A recent article on the ways Google is transforming the hospitality and recreation industry caught my eye and made me reflect on trends inside and outside Penn State in this respect. As the article notes consumers will be able to combine searching and booking their hotel directly in Google, rather than having to leave the search to book. And, hotels can position their resort through paid ads, rather than cost per click. The author describes the impacts of this upending hospitality and recreation.
The connection to Penn State is our upcoming transformation of teaching, learning, advising and more through new information systems. Students will soon be able to use mobile technologies to skim information about courses and majors, review course syllabi online (HHD has permitted students to do this for years), and make a decision at a click.
The advantages of this are obvious–students can get information quickly using technologies they prefer. Students can make decisions about courses, change of major, and more rapidly and from wherever they are located. Universities and education are finally catching up to the leading edge of some of the services fields in these aspects of customer service.
The disadvantages may be more hidden. I know that some advisers, faculty and administrators (and I would include me) worry about students self-advising and making rash decisions without having fully contemplating the costs and consequences. Once a decision is made, its impact on academic progress, financial aid, and other important issues may be difficult to reverse.
So, the pressure will be on students to use these new tools wisely. Before clicking, students are going to have to research on their own these consequences, or they are going to have to make the time for a good, advising conversation to make sure the choice is the right one.
And, this type of pressure is one that’s not just confined to universities or hotels. More and more in the services fields, including health care, consumers (i.e., patients and families) are asked to make critical financial and quality of care decisions. While many are developing the tools to support those decisions with information, we still have a long way to go to make most consumers feel comfortable that they made a good, informed decision after they clicked their option.
Economist Hal Varian once gave this wise career advice: “Be an expensive complement to something that is getting cheaper.” With search, data, and decisions getting cheaper in hospitality, recreation, education, and health care, those students who can complement those with information, guidance, advice, and similar skills may be on the right track for a great career.