Prioritizing Technological Infrastructure for the Benefit of Your University

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Student Information Systems Promote Agility in Higher Education

Student Information Systems Promote Agility in Higher Education

It’s no secret that higher education is changing quickly. The needs of students are shifting and so are the needs of the industries that schools prepare them for. Colleges and universities need to keep up. That might require new courses, new formats, new marketing tactics, or anything in between. Traditionally, institutional change has been very slow—even small and expected changes, such as the introduction of new courses or programs, can take years.

But slow just doesn’t make the grade anymore.

The solution isn’t to rush or be hasty. Instead, schools must be agile and they must have an agile student information system and tech infrastructure. The term ‘agile’ was first applied to athletic movements, and then to technological development, but in this context it means that schools must have a foundation that is flexible enough to accommodate new endeavors, opportunities or students without having to completely start from scratch.

Agile organizations operate with exceptional efficiency and make use of the tools at hand in order to change, grow, or adapt without fundamentally overhauling business processes or infrastructure. Click to tweet

There are, however, two misconceptions at play that hinder institutional agility.

Myth #1 — Speed and Quality are Inversely Related

Universities have a history of operating very statically. This is a protective measure that allows the school to constantly ensure that quality standards are upheld and that they cannot be circumvented by any one trend or individual. Simply going faster or skipping important procedures can certainly compromise quality. However, cutting corners is not agility. Instead, agile institutions have implemented distinct, but efficient, processes that actually allow them to increase their quality in addition to their responsiveness.

Numerous elements play into creating an infrastructure that simultaneously supports agility and quality. At the center lies the student information system, which has the ability to catalyze or impair both. On the one hand, it can create barriers and red tape for students and staff alike, slowing down processes at every turn and decreasing engagement across the board. On the other hand, a student information system can (and should) act like wheels of the car, absorbing shock along the road and providing the agility to round a corner without jarring the passengers. It should hold the information, workflows, and processes that the school uses to operate effectively, and should be able to quickly pivot them as necessary to respond smoothly to new challenges, markets or opportunities without ever compromising quality.

Myth #2 — Large Organizations Cannot Be Agile

This is not so much a misconception as it is hyperbole. Of course, no large organization, regardless of the industry, can be as agile as a lean start-up. The more players involved, including staff and customers (or students), the harder it is to rapidly change direction or implement new measures. Large corporations, including Google and Apple have partially overcome this issue by creating skunkworks projects, which are basically small departments operating on the fringe of the company that are exempted from much of the organizational procedure and therefore able to move quickly and be experimental.

Agile organizations are able to quickly pivot operations to respond to changes in market requirements and student expectations. Click to tweet

Oftentimes, continuing education departments operate much like the university’s skunkworks. Yet as continuing education departments and other non-traditional units grow in size, scale and importance many have moved from the periphery to the core of their institutions. Even many of those that remain on the periphery of the institution have become so large and diverse in and of themselves, that their own organizational procedures are seemingly enough to inhibit flexibility. While always important, efficiency is especially critical in these cases.

Infrastructure, and a strong student information system, is as crucial to efficiency as it is to quality. It allows the school to automate as much as possible, avoid one-off procedures, and empower staff to focus on high-value tasks. This combination allows the school to focus on adapting to opportunities instead of being bogged down by size.

Agile institutions are able to meet opportunity head on because they have created the efficiencies needed to adapt quickly and fairly painlessly. Their staff focus on high-value tasks, their IT systems are in place, and everyone is aligned and attuned to the changing marketplace.

Destiny One is the only student information system that puts learner engagement first. Crafted specifically for continuing education extensions, professional development divisions, international programs, online schools, and other units that support non-traditional students, Destiny One is used by top institutions across the U.S. and Canada to enable the business excellence needed to support growth and foster world-class customer engagement with learners.

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