Universities are facing upheaval from the societal and economic impact of the current pandemic. Many of these institutions are struggling to adapt their admissions, income, and working practices fast enough to avoid a budget crisis.
However, universities in market-oriented systems can deploy technology to rapidly adjust to new market conditions.
And in many cases those changes are significant. To begin with, border restrictions and the global shutdown of international travel have created huge uncertainty, although Australia is at least making moves to allow foreign students to return.
International students who can afford tuition will have more choices as will local students as local universities push harder on remote learning.
The process of marketing will also change. With limits on large social gatherings expected to continue into the near future, universities will need to shift away from expos and open days to attract students.
And cash-constrained universities may be forced to cut marketing budgets. That will put more pressure on marketers to limit media wastage and control the cost of acquisition. Website effectiveness and the site-side conversion will be another KPI to come under close scrutiny.
In this context student recruitment agents will continue to be a valuable channel for international students. Managing these networks will be a key focus for universities striving to maintain international admissions.
In the midst of all this change, universities also confront demands for fee reductions from students frustrated at the loss of face-to-face teaching since the outbreak of the pandemic.
These new models are urgently needed to mitigate the lost income from student fees, accommodation, conferences, and training programs.
All of these pressures will require new work processes underpinned by technology.
Without the right systems in place, long wait times will inevitably frustrate users and reduce engagement leading to poor student experiences. That then drives declines in admissions, lower re-enrolment, higher absenteeism, and reputational damage.
But as they face these challenges some higher education institutions are being held back by inflexible legacy systems and operations that underutilise existing technology assets.
Universities must overcome the technology debt that they face. This can be done with the enabling of innovation by making the technology for universities easier to use.
Like consumers in other segments, university students prefer self-serve whenever possible, when they step onto campus they expect university systems to be smart – to anticipate problems and fix them without those long wait times.
Universities cannot deliver differentiated student experiences through self-service without having a solid understanding of who their customer is and what they want.
The decades-old legacy systems built for different functions makes it difficult to bring together a full view of the student/user as well as the information from across different parts of the university that are often needed to service their requests.
For this to be considered useful this information often needs to be accessed in real-time through websites, portals, and mobile applications.
Business software applications that are delivered via the cloud aka SaaS make it easier to install, access and adapt computing power. However, this power is limited by the application’s ability to connect the data needed for the task at hand.
As tasks become more complex the need for integrated data increases.
The data mapped from one system to another is governed by rules. If the rules change or become too complex, the system can slow down or fail.
Cloud computing 2.0
Cloud computing provides the opportunity to address many of the problems created by legacy systems.
The new generation of enterprise cloud applications use powerful computing infrastructure and AI to create faster connections between the data points needed for handling tasks quickly with high levels of accuracy.
Students, faculty, staff, and partners can be given access to flexible education and instruction options.
AI-enabled digital assistants and automated response handling can improve outcomes on a range of inquiries, including eligibility, special consideration, advanced standing, assessments & grading, financial calculations.
To use technology effectively, institutions must be prepared to change the way students, faculty, staff, and partners interact with SaaS software.
For many users, when new software is introduced, it means learning a skill and moving away from the familiar, this could lead to software that is under utilised. Universities should implement effective planning and communications to accelerate the adoption of new ways of working.
Feedback loops, training, help-desk support, and end-user documentation all help maintain competent users and minimise any disruptions.
Ultimately, students expect universities to anticipate and personalise experiences.
Well designed systems can make the student’s experience of the university easier, more effective, and more enjoyable. At a time of huge competitive pressure, and of ongoing market uncertainty, delivering world-class experiences will be essential to succeeding in a truly global and increasingly digital education market place.
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