By Kamal Kant Paliwal, Principal at Advaiya
Visited a university or college campus lately? The sheer energy of students all around, debating about things, planning events, cheering their batchmates, celebrating moments of their student life; the faculty, moving around from building to building on their busy lecture schedules, having discussions on learning paths, curriculums, preparations for the next academic session… At these institutions, the administration is constantly working on new projects, planning initiatives, and launching courses. Someone who not actively involved in academic life would find this to be quite an extraordinary experience. That’s precisely what we need to capture in our technological interventions in the education sector.
In the era of hybrid classrooms and virtual learning, education industry has become remarkably attuned to latest technologies for supporting their administrative functions. Renowned universities and colleges we have worked with have adopted advanced Microsoft technologies used in this space for student onboarding, academic performance management, learning pathway decisions, data synchronization etc. While we have gained insights into the operations of educational institutions and their digitization needs through our discoveries about their student journeys.
Online programs and enrollments
One of the drastic changes observed in academic and vocational training institutions is that major investments are being made for online learning programs. Distance learning and learning from home have become norms. Most vocational courses are now offered as online self-learning modules. Online teaching platforms are collaborating with universities and colleges which are leveraging this model of education to extend their programs to a larger audience. With this, the volume of enrollments has grown and quite naturally resulted in increased requirement to manage learning, organize the training content, manage schedules and evaluations. Automation has a big role to play in education sector as it has become evident that “self-service” learning cannot be managed through manual processes.
Evolving learning pathways
Classrooms have not changed much over the last several hundred years. However, the learning requirements today are completely different than what were deemed necessary even 10 years ago. This last decade has brought about a complete rethinking of how education should be. We are seeing a shift from the rigid, fundamental learning path to a completely agile, skill-oriented learning path with which students need to keep up. The trends in education are changing so quickly that educational institutions must find novel ways to deal with the expectations. Top ranking institutions are complying with these changes with updated curriculums, new learning pathways and by incorporating industry specific trainings and certifications along with their degree programs. This needs a dynamic system which allows mapping of student career goals with the courses and learning pathways.
You go where your audience is
Receiving a letter from that university or college where you had applied for admissions causes both excitement and anxiety. There are chances of long waiting periods, missed mail and yes disappointing rejections. Institutions are making this simple and quick as the people have moved on from the physical letters to the email and now to mobile apps. We are increasingly expecting the information to come to us in a push notification. Hence, colleges need to get on with that. Its far more efficient and saves a lot of time. Students are asking for a ‘phygital’ experience where they have the flexibility to interact with the institution in any manner they want. The biggest example of that is in online counselling and onboarding. No one wants to stand in long queues to submit forms, do registrations, make fee submissions, get ID allotments and so on.
Colleges also look for simplifying their tedious onboarding process. It takes the maximum amount of time and resources at the beginning of every academic year. Advaiya has improved the student onboarding experience for major colleges in USA by automating the verification process. To elaborate on how such processes are digitally transformed – Microsoft Power Platform can help create and manage the workflows. Combining this with Microsoft’s advanced cloud security features and a cloud-based student portal built on PowerApps, we can bolster the onboarding process by automating everything from sending custom welcome emails to generating student IDs without human involvement.
Maximize value of existing infrastructure
Education institutions are working towards maximizing the utilization of their infrastructure and capacity with online learning programs and increasing the intake of students. The course catalog of the college in present scenario would need to be frequently updated as per the changing interests of students and the industry requirements. Colleges are adopting subscription-based learning pathways which a student can pick and choose from. The easiest way to maximize on the available administrative resources, faculty and to reduce overheads is by process automation.
Thus, institutions are investing on chatbots, automated planners and calendars, document management, course material delivery and performance evaluation. Systems can be built to automate response to every query from students and faculty related to curriculum, classes, schedules, scholarship, exams, staff etc. The staffing requirements for tasks like student counsellors, help desks etc. can be reduced by chatbots. Robotic Process Automation can much efficiently take care of repetitive office activities and improve the quality of service.
We ought to accept that educational institutions today have grown into a bouquet of digital services and the academic rankings are going to be decided on their ability to make themselves available and relevant to the next generation of job seekers.