll get you the details!

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more than 20 years of experience working to map proven solutions to higher education challenges, Laurel implemented ERP solutions at Dickinson College and University of Oregon Foundation before joining the sales and marketing team at Datatel, now Ellucian, Inc. Laurel offers a deep understanding of higher education, dedication to transparency and a fondness for candid conversations about the solutions Hyland develops and delivers to the market. You may reach her at Laurel.Stiller at

Laurel Stiller

Laurel Stiller brings her passion for helping institutions strategically maximize their efficiency to Hyland as its marketing portfolio manager for Higher Education. A graduate of Miami University, Ohio, with more... read more about: Laurel Stiller