Why the future of education is intelligently integrated

James Campbell, Regional Manager, A/NZ,  SnapLogicJames Campbell, Regional Manager, A/NZ, SnapLogic
The next generation of students is here, and the rules of engagement have changed. For years, these ‘digital natives’ have been consuming digital information and stimuli quickly and comfortably on their laptops, iPads, smartphones and favorite social media platforms. Now, they expect the same from their universities – consistent, real-time access to information on housing, parking, class schedules, grades, financial aid and more.

This is all in a time where universities are also contending with a global pandemic that has jolted the entire education sector with a swift, and seemingly, permanent, move to online and hybrid styles of learning. According to a report from Salesforce, students expect 50% of their courses to be online coming out of COVID, 46% of staff anticipate more remote work in the future, and 48% say their institutions are investing in new models focused on flexible learning.

To remain competitive and responsive to evolving student preferences while strengthening their foundation for whatever the future may bring, higher education institutions must achieve digital maturity. And, ultimately, their success relies heavily upon how intelligently they integrate.

The pressure is on universities to innovate

While the pandemic’s staggering disruption exposed challenges in the technical infrastructure and financial sustainability of universities everywhere, it also empowered them to radically reimagine a better way forward for both students and their own bottom line. But the stakes are high for these higher education institutions to place the right bets on what ‘better’ looks like.

In 2020, Deloitte reports that enrollment fell 4%, with the number of first-year students dropping by a staggering 13%. Even more, it’s estimated the pandemic cost colleges roughly US$120 billion. And the future appears even bleaker: a demographic cliff is projected to arrive in 2026 when the number of US high school graduates is predicted to significantly drop.

Faced with increased pressure to drive enrollment and retention and up against a student body, both current and prospective, that is rethinking whether, when and where they should attend university; higher ed institutions must 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 center 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 optimize 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 process, 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 modernize 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 corrective action to maintain high availability can be taken

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 easy-to-use, 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.

With SnapLogic, higher education institutions can connect all of their systems quickly and easily to automate processes, accelerate analytics and drive modern learning experiences.

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, some leaders have emerged. They’re leveraging data analytics to stay competitive, cut costs and provide an excellent (and COVID-safe) student experience.

Smith College, for example, started its digital transformation journey long before the pandemic, partnering with SnapLogic in 2017 to bolster its alumni engagement and fundraising efforts. As a school with fewer than 2,500 undergraduates and 55,000 alumni spanning 120 countries, it relies on its ambassadors to instil and continue the school’s pride and education legacy beyond graduation – a challenge all universities face.

Each year, the number of alumni who has the potential to become donors and ambassadors increases by hundreds, if not thousands. To seize that opportunity, Smith College invested in data integration to connect faculty, student and alumni data to provide it with a more comprehensive and effective way to increase fundraising. On SnapLogic’s Automating the Enterprise podcast, Julia Keller, Enterprise Data & Integration Services Director at Smith College, shares that digital transformation never really ends. As such, an attitude of continuous improvement keeps them moving forward.

Then there’s Boston University (BU), another innovative standout in the higher ed space. Founded in 1839, it’s one of the largest private universities in the U.S. 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 utilizing the resources and information they needed.

With SnapLogic, higher education institutions can connect all of their systems quickly and easily to automate processes, accelerate analytics and drive modern learning experiences

Since partnering with SnapLogic to streamline and optimize 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. In addition, the student application process is faster and problem-free and improvements to information, research quality and physical security have also been achieved.

Another standout, Davidson College, which is ranked as one of the strongest and most selective private liberal arts colleges, partnered with SnapLogic to integrate more than 200 apps into its service catalog five years ago. And lucky it did, because when COVID hit, the college was able to safely remain open, which was critical as 95% 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 this integration, it was able to roll out the first version of its COVID surveillance tracking system in less than 10 days, which jump-started its process to keep student-athletes, faculty and staff safe on campus at the beginning of the pandemic.

Finally, Vassar College, a highly selective, coeducational, independent liberal arts college founded in 1861, knows the key to staying ahead lies in an effective data integration strategy. That’s why it turned to SnapLogic, a platform that supports hybrid cloud application and data integration. It provided the college the ability to scale by building and managing integration more quickly with an easy-to-use interface.

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. Even more, 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.

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 save money and bolster fundraising all while personalizing and optimizing learning for students, ensuring success through a combination of classroom and online learning courses.

Without connected data and applications, though, all of this becomes increasingly hard – if not impossible – to do. And ultimately, the experience suffers. 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.

For more inspiring integration success stories in the higher education sector, head to the SnapLogic podcast here.
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