By 2025, more than 250 million students will be enrolled in higher education institutions. Despite this, many students don’t feel that physical classrooms are necessary for acquiring an education — they predict that higher education will become virtual. 

To continue to retain students and keep them engaged with the physical campus experience, it’s vital for schools to explore the options of connected campuses and take steps to address the challenges of implementing them. Doing so is one of the key ways to meet the educational needs of the current higher education student body and future generations of university students.

Universities have historically lagged behind the business world when it comes to technology adoption, but it’s time for campuses to evolve to fulfill incoming millennials’ penchant for technology. A large part of that will be implementing a “connected campus,” in which technology drives the student experience.

The Key Components of a Connected Campus

A connected campus includes many ways universities can utilize technology to better meet students’ needs, thereby keeping them more engaged in their studies and in campus life. Key technologies of a connected campus include: Customer relationship management: The students are the customers, so using technology to manage the university’s relationship with them is at the core of a connected campus. By controlling and securing interactions between constituents and collecting and centralizing data from various sources, CRM can make cross-campus deployment easy and allow information to be tailored to individual needs. Big data: Universities have the ability to collect a wealth of data on students that, if implemented appropriately, could be used to provide a better university experience. For example, a campus may discover that students perform better in summer intersession classes, which would incentivize the university to provide an alternative to the traditional school year. Mobile experiences: Mobile technology has begun to move into the augmented reality space by using location-based notifications and beacons. For example, a student could simply look at his phone to find out whether a professor is in his or her office before walking into the building. Connected campus tools like this can essentially put the entire university in the palm of students’ hands.

Common Barriers to a Connected Campus

Many campuses are ill-equipped to implement a connected campus because they’ve failed to continually adapt the campus environment to accommodate the technological lifestyles and demands of the incoming students. As a result, they’re far behind where they should be.

One of the largest barriers to ongoing adaptation is a lack of funding, and technology is one of the most expensive ongoing updates for universities to make.   In addition to the lack of funding, the connected campus mentality is still in its infancy. So for universities already struggling with funding, finding the budget to explore the technology is difficult to justify to stakeholders.    Despite these obstacles, universities need to bear in mind that a university’s profitability is directly correlated with students’ experiences there. Students must not only engage with the university to increase the school’s retention rates and investment in higher degrees, but also gain affinity for the university in their four undergrad years so those students are compelled to make post-graduation donations to their alma mater.    In addition to alumni funding from the former students themselves, a university with low dropout rates and excellent post-graduate GPAs will also attract funding from companies that want to recruit students from that university.   Connected campuses can transform the university experience through technology, meaning universities could finally connect with their students in new ways and create new lines of business. This connection not only supports students, but also sets into motion the cycle of them eventually supporting the university in return — creating a lifelong connection.    Hathway Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Kevin Rice’s entrepreneurial spirit and deep understanding of the digital landscape across industries allow him to help brands not only dominate their markets in “the now,” but also pioneer “what’s next.” It’s this skill that has helped Kevin grow Hathway, the agency he co-founded with CEO Jesse Dundon in 2009, to 50 employees, three offices, and No. 601 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list.