Defining student journey mapping in higher education: The ‘how-to’ guide for implementation on campus

JP Rains, Director of the Digital Strategy Office, Laurentian University

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Abstract: A definitive process for reshaping the student experience — student journey mapping — allows for campus administrators to draw unique insights from the perspective of their key audience. Rooted in creating a user-centric experience, the concept of user journey mapping, also known as customer experience mapping, can be a cornerstone for projects in higher education. From changing the way in which students are recruited to the way donors are engaged, the student journey mapping process can help good business practices evolve into great ones. This process will describe how to bring together quantitative and qualitative data from multiple campus stakeholders (staff, faculty, students, etc.) and translate these data into insights that can reshape the student experience. Most importantly, the process describes how to develop this into actionable information that a campus community can understand. This paper will define the process of student journey mapping and provide campus administrators with concrete examples. Additionally, details are provided on how to best capture qualitative and quantitative data sets to inform the journey map. Finally, the connection between these data sets and the implementation plan is detailed to allow for actionable items to stem from the creation of a journey map.


Keywords: student journey mapping; marketing; communications; student services; websites; customer experience


JP Rains is the Director of the Digital Strategy Office at his alma mater of Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He oversees the institution’s digital footprint on the web and through social media while aiming to increase the digital IQ of the campus community. He is also President of Rains Media, where he works as a consultant in marketing and communication to private industry. Prior to this, Rains led strategy for two years as Vice-President of Strategy for Soshal Group, a digital agency working with a focus on clients in higher education. His work at Soshal led to multiple national awards and record setting performance for clients including: York University, University of New Brunswick and Cambrian College. He started his career after graduation at Laurentian University, working in the Office of Student Recruitment, followed by roles in various offices including: Marketing & Communications, Office of the Chief of Staff and Information Technology before joining Soshal Group. Rains has seen multiple years of success in student recruitment, including two years of 20 per cent plus increases to applications. Rains has consulted with over 25 Canadian and US-based higher education institutions and has implemented the Student Journey Mapping process with more than a dozen campuses. Additionally, he has interviewed over 1,000 stakeholders through the journey mapping process in an effort to deeply understand the perspectives of prospective students, current students, alumni and donors. Rains is the board chair of the Post-Secondary Education Web Conference of Canada and is a board member of the Laurentian University Alumni Association.


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