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Improving UniSC students’ experience through one central platform

After surveying students and listening to their needs, UniSC knew they needed to create a convenient student portal to make their uni life easier.

Lorna Hegarty

Lorna Hegarty 27 September 2022

University of the Sunshine Coast

UniSC is a young, fresh university driven by an unwavering belief that community and culture is just as important as a world-class education, given by world-class educators. After opening with 524 students in 1996, UniSC has now grown to have more than 18,000 students at five campuses across Southeast Queensland.

Industry

Higher Education

Products

CMS, Search

Understanding students’ needs….and acting on them

Understanding and improving the student experience has become a growing concern for the team at UniSC. But rather than just talk about it, they took action to make changes that would create a happier and more engaging studying experience for all students.

In the past, the student experience team has used all the usual methods of communication to reach students, including the website, digital signage, and, of course, email. But recognition that things were simply getting too “noisy” and email was no longer achieving cut through, were catalysts for understanding changing student preferences.

After surveying students on a number of occasions, they found that being able to easily navigate systems was consistently coming up as a key area for improvement.

The university was starting from scratch, they knew it was going to be no small project and needed to have the right team on board to help.

They spoke to industry colleagues to understand the lay of the land and actively sought out a partner who could offer them the higher education experience they knew would be needed to make a truly student-centric portal come to life.

Connecting systems for a one-stop-shop

The university spends a lot of time ensuring the students have access to the most current information and services but the sheer amount of information scattered across many different systems was simply too overwhelming for students.

Quick links

Understanding how students would eventually use the portal was really important. Before even commencing the project, the team did a few all-student surveys to build a business case and dig into the portal’s requirements. During the build, they also assembled a Student Working Group that they met with each month to discuss updates, answer any questions and collect feedback on decisions that were being made during the build. Of their experience in investing time in this consultation process, Tracie Mohr, Manager of Student Experience, said “The findings would be that you will never consult too much – consult early and consult often (in a range of ways if you can) so that what you build is actually what they want and what they will use.”

This was particularly important for the university’s 15,000 continuing students, who had already bookmarked the existing systems. The portal had to offer value, to give them a reason to use it and make their lives easier.

The university’s portal has been built on Squiz Matrix CMS and utilizes Squiz Connect to integrate all of the systems the students require access to and bring them together in one place. The centerpiece of the portal is a calendar that integrates their student information system, Peoplesoft, the learning management system, Canvas, and the appointment and event booking system, Career Hub.

Calendar

Squiz Connect is used in conjunction with Squiz Datastore to securely fetch and store user data from the university’s internal CRM. This has reduced the number of hits to the internal CRM, from multiple different systems, and means users' data to be retrieved from Squiz directly.

Making life easier for all with search

By incorporating Squiz’s search solution, Funnelback, into the portal, the university has also been able to improve the speed and ease with which students can find information.

Search results

The search function pulls across information from an FAQ database, the university website, and everything available via the portal itself. This means students can get answers as and when they need them and reduces the load on the student experience team who would previously have had to handle all incoming inquiries.

Immediate success and a pipeline of potential

Students quickly adopted the portal - the university saw 3,500 new logins in the first three days following the launch, and more than 13,000 students connected to the portal within its first three months.

All the feedback from students has been positive and they are feeling that their concerns and requests have been answered.

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“The ability to integrate multiple systems into one portal has been a game-changer for us,” Tracie Mohr, Manager of Student Experience explained. “You could just serve up a front end and put all of those systems behind it, but bringing it all together into one spot makes life so much easier for our students.”

The list of other, future integrations is now growing and something the team will visit once the portal has had time to settle in and they have a better sense of how students are using it. Watch this space!