The pressure is on universities to innovate

Published on the 30/06/2022 | Written by James Campbell

Data-driven student systems provide a first step…

Faced with increased pressure to drive enrolment and retention, are education institutions across APAC digitally prepared to attract, engage and retain the new generation of globally minded, digitally savvy students?

Students are now expecting consistent, real-time access to information on housing, parking, class schedules, grades, financial aid and more. At the same time, a third of Gen Z respondents say the pandemic is changing the way they study over the long term. The  EY Oceania report predicts that higher education is moving swiftly towards digital, on-demand and lower cost learning as students – and faculty – increasingly demand flexible and job-ready training to set them up for future prosperity.

“Marrying data and intelligence in a way that is student-centric is key.

This means the pressure is on higher ed institutions to place an even higher emphasis on delivering a remarkable digital experience. 
Today’s most progressive universities and colleges are doing that. They’re rising to meet the challenge by embracing the cloud, unifying their applications and systems, and putting data front and centre of their strategies to enrich the experiences of all – students, faculty and alumni.  


How data analytics helps higher education adapt and scale 

Technology plays a significant role in how educational institutions differentiate themselves, unlock fresh opportunities to educate new learners via innovative business models and pursue strategic business initiatives. Having flexible and scalable digital platforms built on trust that marry data and intelligence in a way that is student-centric and supported by a vibrant ecosystem of providers and skilled higher education users is key.  

With so much riding on the ability to deliver a seamless, connected experience for students, faculty, administrators and alumni, universities must integrate their data and apps and automate their processes. They need to connect all of their disparate systems.  

This integration enables a single source of truth where data and applications can communicate effectively with one another to optimise the experience for all, resulting in better recruitment, experience, retention and student success. 

Faster integrations enable universities to keep pace with today’s students’ expectations while taking the burden of manual work off end users. Think of all the highly repetitive and recurring processes happening every day in universities like application processes, tuition reconciliation and housing assignments — these can and should be automated.  

Unlocking the right data-driven solution 

Colleges and universities that are serious about future-proofing their business model are already leveraging innovative, data-driven solutions to modernise their IT infrastructure and drive connected experiences for students, faculty and alumni with fast, streamlined and efficient processes.  

AI-powered integration platforms use advanced machine learning algorithms to learn from millions of metadata elements and billions of data flows. Then that learning is applied to improve the speed and quality of integrations across data, applications, and business processes.  

By harnessing the power of innovative, data-driven platforms, higher education institutions also have access to data and analytics that are key to better decisioning, allowing them to compete at scale and lower costs.  

Machine learning algorithms can:

  • Identify trends in student interest to guide teaching faculty 
  • Proactively help students with the right resources to help them succeed 
  • Predict overloading of integration resources so that you can take corrective action to maintain high availability

The result: Improved user productivity and time to value, more streamlined processes and information flow, and better outcomes and experiences for students, faculty, and alumni. 

As an example, SnapLogic’s Intelligent Integration Platform uses AI-powered workflows to accelerate all stages of IT integration projects – design, development, deployment, and maintenance – whether on-premises, in the cloud or in hybrid environments.  
The platform’s self-service interface enables both expert and citizen integrators to manage all application integration, data integration, API management, B2B integration and data engineering projects on a single, scalable platform.  

The universities getting it right 

As colleges and universities around the globe race to integrate data and apps to ensure students’ health, safety, remote learning and modern learning experience, the following three universities serve as a model for those seeking progress. 
Davidson College
, ranked amongst the strongest and most selective private liberal arts colleges, partnered with SnapLogic to integrate more than 200 apps into its service catalogue five years ago. And lucky it did, because when Covid hit, the college was able to safely remain open, which was critical as 95 percent of its student body lives and studies on campus.  

Davidson College connected to SnapLogic to integrate Kuali, a low-code form and workflow automation platform for higher ed, with other applications, creating a unique Covid test and surveillance tracking system. 

“Thanks to SnapLogic, we were able to roll out the first version of the Covid-19 surveillance tracking system in less than 10 days, and that jump-started our process to keep our student-athletes, faculty and staff safe on campus at the beginning of the pandemic,” says JD Mills, digital transformation manager at Davidson College.

Throughout the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters, Davidson College completed 77,000 Covid tests. The college was able to automate the process to the point that it took just 50 seconds for a person to check in, get tested and exit, further minimising potential exposure to Covid. 

“The biggest thing that confronting this challenge did for us in IT was validate our integration strategy. This pushed us to work with real-time data and rapid response and confirmed that our strategy was on track,” says Mills.  

Then there’s Boston University (BU), which is another innovative standout in the higher ed space. Founded in 1839, it’s one of the largest private universities in the US and a leader in academia. The university believes higher education should be accessible to all. Unfortunately, challenges within its data architecture prevented students, faculty and professional staff from accessing and utilising the resources and information they needed.  

Since partnering with SnapLogic to streamline and optimise its application submission process and automate processes around research operations, class scheduling, building access and more, BU has achieved incredible results. For one, integration speed has improved two-fold thanks to quicker application integration and data migration. The student application process is faster and problem-free and improvements to information, research quality and physical security have been achieved. 

“With SnapLogic as the iPaaS platform of record for Boston University, we now have a single source of truth for all our data, allowing us to establish a faster, more reliable admissions process for prospective students. Our IT team has now become a trusted party among departments and campus organizations, which further empowers our students, faculty, and staff to effectively share knowledge across academia and research,” says Carmine A Granucci, assistant director of integration at Boston University. 

Vassar College provides a third example of data integration done right. This highly selective, coeducational, independent liberal arts college founded in 1861 knows the key to staying ahead lies in an effective data integration strategy.  

With SnapLogic’s code-less connectors, Vassar’s IT team has been able to reduce expenses and defer the costs of integrating with Workday, the replacement for its 20-year-old legacy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. SnapLogic has also helped solved Vassar’s bookstore challenges, integrating Workday’s ERP system with the bookstore’s POS system in real-time.  

“After evaluating many options in the market, we chose SnapLogic because it was built for the cloud, supports hybrid cloud application and data integration, gives us the ability to scale by building and managing integration more quickly, and offers a user interface that is easy to use,” says Elizabeth Hayes, deputy CIO at Vassar College. 

Vassar was also able to integrate the school’s learning management system, Moodle, with student course enrolment data. This system alignment assists faculty members to quickly determine if a student has dropped a class, and lets students accurately and expeditiously track their homework assignments and grades.

“I like to think we are at the cutting edge of innovation at Vassar College. I share with my fellow CIOs at other colleges and universities that we are now able to undertake truly complex integrations, rapidly pushing them through in a standardized format,” Hayes says.

The future of education is built on intelligent integration 
The pressure is on to ensure that digitally native students are engaged with real-time access to all the information they need. But the future is exciting. There’s now ample opportunity for higher education institutions to leverage digital tools to personalise and optimise learning for students, to ensure success through a combination of classroom and online learning courses. In order to do so, they need to have access to insights to predict which classes should be offered and how to best meet the varied needs of individual students. And alumni need to be identified, tracked and continually engaged to help secure vital funding.

Without connected data and applications, all of this becomes increasingly hard to do, if not impossible. And ultimately, the experience suffers – for students, faculty, and alumni alike. That’s why integration is key to enabling universities to deliver the seamless, modern experience that students, faculty and staff not only expect but deserve now, and into the future. 

About the Author 
James Campbell is Regional Manager, Australia New Zealand at SnapLogic.

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