Wednesday Jan 29, 2014

Higher Education Vision 2030

We have seen our neighbouring countries like China, Korea and Singapore, transform from developing to advanced economies in a short span of time owing to a larger vision that correlated economic development to reforms in the education sector, in particular higher education and research. With this in vision, India needs to charter out an education plan to educate and empower our youth through a sound education system with a clear vision and a time-bound roadmap.

It is interesting to know that by 2030, India is expected  to be the fastest growing economy touching a GDP of $10 trillion and one of the youngest nations in the world with a median age of 32. The greying developed world is expected to face a skilled talent shortage of approximately 56 million by 2030 and is already looking at India as the future stock of skilled talent.

With this in context, FICCI has endeavoured to create a ‘Vision 2030' for Higher Education in India; similar to a revolution that India had for Telecom in the 90s.

Mr. Mohan Das Pai (Chairman, FICCI Higher Education Committee), wrote an article* which spoke of not only this vision but also the new system that he intends and visions to introduce in the country.

Some excerpts of the vision that was highlighted:
  • Atleast 23 Indian universities would be among the global top 200
  • 6 Indian intellectuals would have been awarded the Nobel Prize
  • India to be among top 5 countries globally in cited research output
  • R&D spends totalling over $140 billion
  • Introduction of a differentiated academic system with a three-tiered structure (comprising highly selective elite research universities, comprehensive universities and specialised institutions)
  • Seamless access to high quality content and curriculum through open source such as the Massive Open-Online Courses (MOOCs) model
  • Freedom of choice coupled with a liberal arts component needs to be integrated within the curriculum, instead of the current model that promotes narrow specializations
  • Faculty would be a mix of academics, researchers and industry professionals
  • Institutions to rely heavily on online methods of teaching and learning, collaborate with ITIs, polytechnics and other vocational training providers to impart skill based training and offer both part-time and full-time options
  • The system would enable seamless mobility of students, faculty, researchers and professionals across institutions of all types.

As we speak of this vision, it needs to be understood that our education ecosystem today 'suffers' with its system. The methodology of teaching, the resistance to change, obsolete or non-existing IT infrastructure, disconnect from the industry & never changing syllabi are a few issues which not only hinder the development of our institutions but is also plagues the student's intellect and aspirations as he/she graduates.


Thursday Jan 23, 2014

Mastering the Cost of Higher Education with Oracle Applications

There is a perfect storm going on in the world of Higher Education right now. Over the last few years, the cost of higher education has been outpacing the consumer price index.

Parents are starting to ask how and why this storm is happening. Well, both college endowments and state appropriations are either decreasing or stagnant, while university expenses and enrollments are increasing. Yet universities are being forced to keep tuition costs flat.

So how can Higher Education intuitions better understand and manage these issues?
We realize that Higher Education institutions might have good visibility into total operational costs and total revenue collected, but little or no visibility into individual program, degree and course costs, or the cost per student. Currently, colleges and universities have not implemented activity-based costing which is used in many commercial enterprises. Activity-based costing goes beyond the traditional allocation of overhead and provides institutions with better insight into information needed to make strategic decisions about cost containment and allocation of resources. With governing and regulatory bodies currently recommending (and likely soon requiring) this type of analysis and reporting, it is becoming critical for higher education institutions to have this type of insight for both long term and short term planning and reporting. 

So which institutional processes benefit the most from understanding costs more?
Budget and spending decisions need to be based on data and not assumptions. Financial ERP systems and the current structure of institutions’ charts of accounts are not set up to support the type of analysis needed. Using activity-based cost and revenue modeling enables academic institutions to answer crucial questions and, more importantly, analyze many business scenarios to determine their best courses of action.

However, for this type of process to be successful, collaboration between the academic and administrative teams in institutions is foundational and critical. These two groups need to start the discussion about how, and to what level, costs and revenues are to be allocated and which drivers are going to be used. This is the starting point to begin a good model. It is an iterative process and institutions will build upon this and create additional model scenarios as economic and academic conditions change.

So how can Oracle help?

To survive, Higher Education institutions need to either make programs financial sustainable, or ensure there are other programs that have enough surplus to make up for the deficit of programs.

