Community: That’s What We’re Here For…You
Let’s put the rivalries of sports and academic programs aside. Higher ed is an industry with a noble mission—to improve student’s lives, advance research, and make society a more educated, better place for everyone. This aim requires colleges and universities and their vendors to work with each other, to think beyond competition.
If you want to be successful over the challenging next five years, it’s time to connect and collaborate, with each other, industry and community.
“I think higher ed is a collaborative set of folks by our very nature. It comes from the heart and soul of the academy and professors being collaborative in sharing research papers, etc.,” said Brad Wheeler, Indiana University’s Vice President for IT and Chief Information Officer.
At Kuali, collaboration and connectivity are at the heart of what we do. Community learning and collaboration between higher ed institutions and the vendors who serve them results in better products and a smoother experience for students, faculty, and researchers.
Benefits of Connectivity
Connection—or community—is the hallmark of our work at Kuali. For us, the connectivity of a user group is more than a quarterly email or an annual convention. Connection is actively seeking out and participating in a community of higher ed professionals who work together to improve products and services—and the industry itself. When you’re connected to a community, you benefit from others’ expertise and experiences.
For Kuali, forming a regular cadence of connection with our customers is intensely important. Whether it be through formal meetings or ad hoc phone calls and screen-shares, we know connecting with and understanding how you use Kuali software is essential to your success, and to ours. Because, connection yields real results.
Making the Difference
“We’re a community that partners together to solve our problems, and I think that’s what is really special about the Kuali products and the institutions that use them,” said Bruce Morgan, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Administration at the University of California, Irvine. “It’s everyone’s in it together, and everyone understands that they’re in it together and they are pulling for each other, and they’re helping each other. And as a result, everyone’s better off for it.”
Marlise Blackburn, Lead Systems Project Manager at Indiana University, said the difference between a collaborative company and one that doesn’t engage with customers is night and day. “Another part of our university is using a different vendor for another product,” she said. “They have an annual user meeting, but it’s once a year—that’s it. They don’t engage with their customers outside of the direct customer relationship that’s there. So all the different customers that are using their product don’t have another platform or venue to talk to each other. I think one of the most valuable things […] is users being able to share how they got around a particular challenge or business process. […] So I find a lot of value in that, and I think it’s a little ridiculous to call it a user group that only meets once a year. I don’t think that that’s valuable.”
Better Products, Better Practices
When you’re connected to an active, collaborative community of users, you improve products, practices, and services.
From the start, Kuali was a network of colleges and universities “founded around a community,” said Wheeler. “And it wasn’t just the software; it was also best practices. Learning how to share our research protocols, share how we do financial systems and risk mitigation and controls. I think that’s one of the great things about the community because when people know each other, that information flows a whole lot faster than when they don’t.”
For Chanell Rome, Electronic Research Administration Business Analyst at the University of Maryland College Park, “rallying together” by asking her peers functional questions about the software is an invaluable resource. “We’re a group of people that have common interests and goals and it’s really nice. It makes it easier.”
At the University of Utah, the Curriculum Administration department takes full advantage of both the Kuali community and their network of peer institutions. Lyndi Duff, Director of Curriculum Management & Technology, meets often with peers at other institutions to share best practices and discuss different approaches to tackling a collective concern. Through these discussions, Duff also learns from the mistakes of other institutions and can ask questions to help mitigate challenges as she moves forward.
When institutions participate in the learnings collected from community collaborations, they quickly improve the quality of service offered to vital stakeholders: students and faculty.
When students register for classes each semester, they have to be able to register for the right courses to graduate on time. If the course they need isn’t offered, immediately filled, or held only while the student works, graduation is delayed. Working together to understand students’ need and how they use software can significantly contribute in helping higher education institutions mitigate these kinds of gaps in service.
Behind the desk on the faculty side, faculty want to be able to process the paperwork for their research quickly. At many institutions, administrators cart paper around on foot to ensure deadlines are met. Meeting regularly with peer institutions can help universities and colleges smooth out awkward processes or innovatively solve unique challenges.
Connecting with other institutions of higher education is vital going forward, especially when it comes to student enrollment. While the majority of high school graduates are enrolled in college—66.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics—many more students could be enrolled as well. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students are enrolled in colleges and universities for the 2018-19 school year. That number, though, is down from the peak in 2010, when there were 21 million students. Enrollment is expected to grow over the next decade, to 20.5 million in 2027.
So how do we get back to that 2010 number, or grow even more? The answer is for higher education to promote the opportunities and benefits of a college education—together, as a community.
Collaboration is the Future
Working together to ensure a bright future for higher education goes beyond collaborating just within the Kuali community. Kuali provides ways for clients to interact with other clients pursuing the same goals so they can collaborate with each other. It’s important to work with other institutions and even at times other industries as well.
“We share ideas, and then we turn that collaboration into innovation and then hopefully, we deliver some great product out of those dialogues,” said Steve Dowdy, University of Maryland’s Director of Research Information Systems & Integration.
Technology makes collaboration easier, whether you’re using two-way communication and content sharing to increase engagement in the classroom, making approval processes available on a cell phone, or proposing ways to include industry in education.
In a survey from the IBM Institute for Business Value, almost 60 percent of industry leaders and academics agreed that higher education doesn’t meet the needs of industry. In addition, 57 percent said that collaborating with partners in industries is necessary to deliver higher education to students effectively. So how do we fix that?
At San Jose State University, the school partners with IBM to give students experience in real-world collaboration efforts. With IBMers as mentors, students learn about uses for social networking technology and how to use it in business operations for quicker innovation and more productive collaboration.
Collaboration and innovation also bring opportunities for new revenue streams through partnerships with major industry players. As we saw recently with the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters, universities across the country pitched collaborations with the company as well as with other higher ed institutions. Dallas, which Amazon didn’t choose, proposed an Amazon U, a partnership between early childhood education, k-12 schools, a community college, and public and private universities. The idea was for Amazon U to teach students the skills that Amazon needs in employees.
Amazon chose to split its second headquarters between Long Island City, New York and Arlington, Virginia. Pace Lochte, Assistant Vice President for Economic Development at the University of Virginia, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that its professors already are working for Amazon in short stints and then will return to the school with new understandings of the industry and company.
“You have these new firms that have almost limitless capital, vast stores of data, and an almost certain ongoing need for education and training for education and workers,” Mitchell L. Stevens, an Associate Professor of Education at Stanford University told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “You’d be foolish, as a university or college administrator … to not bring value to those clients.”
We’ll repeat it, the next five years presents significant challenges for higher education. However, we don’t think the future is bleak. With collaboration and connectivity, institutions of higher education, communities, and industries can design and create better products and services for better-prepared students and a healthier industry.