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Technology’s role in empowering change in higher education

Key takeaways
  • Technology is critical for enabling growth
  • It is critical that implemented solutions are fit for the future
  • Technology is conduit for change, but also relies on a conducive culture, people and partnerships for true growth

Technology is critical for enabling growth. It drives greater collaboration, which in turn powers community, all key factors in enabling institutions to continue moving forward. But technology does not have the power to drive change in and of itself – it is a conduit for change, and relies on a conducive culture, people and partnerships for true growth.

Transformative technology

Keeping students, faculty, and staff connected is more important than ever before, particularly with the impact of the novel coronavirus still being felt across the globe. Integrated systems and mobile-ready solutions are key to helping institutions stay engaged, no matter the distance. Solutions such as Ellucian Ethos, for example, create an empowered campus by connecting people, process, and technology with a platform built on the higher ed open data model. This connects departments, staff and students in ways that weren’t possible before. It does this by unifying data while leveraging standard integrations and APIs to join up applications used across an institution.

What this then enables, is intuitive decision making, harnessing cross-departmental data to ease administrative burdens and improve the student experience as expectations increase. An accurate picture of the university, enables better decisions to be made, tapping into the specific needs of staff and students to improve experiences and tackle problems, from housing and food to mental health. It’s data-empowered transformation.

To ensure transformative experiences continue, however, it is critical that implemented solutions are fit for the future. Change is constant, after all, so the technology solutions we use should facilitate change, with flexibility at the core. For technology to be truly transformative, it comes down to three factors: solutions, people and partnerships.

Solutions

Institutions need a clear understanding of their organisation today, but also need IT solutions that are flexible enough to meet future needs. This is where the value of the cloud comes in. The cloud brings greater agility, as scalability is built in. For example, if an institution is seeing a spike in registrations during recruitment, systems can be scaled up and then down when registrations drop, and likewise the applications needed at any time during the day can be scaled, so only the systems that are needed are the ones being used.

Royal Holloway prides itself on being able to continuously evolve and adapt to meet the ever-changing demands of higher education – when they migrated to the cloud, they were able to remove their need to build data centres, and instead focus on high-value projects and updates because more functions were now automated.

Michael Johnson, Chief Information Officer at Royal Holloway said, “There were too many uncoordinated, costly, in-house developments. This was preventing us from keeping up with needed updates. Since transitioning to the cloud, we’ve seen improved costs, and are now able to prioritise strategic investments, such as enhanced self-service.”

Royal Holloway projects cost-savings of £170K annually in effort reduction for academic administrators as a direct result.

Royal Holloway projects cost-savings of £170K annually in effort reduction for academic administrators as a direct result.

This scalability of technology solutions is critical no matter where you are on your digital transformation journey – if you’re not ready for the cloud now, but need to be in five years, your technology should support that requirement.

People

The role people have in ensuring technology truly makes an impact and drives change is twofold: firstly, it’s having the right mix of people to champion the role of technology and secondly, it’s leveraging the collaborative nature of technology to foster a dynamic, future-focused environment.

As we’ve written earlier in this blog, technology does not beget change, but it does empower it. The key is the strategic use of technology, and that requires the right mix of people – to ensure new best practices are adopted, and that longstanding processes and roles are revised. But this needs to come from the top down, as the institution’s leaders are the ones that set the cultural context within which the technological change is implemented.

Better data visibility enables institutional leaders to make informed decisions – but it also drives communication and collaboration between people. Effective collaboration is a key component of increasing productivity and innovation, and successful institutions embed collaborative discussions into their processes to deliver the growth paved by technology. This approach was fully leveraged by Bryant University when they migrated to the cloud.

VP for Technology at Bryant University, Chuck LoCurto, explains: “Early on, I included the university’s other divisions in the process. I also worked the business case very closely with our CFO and his right-hand person, and the three of us, with input from all the teams, made sure the CFO understood the cost implications. We socialised often and the IT team came into the decision process, because you're not moving to the cloud with just one person saying, ‘We're going to the cloud.’ It has got to be embraced by everybody.”

We explore collaboration and community further in our blog, Creating a Community, which you can read here.

Partnerships

By combining partnership, innovation and agility, Ellucian focuses on the specific needs and challenges of institutions, cocreating individual solutions based on a holistic understanding of each institution and its unique needs. To achieve this means asking the challenging questions, and leveraging our knowledge of the higher education sector to keep our customers at the top of their game.

Howard Community College in Maryland, for example, leans on its technology solutions to ensure student success and to help the college operate more efficiently. The success of these solutions is down to the partnership behind them.

Linda Wu, director of administrative information systems at HCC, explains: “Our partnership with Ellucian has been very strategic, not only with looking at what we do today, but what we're thinking about doing tomorrow,” she says. “That's important. It's not just thinking about the partnership today, but also moving forward and thinking about next steps.”

Technology, People and Partnerships – a recipe for growth

Having the right technology solutions, that can evolve with you as you grow, is vital for the higher education sector to continue moving forward. For truly empowered transformation, however, you need the right mix of technology, people and partnerships.

Ellucian’s commitment to actively monitoring and responding to higher education trends, innovations, and challenges means that we are well positioned to innovate and evolve to meet your changing needs. We’re here to help you grow, together.

About Ellucian

Ellucian is the market leader charting the digital future of higher education with a portfolio of cloud-ready technology solutions and services. From student recruitment to workforce analytics; from fundraising opportunities to alumni engagement; Ellucian’s comprehensive suite of data-rich tools gives colleges and universities the information they need to lead with confidence.

Working with a community of more than 2,700 customers in over 50 countries, Ellucian keeps innovating as higher education keeps evolving. Drawing on its comprehensive higher education business acumen and suite of services, Ellucian guides its customers through manageable, sustainable digital transformation—so that every type of institution and student can thrive in today’s fast-changing landscape. To find out what’s next in higher education solutions and services, visit Ellucian at www.ellucian.com/emea-ap.

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