Innovative Web Platform for Student Experience Wins Tech Award


An innovative Cornell platform that connects students to hundreds of services and engaged learning opportunities beyond the classroom has won a prestigious technology award.

The Cornell Student Experience Initiative was selected as one of the 50 winners of Digital Edge 50 Award 2019, donated by IDG, a global media, data and technology marketing services company. The winners will be honored at the AGENDA19 conference on March 20, 2019, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Prior to the initiative’s launch in February 2018, students relied on word of mouth or ineffective web searches to sift through relevant grants and programs for opportunities to enhance their educational experiences. Now, new technologies provide students with a one-stop-shop for information clearinghouse on high-impact learning experiences. The site makes it easier for students to find and apply for programs while making it easier for administrators to promote programs, manage applicants and measure impact.

“These new technologies attempt to ensure that Cornell students are able to take full advantage of what we have to offer,” said Avery August, professor of immunology and vice-president of academic affairs. “Cornell has a multitude of opportunities for students, but they are not equally available to all of our students. Adopting technologies that make it easier for students to navigate the many resources available to them improves their experience and their fairness in accessing those experiences.

To that end, more than 570 – and 400 more will be added in the coming weeks – of the local and distant opportunities listed on the site span six categories, including career and professional development; Community service and learning; Scholarships and funding; Global; Research; and special interest. Opportunities can be found by searching for keywords or clicking on one of the category pages, which lead users to specific programs and scholarships. For example, by clicking the link on the Career and Professional Development page, users can find details of over 90 opportunities, from Cornell’s Washington Summer Program to the New York City Public Service Corps.

Technically speaking, the innovative web interface combines a content management system with constituent relationship management (CRM) technologies. CRM allows the university to help manage the needs of students throughout their academic journey.

“What’s innovative about the experience platform is the way it seeks to create, essentially, a sensory network of the student experience,” August said. “It’s ‘social’ on the front-end and allows for analytics on the back-end. This combination of tools allows us to create personalized experiences for students. The CRM platform gives counselors the ability to understand the impact of programs and awareness on student success, August added. This helps university administrators provide students with the resources they need when they need them.

CRM tools can be configured to track a series of trigger-based communications and actions. For example, when a student enrolls in a travel program, the system can send an alert to notify a student services advisor that the student will be off campus the next semester. The system can also provide discussion groups for students who share the same interests; it can tag resources, people and files; and monitor measures of student engagement and achievement.

“This effort involved the work of hundreds of people at Cornell and across colleges and departments,” August said. The initiative is led by Kevin Hallock, Dean of Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, and Ryan Lombardi, Vice President of Student and Campus Life, in partnership with the Provost Office, Colleges and Schools and Cornell Information Technologies.

The Digital Edge Award recognizes 50 organizations for executing digital transformation initiatives with significant and measurable business impact, according to the IDG website. Winners are selected by a panel of executive peers who assess projects on complexity, scale, results and innovation.

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