Building the Digital Universities of Tomorrow

Australian universities are facing the increasingly harsh reality of students, academics and staff expecting more services, technologies and information from them than ever before. Yet decreasing funding from government and an intense competitive environment are making it difficult to meet new demands.

Students in particular, are no longer confined to universities within close physical proximity. With the widespread availability of online study, students are being lured to universities in other cities, states, or countries that can offer the most valuable learning experience. This creates an increasingly competitive environment where universities must compete for revenue on a much wider national and international scale.

Additionally, the boom of online education means it is now an expectation, not a bonus, that educational experiences, whether they are online or offline, involve the latest technologies. 24/7 access to educational resources, an intuitive, seamless platform, and a strong network of academics who can share knowledge at any time, on any device, is essential for a university of tomorrow.

As Australian universities face this increasingly competitive landscape, we risk losing some of our brightest and most talented students to overseas institutions.

Universities today have an important role to play in keeping local students, teachers, and academics in Australia. Building a digital university will involve truly understanding how key stakeholders (i.e. students, teachers, staff, or academics) want to be interacting with each other, and leveraging the most effective and productive technologies available.

Answering the needs of next generation students

Student experience is key to the future success of Universities.  Students today expect universities to work around their timetable. Whether they need to check their schedule before leaving the house in the morning, or want to confirm their academic progress and time left until graduation before going to bed, the next generation of students expect real-time, 24/7 access to all information on any device.

With this demand for constant connectivity, universities need to leverage a single platform that enables them to manage the entire student lifecycle.

This ensures that the next time a student bumps into a teacher on campus and wants to discuss their academic progress, it can be pulled up on their smartphone or tablet instantly. The teacher can discuss the required steps to graduation, or pull up a copy of their transcripts.

Futureproofing our universities

Students’ needs and expectations will continue to change as new technologies arise. Understanding each student’s journey from enquiry, application, enrolment to graduation, and how this evolves over time, will be key to ensuring universities’ processes and systems are efficient and delivering optimal value to students.

This is what we call the “single view” of students – whether they are signing up for their first class, joining the debating team, or requesting their transcript for an internship application, this provides one location for universities to gain insight into each student interaction with their facilities.

Why does this matter?

With a single view of students’ behaviours, universities can understand students’ current needs, as well as predict how these needs will change in the coming years. The student is the “Compass of the University”.

From there, universities can start implementing processes, technologies, and systems that optimise productivity and cost-effectiveness. These insights into where to most efficiently cut costs and the impact it will have on students will be priceless as the government’s funding to universities fluctuates over time and a more commercial view of the world is taken.

Empowering students with self-service options

People are instinctively more grateful for information that is accessible and delivered on their own personal terms, rather than according to a timetable or location that benefits an organisation they are already paying.

A 24/7 self-service system available on any device encourages more students to engage with their university at more stages of their educational experience, which enables universities to gain more data and insights into how to improve these experiences. This could involve developing more convenient timetables, or tailoring course availability based on real-time demand from students.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT), for example, has leveraged TechnologyOne’s Student Management solution to provide a truly digital end-to-end experience for over 45,000 students.

The university used the software to transform the way it interacts with students, by extending QUT's virtual capabilities for students, academics and administrators through the creation of the online study plan concept. QUT students now have the ability to leverage online study plans and auto-completion of courses, enabling the university to meet the current and future technology demands of its students. Thanks to the end-to-end software working on mobile devices, students can also access the system 24/7 on any of their devices, and academics and staff can provide real-time feedback to students’ requests regardless of whether they are on or off campus.

To become a digital university of tomorrow, institutes must start considering the capability of their enterprise systems now, to ensure they can meet the current and future demands of students. End-to-end solutions that enable universities to connect their key stakeholders will provide an infinitely better “university experience” to students, and will empower universities to become more cost effective and competitive in an increasingly saturated market.

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By Matt Arnott

Matt Arnott

Matt Arnott is TechnologyOne’s Group General Manager for Education and has over 20 years experience in software development of large Global ERP Systems.  Matt has been with TechnologyOne for seven years.During this time, he has driven the development and evolution of the company’s education software solutions, which today are now used by over half of the Australian Tertiary Education sector and growing quickly in the South East Asian and United Kingdom markets.

About TechnologyOne

TechnologyOne (ASX:TNE) is Australia's largest enterprise software company and one of Australia's top 200 ASX-listed companies, with offices across six countries. We create solutions that transform business and make life simple for our customers. We do this by providing powerful, deeply integrated enterprise software that is incredibly easy to use. Over 1,000 leading corporations, government departments and statutory authorities are powered by our software.

We participate in only eight key markets: government, local government, financial services, education, health and community services, asset intensive industries, project intensive industries and corporates. For these markets we develop, market, sell, implement, support and run our preconfigured solutions, which reduce time, cost and risk for our customers.

For 28 years, we have been providing our customers enterprise software that evolves and adapts to new and emerging technologies, allowing them to focus on their business and not technology. Today, our software is available on the TechnologyOne Cloud and across smart mobile devices. For further information please visit: