By Jeff Alderson, Principal Analyst
Welcome to the Eduventures Tech Alert, the technology-focused section of the Wake-Up Call that highlights companies to watch, new product announcements, and notable trends in the emerging higher education technology market.
This first issue offers a round up of some of the tech meetings we’ve had in the past few weeks. Here is a look at trends to stay on top of and technology providers to watch.
The Intensifying Battle for the Higher Education Enterprise
Oracle and SAP are going after Workday’s growing success within higher education. Both are grappling with the same issue: developing a native cloud-based Student Information System (SIS) that is more than simply moving their on-premise technology to the cloud. Each vendor is approaching it in a similar development fashion; however, their feature-specific priorities are vastly different. Both vendors agree that any new SIS built for the cloud needs to be “student-centric” and “mobile-ready.” Still, which specific features will resonate with their core audience of institutional buyers remains to be seen. SAP believes that cloud-only features that could bolt on to existing on-premise SIS or ERP platforms is key to adoption, while Oracle is betting on end-to-end, back office workflow management. During our meetings with Eileen Smith and Kevin Molloy from Workday, we were able to conclude that their offering is still the only cloud-based ERP built from the ground up on emerging technology. By prioritizing student-facing capabilities and marketing towards early cloud adopters, the agile development approach of Oracle and SAP show that these two companies are serious about giving Workday a run for its money in this growing market.
Leveraging Social Media Sources to Better Manage the Student/Alumnus Lifecycle
We recently met with Brent Grinna from EverTrue, which provides social data analysis for advancement. The company has a great handle on how development offices can manage streams of social data to determine the likelihood of potential donors to contribute to the institution. We believe that EverTrue’s long-term opportunity is their ability to move horizontally into other engagement areas across the student lifecycle. While recognizing that they aren’t there quite yet, their social data capabilities could easily be brought to bear on engagement challenges in recruiting, enrollment, and retention. Eduventures expects that this set of capabilities will expand across the enterprise, as additional companies offer more tools to leverage “big data” streams from social media sources throughout the student lifecycle. Imagine being able to predict whether a student is going to enroll at your institution based on what they say about their campus visit on their Facebook page. Or whether a current student is likely to transfer based on the multiple photos they shared on Instagram with positive comments (and plenty of Emoji) from their visit to another college’s campus. This likely future is closer than you may believe, as other companies such as Oracle and their enterprise CRM offering are already including off-the-shelf integration with social data streams.
Mastering the Horizontal Consolidation of Student Data
Horizontal consolidation of student data and services is the name of the game, and Hobsons wants to be the winner. With its recent acquisitions in the areas of enrollment management and retention solutions, specifically the February 23rd announcement of its deal to acquire Starfish, Hobsons is providing a horizontal view of the student lifecycle to its customers. Other companies have approached horizontal integration before, with vastly different approaches and levels of success. Oracle has acquired small and large companies alike to plug into its suite of products to provide a longitudinal view of the student learner. Previously, the now bankrupt ConnectEDU attempted to align products and services from lifecycle segments as diverse as college applications and workforce placement, only to have to spin off again into separate businesses after horizontal integration never came to fruition. It remains to be seen if Hobsons’ investments in these additional products will pay off, but Brian Mikesell of Hobsons is confident that the disparate technologies and platforms can be tightly integrated with the core Hobsons student data management platform to deliver on their expectations.
Extending the Capabilities of Learning Management Systems
A trend has emerged on the learning management system (LMS) front in which student users of traditional systems are seeing shortfalls in how online engagement should be delivered and actively doing something about it. StudyCloud was founded by former University of Illinois users of the Blackboard LMS, including Akash Agarwal, who gave us a firsthand tour of their solution. It aims to solve a specific issue for users of any LMS or course management software: how to manage your study time outside of the classroom. Similarly, Chalkup hopes to do what more traditional LMS vendors have struggled with: focusing on ease of use and thrilling design principals to keep teachers and students engaged, whenever they are online and wherever that might be. Building on this trend, we expect to see more edtech start-ups attempting to fill various holes in larger platforms with single point solutions that are quick to deploy and solve some of the most pressing engagement issues as perceived by the users themselves.
Outsourcing a Move to the Cloud
Institutions are embracing managed services contracts and the outsourcing of core IT functions to move mission critical systems to the cloud. Companies like Acquia, led by their VP of higher education, Chris Hartigan, are sweeping in to win this business. Acquia provides fully managed deployments of the Drupal Content Management System in the Amazon Web Services cloud. Any institution that wants to move current instances of Drupal to a robust infrastructure managed by Acquia’s team of open source experts can do so quickly and easily. Other companies are sure to follow Acquia’s lead in other key functional areas like SIS, CRM and LMS, providing a fully outsourced solutions for institutions’ most complex (and costly) enterprise software challenges. Look for our upcoming research in these areas in the coming month, including a survey on the perceived barriers to adopting cloud technologies at higher education institutions.
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