By Jeff Alderson, Principal Analyst
This week, I was invited to represent Eduventures at the Oracle Industry Connect event in Washington, D.C. to learn more about the company’s solutions for the Education and Research industry. While the planned keynote speaker, Larry Ellison, was sidelined with a strained voice, his stand-in, Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, did not disappoint. He used his time on stage to introduce an interesting fact that is driving his strategy in 2015: by 2020, 50% of the education workforce will be comprised of Millennials.
Oracle is investing in R&D for solutions now with the Millennial end user in mind. This includes extensive back-office and workflow management solutions that faculty and staff can access anywhere, from any device, at any time. In addition to Millennials, however, edtech vendors like Oracle will need to address the main end users of their products. From Eduventures’ perspective, the question that remained after the keynote presentation was “how is Oracle targeting the other core user audience in higher education—students from Generation Z?” Striking the balance in creating interfaces that appeal to both model-of-efficiency Millennials and extreme-curator Gen-Zers on the same platform is sure to be a key differentiator in years to come.
After a quick tweet using the #OracleIC2015 hashtag, I was directed to meet with Joe Burkhart, Student Experience Evangelist at Oracle, to discuss their recent work in Social Relationship Management (SRM), among other things. Given the speed with which I was directed to Joe and the team of experts at the Oracle demo stations, I got the feeling I was experiencing SRM firsthand. We also spent some time discussing the company’s work with Cloud SIS. While the team confirmed that the primary focus of the 1.0 release of Student Management would be on continuing education, it was their approach to the student user experience using a persona and an outcomes-driven design process that really caught my attention.
Putting the focus squarely on Gen Z students is how Oracle is building the cloud SIS from the ground up, with a priority on the student experience of transactions with the college. They are not taking the traditional approach of catering to registrars and their control of the systems of record. Students’ expectations about their ownership of their permanent record are addressed by having the information stored in a central, cloud-based system of record and having their data follow them using APIs throughout all other connected Oracle applications and social or online conversations with the college. This appeals to Generation Z students because they are only asked for their information once and it is used to personalize their experience across all of their interactions.
Another way that Oracle is engaging Generation Z is through the use of tools and services that monitor social data streams, look for keywords and phrases that indicate positive (or negative) sentiments about the college, and then feeds enrollment prospects to admissions officers or requests for intervention to the appropriate student services staff member through a CRM.
While this is an incredibly powerful use of technology, the recent example of similar monitoring on the part of Pearson has caught the attention of parent and teacher organizations as a potential invasion of privacy. Oracle acknowledges the complexity of privacy and security of what this means practically for students and connects its higher education clients with integration vendors that will assist colleges in configuring these tools in a way that addresses the creepiness vibe sometimes caused by too fast or too targeted a response. They recommend that colleges set policies for data sources that define what sources are off limits (such as health records or personal exchanges with student services representatives) and how quickly staff are allowed to respond, in what forum, and about what topics.
Eduventures believes that powerful tools like these will transform how colleges interact with Generation Z, listening to students where they prefer to communicate and maximizing the value of data that colleges already know about them. While companies like Oracle are making well-placed investments to appeal to Millennials in areas like workflow management, the true test of these next generation systems will be in successfully appealing to both audiences.