The role of integration in transforming university experiences

In the last few years there’s been a huge shift in the way Australian universities provide services to students, partners and staff

In the last few years there’s been a huge shift in the way Australian universities provide services to students, partners and staff. Much of the disruption has come by way of new social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies which institutes are leveraging to deliver on the high expectations of tech-savvy millennial students wanting a rich and seamless experience across multiple channels.

How universities adapt to these new conditions will ultimately influence their ongoing viability and success. However, it’s not easy considering higher education is an extremely competitive landscape – even more so following recent increases to fees introduced in the 2017 Federal Budget.

Universities are therefore under pressure to add value by creating experience capable of aggregating services and platforms to provide students with enhanced outcomes. This is where cloud integration can play a key role.

Cloud-based integration has become a top priority for many higher education providers as traditional point-to-point coding or on-premises integration have become costly, complex and poorly suited to modern requirements. Those which have recognised this challenge are modernising by using cloud applications for learning management, customer relationship management, human resources, and other functions. Importantly, many are also leveraging cloud apps for student portals which have become critical to education outcomes.

This is possible because cloud-based integration provides a simple and efficient way to connect new apps with legacy on-premises systems and existing data repositories. It also allows universities to adopt best-of-breed apps, rather than restricting departments to resources that may be unsuitable for particular courses.

Cloud integration also accelerates the rate at which apps can be implemented due to its low cost and rapid provisioning development. By speeding up development cycles, universities can deliver value to students and educators much faster. Additionally, integrations can typically be configured through a drag-and-drop interface so that IT departments aren’t forced into extensive coding; less time coding means greater investment into more important projects – such as distance learning and MOOCs (massive open online courses) which are changing how students learn globally.

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 also interesting to see that, with the help of integration, 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 integrated student portal to book university resources or replenish funding in his/her student card. They can pay for a textbook or cafeteria lunch, or create and share documents with fellow students. They can follow news on selected people and topics, and access health or accommodation services.

The university can use this information to improve this experience by proactively offering some of these services by predicting patterns or providing information or assistance. 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. Integration – particularly when combined with 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.

Jason Dixon is senior account director APJ at Boomi.

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