By User9147039-Oracle on Apr 06, 2015
Two important events occurred recently in Oracle education circles: Alliance (the global meeting of the independent Oracle Higher Education User Group or HEUG) in Nashville Tennessee, and Oracle Industry Connect (an Oracle-sponsored industry thought leadership event) in Washington DC. Both conferences signaled the continued and heightened role that technology must play in order for education and research to survive and thrive in the coming years.
Alliance once again drew a large crowd of nearly 4000 to interact on issues and opportunities in leveraging Oracle and other complimentary technologies in the running of the academic enterprise. But what was noteworthy about this conference in 2015 was not the size of the group nor any one specific presentation or announcement. It was rather the sense of change that seems to be permeating the organization. This was evident in the installation of a new HEUG president (Mario Barry from Lone Star College) as well as in the discussions that took place during the Executive Forum sessions at the conference. There is a decided shift in importance and dominance from the large, monolithic "administrative" applications such as student information systems and ERP (which were the underpinnings of the HEUG's origin), to more "front office" systems such as student engagement, learning technologies, recruitment, retention, and analytics.
One might be tempted to talk about this in terms of a shift from on-premise applications to all things cloud, but I see that as simply a technology evolution that is permeating everything. The real shift is rooted in the dynamics affecting our systems of higher education: the need to deliver education and research at scale (increased access), the need for differentiation between institutions (and to expose those key differentiators through technology), and the need for higher education to become more data-driven. This was clearly evident during the Student Success panel at Alliance Executive Forum, where Andy Clark, Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications from Valdosta State University, the aforementioned Mario Barry from Lone Star College, and outgoing HEUG president Steve Hahn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison all discussed how important the development of enterprise-wide approaches to the use of data to enhance student success had become one of the most critical drivers for executive team in their respective institutions.
In the week following Alliance, education was one of several featured industries at Oracle Industry Connect, a thought-leadership conference sponsored by Oracle in Washington DC. I was privileged to chair a panel of several university presidents accompanied by an industry analyst from Ovum, as the keynote presentation which initiated our industry track. Joining me were Dr. G.P. "Bud" Peterson of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Professor Michael Fitts of Tulane University, Dr. Mary Hawkins of Bellevue University, and Nicole Engelbert of Ovum. We discussed a wide range of issues including the considerable change higher education has already experienced and need for further change, the imperative for institutions to become more "data-driven," and the need for reduced "friction" in the student experience, as their interactions with the institution shift from purely in-person, on campus interactions to those which have a significant technology component, from many different devices at many different times, and throughout the student lifecycle (from prospect to donor and all stages in between).
What struck me during some of our sessions the following day when we convened a small panel of undergraduate students was just how clear they are about the need for this "frictionless" interaction with their institution, and the role they expect that institution to play (much more of an advisor and coach and mentor than of "parent"). There are definitely boundaries that students expect their institutions to observe in their use of social media and data, but those boundaries are dissimilar from the expectations they have from their interactions with commercial entities on the internet, which makes our jobs of creating the frictionless environment that much more difficult! But it was also evident from these discussions that we have a long way to go in our efforts to focus investments on student experience and engagement; that basic concepts like authenticating one time into the many systems with which students interact is still elusive.
The sessions from OIC were recorded, and I'll post shortly the URLs for the various sessions where you can see them as they were delivered.
Later in the day we examined topics like The Strategic Management of Academic Portfolios: Traceability to Cost of Education and Empowering Modern Finance in Higher Education, where experts like Erin Gore (formerly CFO of UC Berkeley and currently the head of education and non-profit banking at a large bank) and John Curry (former CFO of MIT, UCLA, and USC and currently with Deloitte) spoke on the need to modern technology and process to make informed decisions about strategic investments, as well as in the need to reduce the massive duplication and redundancy that exists on many campuses where local optimization for departments and divisional silos have been allowed to continue unchecked. All of this is in an effort to sift shrinking resources to teaching, learning, and research and reduce the overall cost of education (which, incidentally, was the primary focus of the Q&A following the Industry Connect keynote address from Dr. Condoleezza Rice!).
For those of you that weren't able to join us for OIC 2015, I sincerely hope you'll consider this event next spring. While I realize I have a strong bias, I believe it was some of the best industry content, focused on the most relevant and pressing issues our industry faces, that I've been privileged to help deliver in quite some time.