Legacy IT Hindering Progress
Founded in 1958, Ohio Valley University is a private, not-for-profit university affiliated with the Churches of Christ and located in Vienna, West Virginia. The University offers bachelor’s degrees in 27 subject areas as well as a variety of certificate programs, associate, bible study, and graduate degrees. OVU serves nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students who come mainly from the greater Ohio River Valley.
The university has recently undertaken a number of critical initiatives across the student lifecycle, including admissions, advancement, academic programming, and student success. It quickly became clear that meaningful impact from these initiatives would not be realized unless the school overhauled their underlying IT infrastructure. The current system is outdated and comprised of multiple, disparate systems. As a result, getting a holistic picture of the student experience is challenging, and requires staff to support labor-intensive, manual processes that detracted from higher impact work.
IMPACT ON ADMISSIONS
The admissions department keeps limited centralized records of student applications, so there was no easy way to track the flow of applications— where students came from, with what churches they were affiliated, and most importantly what made them decide to enroll. Recent turnover in the admissions staff further compounded these challenges with significant knowledge gaps on the current applicant pool.
IMPACT ON STUDENT EXPERIENCE
With a number of disconnected student systems, basic functions that should be simple and straightforward are challenging. Students are working across four different log-ins to access information. There is no way for students, faculty, or advisors to get all of the information they need in one place. As a result, there is a heavy reliance on individual, in-person staff interactions with students, creating the risk of missing an important update if a student cannot connect or overlooks an email. These extra efforts are time-consuming and do not promote the culture of student ownership that OVU strives to create.
IMPACT ON ALUMNI
While most alumni have great friendships from their time at OVU that continue on for many years, they are largely disconnected from the university. A lack of consistent record-keeping means that alumni can be difficult to track down. Those that the university can locate are hard to engage because of a lack of knowledge about their time on campus. This impacts OVU’s ability to conduct effective advancement, but it also prevents the school from leveraging alumni engagement in more strategic ways that connect directly to student work and supporting meaningful career pathways.
IMPACT ON STAFF
OVU employees wear multiple hats, and often invest a great deal of time manually coordinating communications activities across student-facing departments. This lack of communication flow impacts all parts of the administration and creates labor-intensive work processes that could be better automated to allow staff to focus on higher value activities like understanding and engaging more deeply with their respective communities.
Building Infrastructure for a Sustainable Future
To address their needs for a more integrated learning environment and better relational data the school looked at a lot of options, but couldn’t find one solution that could help across the multiple areas they were looking to impact. The team chose the Motivis platform because it was able to replace some critical core systems as well as solve the fundamental issue of building better relational data that provides a more holistic picture on the student experience and streamlines university operations.
The Motivis and OVU teams worked through a detailed strategic planning process, resulting in a multi-year roadmap that would update and integrate multiple campus systems, using the Motivis platform as the core of the solution.
The team is working on replacing the Learning Management (LMS) and Student Information (SIS) systems and providing a central hub for curriculum, analytics, student information, and community engagement. The Motivis platform is built around learning objectives, so it provides the flexibility OVU needs to support multiple learning models. Supporting multiple models is important to OVU because they are experimenting with new curriculum approaches like Competency-Based Education while still maintaining a traditional course-based approach. The system also leverages the Salesforce infrastructure, which allows OVU to easily expand the solution in the future to connect admissions, recruitment, and alumni relations into one centralized student record.
The result of this multi-year partnership will be a more modern and flexible system that provides a cohesive perspective on the OVU student experience, and allows the university to run more efficient operations and proactively drive strategic initiatives.
Early Wins and the Road Ahead
It is a long-term vision to evolve the campus into a thriving faith-based educational community, and the Motivis partnership is a foundational component of realizing that vision. The first phase of the project launched in 2018 and included building a centralized relational data system to improve analytics, and a customized Salesforce interface. to address some of the urgent needs in the admissions team.
After only a few months of use, the admissions team has already seen a dramatic uptick in the level of connections they’re able to make with prospects. They have improved targeting on prospects who are most likely to attend and are engaging with them one-on-one to encourage a campus visit. With improved insight in the admissions team, the university is looking to double their undergraduate enrollment over the next four to five years.
As the team moves onto the next phase of work, they continue to be enthusiastic about the positive impact these changes will have in other areas of campus life and operations. They are in the early pilot phase for the LMS implementation, and are looking to learn and adjust the system based on pilot feedback before moving on to build out the SIS. Once the work is completed, the university expects to have:
· A centralized community platform that will provide a place where students can go to communicate with faculty, staff, and alumni
· Improved insights into the alumni base that will allow for more refined information management and donor communications
· Meaningful interactions between students and alumni focused on career-relevant experiential learning
· Improved data systems that allow staff access to timely, accurate, and relevant information in one place.
With the partnership in place OVU is looking forward to an exciting future where they spend less time chasing data, and more time focused on the things that really matter: communicating with applicants, students, and alumni in meaningful ways, and supporting students through learning experiences that are tied to real career options.