Oracle can help with:

  • Transparency that enables institutions to ensure resources are aligned correctly based on actual measurable information
  • Understanding the true cost to implement new programs and the ability to make pricing decisions based on those costs
  • A thorough understanding of costs at a more granular level and the root cause of the costs. This information enables institutions to make informed decisions
  • Creating accountability that enables departments to understand the resources they consume as it relates to the revenue that they generating
  • Addressing concerns and questions from various stakeholders, e.g. CFO, Board of Trustees, State and other governing boards and accreditation bodies.
To stave off this perfect storm, it is imperative that our institutions now master the cost of Higher Education.

Wednesday Nov 13, 2013

Is Cloud Computing Ready to Scale for Higher Education?

Two basic questions
  1. What is cloud computing, and how does it potentially play a role in higher education?
  2. Virtualization should be enough for an ecosystem (universities together or a collegiate of institutions)... or is it?
Here are a few things about academic computing environment.

Spiky – seasonal traffic loads are multiples of daily load
Traffic on our services in higher education follow predicable patterns. We have application spikes, registration spikes, testing and other scheduled activities that drive loads in our environment like examination results to name one.  Once in a while, a special event will create an unusual spike in data volume and not just concurrency. This is more and more true as we go towards an ecosystem of using video and multimedia. However, in general, we can predict our ‘spikyness’, the dates and time... but managing it has always been a situation.

Slow provisioning sets the stage for inefficient use of resources
Even with virtualization, we find that it often takes days to get a new service provisioned in a data center. How quickly can we enable a new campus to run live on an ERP (for instance) to execute all the business processes, even if they are very similar to other campuses. We may have the tools, like fully stocked SAN and storage virtualization. Unfortunately, a fully deployed service requires much more than just the bare VM instance.  There are many other aspects of deploying a service which often require time consuming manual configuration. The problem is that each server has more than the initial fixed cost.  There are power and cooling costs, support costs, operational costs etc.  So here are the challenges we hear from our organizations:
  • How can we respond more quickly to need?
  • How can we use resources more efficiently?

Cloud requirements from an academic perspective

In order to meet those challenges, we need to address several significant obstacles:

  • Critical data needs to be secure
  • Provisioning needs to include network and application configuration
  • Application instances need to be fully portable within nodes in a cloud cluster
  • Application instances need to be location agnostic
  • Cloud needs to be technology agnostic – cloud manager, hypervisor, application stack, application configuration, network configuration, storage provisioning
Secure handling of data is critical
Like financial industry, secure handling of data is a crucial component of any cloud strategy. When it comes to security, cloud computing gets interesting. The problem is of course compounded when the cloud extends beyond the internal campus network. The problem with a private cloud inside the firewall is that if the resources are being used by a broad user base across the campus, any one virtualized instance can request access for the outside world. An infrastructure as a service (IaaS) approach can create situations where one virtualized application service could be handling secure data while another virtual instance on the same cloud could be compromised. Does this pose a security risk to private data?  Conceivably someone hacking a public instance could hop to other instances on the cloud – private or not!

For higher education, the risks and the rewards are high. There will be breaches and corresponding responses. Is our data more secure on our own servers? Risk is a daily balance and there is no such thing as a risk free environment. The question you need to answer is: as an organization, can we do better on our own or does leverage a larger organization’s information security resources make us safer, even if you are part of a richer target.  This is not the first time we’ve faced this question in the evolution of our species nor will it be the last. If you choose to go with the larger institutional strategy (maybe executing around a collegiate), it is important that you keep up with software updates and the latest trends in applications and technology. Otherwise you risk the worst of both worlds: a juicy target that doesn’t keep up their defenses.

Reference: Dennis Anderson, Ph.D and Dr. Peter Morales (Is Cloud Computing Ready for Higher Education)

Mohit Satraj Phogat
Author: Mohit Phogat

This site focuses on Oracle's offerings to higher education in the Indian region. It intends to cover news, reviews, guides, how-to articles, descriptive videos, and podcasts on the trends which should be helpful to customers, prospects and developer community alike.

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