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Higher Education in 2017

Posted by  Jami Morshed

We have seen a lot of focus on digital transformation initiatives in the learning technology space over the past few years. Now we see institutions focusing their attention on the modernization of their main administrative systems on campus, that are at the heart of their operations and central to the student experience.

There are a lot of business drivers that have accelerated this trend whether it be the growth of non-traditional academic models, increased competition for students, or the need to run more efficiently with the pressure of declining budgets and inability to increase tuition. Universities have under invested in their backbone systems in some cases over decades but the great story is that there is technology available today for them to leapfrog other industries and be a beacon for innovation again to support our new industries and economies of the future.

From embedded CRM to virtual personal assistants for students, Higher Education has the potential for more digital advancement to better serve their constituents than any other industry in 2017 and beyond. Below we highlight the five key trends we believe will drive technology decisions in education in 2017.

1. Predictive analytics as a key component to improve student success and retention

Higher Education leaders are starting to realize what this technology can do for an institution. From determining which students are most at risk of dropping out, to supporting retention strategies to persist toward degree completion it also has the ability to improve operational efficiency and identify opportunities for growth.

2. Enterprise applications like ERP and SIS will increasingly be infused with AI capabilities

We’re starting to see the emergence of Intelligent apps where enterprise applications are infused with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. New virtual personal assistants have the potential to transform the higher education workspace. From applying to college, to arriving on campus, declaring a major, signing up courses and eventually graduation, there are a multitude of ways bots can help to streamline the process. Through a Natural Language Interface (NLI), or a more streamlined approach where a bot works behind the scenes delivering information through the students preferred NLI, such as Siri, Cortana, or Alexa, these personal assistants will begin to simplify university administration for students. The applications of this technology do not stop at the student either. Imagine staff at Universities having the ability to leverage personal digital assistants to automate much of their manual tasks so they can free up time for more high value tasks such as helping students success and helping their institution achieve their strategic goals.

3. Student lifecycle CRM

In education, CRM has traditionally been used just for the front- and back-ends: admissions and alumni/fundraising. However, students today are demanding a much higher level of service given the financial investment they are making to attend a university. What we’re starting to see is increased interest in supporting all phases of the student lifecycle, including registration, academic advising, student billing and continuing education for lifelong learning. This would provide institutions with a 360-degree view of students supporting better service delivery to students and an improved student experience. This trend reflects the move we’re seeing away from an institution-centric mindset to a student-centric model. In 2017, institutions will be able to tie CRM-like workflows to non-traditional students, informed by analytics and predictive tools.

4. Embedded support of non-traditional programs

Catering to non-traditional learners, be they part-time, continuing education, competency-based, online/distance learning, or training as part of workforce development, is a key growth component for almost all institutions. Legacy SIS solutions struggle to manage these types of learners, and institutions have been forced to use application add-ons to try and solve this. This capability is increasingly being built into the core Student Information Systems (SIS) so they are handled naturally in the system. 2017 will be the start of the end of non-traditional program add-ons.

5. Mobility is not just for students anymore

In the past the primary focus for enterprise applications (primarily SISs) has been on creating a mobile experience for students. That’s all good, but admin users of ERPs and SISs want mobility too. They desire a consumer-grade experience, just like students and admin users across the campus need mobile-friendly access to perform work on-the-go. Today’s SISs must be truly mobile-first to meet the needs of institutions in 2017 and beyond.

Jami Morshed

Jami is vice president of global higher education at Unit4. My mission is to help colleges and universities improve student success and institutional effectiveness. I’m responsible for everything we do at the Unit4 Global Center of Excellence to help institutions prepare for the future through scalable and comprehensive software solutions that streamline and modernize core business processes while eliminating the burden of managing ever-changing technology.

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