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Higher education technology predictions for 2019 (part 1)

Posted by  Austin Laird

With mounting pressure to do more with less in a rapidly changing marketplace, the race is on to adopt digital technologies that help ensure student success, institutional effectiveness and growth. In the first article of our two-part series we look at the new generation of student information systems and the results they could bring for the next generation of higher education institutions.

According to global consultancy, PwC, the financial stability of higher education is “under significant strain.” In the current climate, as institutions everywhere face an increasing gap between funding and costs, doom and gloom predictions are to be expected.

But, while political, social and legislative changes present a multitude of challenges, technological changes hold many opportunities for higher education institutions, driven mainly by the Everything as a Service (XaaS) digital economy — characterized by lower barriers to entry, increased subscription usage and location independence.

So, it’s fitting we look at the top 10 digital predictions for 2019 and how your institution can use them to become more efficient, deliver better research outcomes, boost student success and accelerate growth.

Here are the first five.

1. This year’s SISs bring powerful new capabilities

This year we’ll see a wealth of new capabilities which new-generation student information system (SIS) suites bring, with every aspect of student lifecycle management automated and streamlined, from outreach to alumni.

Unrecognizable from the outdated systems of the past with their inflexible processes, the best of the new-generation systems are agile, scalable, integrated solutions that:

  • harness emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language
  • are built on platforms that deliver interoperability and extensibility through microservice-based architectures
  • ensure data is instant, up-to-date, accessible and easily understandable through dashboards and common user interfaces
  • configurable locally, thanks to low/no-code environments, with functionalities including flexi fields to extend data models
  • enable automation thanks to rulesets and interaction plans
  • integrate with third party systems, from corporate performance management (CPM) and business intelligence (BI) solutions to research management applications

All these advances are live now in the best systems on the market and they make the following nine trends possible, all of which we expect to see over the coming 12 months.

2. Cloud SIS will enable commercial business models

Within the last decade, higher education has changed to a “competitive market for earned income,” but universities have changed “remarkably little”. Your institution is being forced to compete for students both nationally and internationally against new learning models. So, this year, we will see more higher education institutions like yours adopting a more commercial approach to the services they provide. Luckily, an integrated, cloud SIS, with a single version of the truth, enables it.

The IT focus in 2019 and beyond will be on modern, new-generation technology that first and foremost helps your institution serve students as customers and provides a consumer-grade experience across the entire academic lifecycle to boost their success. It will enable this by allowing you to create a new economic model, configure your processes locally and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) better. It will also flex and scale with you as you respond to change and grow.

Underpinning this will be better management of your own people, finances and data to ensure a top-class, competitive service. This will all be supported by ongoing, agile management, where smaller, iterative changes can be made without the need for huge, long-term, costly IT investment.

For those committed to delivering research excellence, we will see more streamlining of program administration, project management and post-award management. The results higher education institutions will start to see this year will include maximized bid success rates and greater control over project costs while minimizing the costs involved in overall administration.

Here’s how you’ll be able to do it...

3. You will get the tools to serve students as customers

The latest capabilities within SIS suites will allow institutions like yours to treat applicants like leads, and students like customers, then support them throughout their entire journey.

To save admin time and negate the need for manual reminders, you will be able to set up automatic alerts and payment reminders. To create more engagement, you will be able to automatically send personalized messages at certain times via text or email thanks to automated workflow processes. (And during the application process, if the prospect suspends their application, automatic workflow can re-engage to encourage them to continue to finish the process.) All communications and updates, whether manual or automatic, will be stored in a customer relationship management (CRM) record.

Driven by the need to compete and increase enrollments (because the old methods are not as effective as they once were), this year we will see pioneering higher education institutions reinvent how they attract, admit and serve more of their best-fit students for available courses, while updating their academic offerings to attract non-traditional students.

4. The student experience will get an upgrade

The best higher education institutions will digitally upgrade the way students interact with them this year, from recruitment to beyond graduation. This will be done via immediate, always-on, mobile-ready communication processes alongside self-service functionality for students (just like they interact with other businesses in their lives).

With the latest SIS suites, students can already access information, upload documents, see their grades and communicate with your institution anytime, anywhere and in real time from any device, and from within their own dedicated portal. Thanks to automated processes, the integrated nature of the solutions and the ability to send automatic, timed and grouped (or individual) communications, there will be no duplication of data, no documents lost and no missed or delayed responses, actions or payments.

This is how digital will create the new consumer-grade student experience. We will see more evidence of this during 2019.

5. Digital tools will help boost student success and retention

This year your institution could have the progression monitoring tools to help your students stay on track toward degree completion and employment. The right cloud SIS will present instant, easily understandable progress indicators through visual analytics dashboards.

You will e able to identify and intervene with at-risk students and follow their development, performance and evaluations towards the final goal at any time. Students will also be able to see their own progression through their own account or portal online at any time. The right system will this year also facilitate unlimited course registration and enrollment flexibility and streamlined curriculum management. These are just a few of the ways your institution will boost attendance, retention and graduation rates.

Join us next week for part 2 of this series, when we look at the SIS market in 2019 and how the new generation of solutions will affect talent, data and compliance for the next generation of institutions.

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Austin Laird

Product Director Higher Education