Today, personalized learning and experiences are even more critical as higher education institutions compete to attract students from arguably the most diverse population of learners in history, representing an increasing variety of backgrounds, abilities, and life stages. What’s more, institutions must engage these learners across remote or hybrid environments. And today’s learners are predominantly digital natives who are used to personalization in many areas of their lives, such as entertainment and retail, so they expect the same from education.

The degree to which institutions can quickly, easily, and affordably tailor their processes and messages to match the personal needs and expectations of individuals—students, faculty, alumni, and even parents from the diverse communities they serve—will define the level to which they can build affinity to attract the learners, faculty, grants, and gifts that contribute to their reputation. We’re hearing incredible stories about how institutions are using Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 to improve experiences for students, faculty, and staff—from building community and wellness programs with low-code tools to realizing a 120 percent increase in recruitment through more personalized, automated processes. Below are a few of these stories: 

Creating community at Southern New Hampshire University

With more than 160,000 students online and about 4,000 on campus, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is committed to helping students connect with others of similar interests. While SNHU has more than 70 clubs and communities, the university needed a central place for students to find the communities most relevant to them. 

SNHU responded by organizing its community data into an app called Intermix, and inviting students to create profiles. Available on both desktop and mobile, Intermix asks students a few questions to determine their interests. Then, the app provides personalized recommendations for clubs, events, and students with similar interests. The SNHU team used Microsoft Power Apps to build Intermix, allowing them to develop new features and make quick updates in a low-to-no-code environment. 

In the future, SNHU plans to develop Intermix’s intelligence even further, automatically learning from the choices students make—such as which events students choose to attend—to give them more accurate recommendations. SNHU is also working on additional Power Apps to meet needs across the university, including a cybersecurity escape room and an employee recognition wall. Now a part of the university experience, Intermix will continue to help SNHU students around the world make connections and develop a sense of community. 

Revolutionizing admissions and recruitment at the University of Salford

The University of Salford was using seven different legacy systems for admissions, which left prospective students confused or even discouraged from completing applications. The university knew it was time to modernize its admissions process, so it chose to develop a single online portal for applications.

With the new system, the university was able to automate offer letters to students, helping to avoid the errors associated with the time-consuming manual process. The university also set up automatic email reminders for required document uploads, developed a portal for agents representing the school, and gained unprecedented visibility into application status.

Founded on the customer relationship management (CRM) solution Dynamics 365, this new system resulted in a 120 percent increase in overseas enrollment across the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years, far more than the university thought possible. Admissions staff, prospective students, and agents all responded enthusiastically to the new process. Since the project has been such a success, the university now plans to use Dynamics 365 across the student journey.

Improving health and well-being at Medical University of South Carolina

An academic health sciences center based in Charleston, South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) believes deeply in prioritizing the health and well-being of the students and staff within its six colleges as much as the health of the patients they serve. To this end, MUSC built an interdisciplinary well-being program called Imagine U.

A pilot version of Imagine U was developed for the initial launch of the program and delivered to an employee group. Personalized for every individual, the program helps participants complete an anonymous health risk assessment and set goals for exercise, nutrition, and mental health. MUSC settled on Microsoft Teams as the home for Imagine U, providing a central place for users to organize their wellness activities, set daily reminders, seek advice, post celebrations of progress, and encourage each other to reach personal goals.

Imagine U even includes a virtual reality experience through Microsoft SharePoint spaces, where employees can learn about gardening in a virtual, urban farm or follow fitness videos in a virtual field. The response across the university has been enthusiastic. More than 10,000 employees have participated in Imagine U, and MUSC is now planning to scale the program to accommodate double that number, including students and residents. 

Next steps

To learn more about Microsoft’s perspective on personalizing experiences, read our paper, “Reimagining higher education as a student-centered experience.” The paper explores why student-centered learning is the future of higher education, including the flexible post-COVID classroom, the increasing diversity of the student population, and the need for digital skills. It also explains how technology can help you make the most of your data and tailor experiences for every student. 

Learn more about Power Platform, Dynamics 365, and Microsoft Teams for Education. Adapt quickly with agile, low-code tools available, using the solutions listed below, or build out more sophisticated scenarios across the life cycle using Dynamics 365.

  • Microsoft Power Apps empowers everyone, regardless of their technical abilities, to build low-code apps quickly and easily.
  • Power Automate enables you to streamline repetitive tasks and paperless processes.
  • Power Virtual Agents allows you to create powerful chatbots, like a crisis response chatbot, without the need for developers or data scientists.
  • Power BI helps everyone at every level of your institution make confident decisions using up-to-the-minute analytics.