Survival of the Fittest in Higher Education

5 minute read | 29 Apr 2017

By Jason Dixon

When it comes to information technology for higher education institutions across Australia, I’ve witnessed a huge shift in the way colleges and universities offer services to their students, partners and staff.

Much of the disruption that I’ve seen involves leveraging new social, mobile, analytics and cloud (SMAC) technologies to deliver efficiencies rapidly while satisfying the high expectations of tech-savvy millennial students wanting a rich and seamless experience across multiple channels.

As Charles Darwin suggested, “It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

In my opinion, how universities adapt to these new conditions and adopt new technology will ultimately influence their ongoing viability and success.

Cloud Integration for the Connected Campus

Higher Ed is a competitive landscape. Education providers must focus on adding value to their offerings and presenting their services with significant differentiation providing the very best education while delivering a brilliant student experience — particularly in Australia, Asia-Pacific and Europe where universities are under pressure to attract foreign students. This is where cloud integration can play a key role.

Cloud-based integration has become a top priority for many of my higher education clients as traditional point-to-point coding or on-premise integration middleware have become costly, complex and poorly suited to modern requirements.

Some of my clients have recognized the challenge and have taken great steps to modernize their IT for the digital era by deploying agile cloud applications for learning management, customer relationship management, human resources, student portals, and other functions.

Given this situation, integration platform as a service (iPaaS) is fast becoming the most popular way to connect new cloud applications with legacy on-premise systems and existing data repositories easily and efficiently.

Shifting the Focus to Innovation

In my experience, one of the biggest challenges facing higher ed is the ability to deliver new products and services in days or weeks, not months or years. The key advantage of cloud-based integration is low-cost and rapid provisioning and development. This has a significant impact on development cycles and modernization efforts.

Universities can scale to any requirement based on a single-instance, multi-tenant native-cloud platform, with the flexibility to connect any cloud or on-premise application. Previous on-premise middleware lacked native-cloud connectivity and forced developers into costly and time-consuming manual work.

Most of my higher ed clients today can configure integrations far more quickly and easily with a visual drag-and-drop interface and a library of connectors as opposed to traditional “coding.”

The beauty of this gain in efficiency is that it frees IT personnel to focus on innovative projects, such as distance learning and MOOCs (massive open online courses) which are changing how students learn globally.

Delivering a Digital Student Experience

For me, the practical result of a well designed and integrated student system is the ability to give students a single point of access on their laptops, tablets and smartphones for all their academic needs.

It’s interesting to see that data is now being captured at every point in the student experience. In the future, predictive analytics, IoT and artificial intelligence can be used to provide an even richer experience.

In the course of a day, a student could use an iPaaS-powered student portal to book university resources or replenish funding in her student card. She can pay for a textbook or cafeteria lunch, or create and share documents with fellow students. She can follow news on selected people and topics, and access health or accommodation services.

The university can utilize this information to improve this experience by proactively offering some of these services by predicting patterns or providing information or assistance.

Managing the Student Life Cycle

My initial engagement with higher ed involved the integration of systems that support initial prospecting, recruitment, student onboarding, records management, alumni connections, and fund-raising. Over time, a cloud-based integration strategy is able to provide a foundation to cultivate student intimacy beyond the undergraduate and post-graduate years into their professional careers and retirement.

Modernizing Legacy Environments

Native-cloud integration has also allowed many of my clients to focus on integrating their data with modern cloud applications to support more streamlined learning and administration while preserving their investment in legacy systems — no need to rip and replace.

Improving Administrative Efficiency

Besides students, universities need to provide staff and faculty with systems to work productively and collaboratively — all within the constraints of limited IT funding. I have worked on many cloud-based integration projects designed to deliver a fully integrated and seamless way for administrative staff and faculty to work efficiently, without manually looking up and consolidating data from multiple systems.

The combination of integration, workflow automation, master data management (MDM), and API management is now helping colleges and universities build IT systems that create far greater productivity and efficiency.

To learn more about how Boomi can help universities, colleges and other higher education institutions run more efficiently while modernizing their IT infrastructures, please check out our website or contact our experts.