The goal for any higher education institution is the same: attract, retain and graduate quality students. However, the way students seek and complete their education is changing. The future of higher education depends upon adapting to these changes. To be the college or university of the future – a modern, competitive institution that provides the best for its students – leaders in higher education need to know what will make prospective students choose them, what will give existing students a reason to stay and ultimately, what will make students successful.

At the 2016 annual EDUCAUSE conference, Huron asked more than 110 IT professionals in higher education to explain how their institution is using technology to prepare for the future. While many respondents said cloud technology was a key step in transforming their institution, many also explained how the cloud will have a significant impact on student experience and success.

Here are five reasons from IT professionals why the University of the Future rests within the cloud.

1. Cloud Enables Institutions to Meet Student Expectations

Forty-six percent of Huron’s survey respondents listed “user expectations” as one of the greatest challenges facing IT leaders in higher education. These high expectations are based on the students’ daily experiences with personal devices. In a world where everything is accessible at the touch of a screen, IT leaders know a clunky, hard-to-use legacy system students can’t understand and hate to use simply isn’t going to make the grade. A key step to building the university of the future is using the cloud to create positive user experiences for students.

2. Early Cloud Adoption Puts Institutions Ahead

Most institutions and their IT leaders recognize that to build the university of the future, they must start the cloud migration process early. Seventy-five percent of Huron’s survey respondents said their institution is moving to the cloud, or would be within the next 12 months. With so many institutions making the move, those that don’t adopt a modern technology infrastructure risk being left behind. Late cloud adoption can negatively affect colleges and universities in two ways: First, the lack of modern technology will make it even more difficult for institutions to attract prospective students. Second, those institutions will struggle to retain and graduate existing students. By implementing the cloud, an institution not only invests in the success of its students, but in the success of the institution itself. It is in the best interest of colleges and universities to start cloud adoption early.

(Next page: 3 more ways the cloud is building the University of the Future)

3.  The Right Cloud Vendor can Provide Good Security

With hacking scandals making regular headline news, data security is a top concern for any organization. Because colleges and universities are legally responsible for securing student data, privacy and data security within the cloud is paramount. Thirty-eight percent of Huron’s survey respondents listed “data security and privacy” as their biggest roadblock when migrating to the cloud. Despite these valid concerns, the benefits of the cloud far outweigh the risks. Rather than choose not to adopt based on privacy, IT leaders should address this issue by vetting cloud vendors to find solutions that meet privacy and security standards. By laying the groundwork from the beginning, IT leaders can create a university of the future that is safe and secure.

4. Cloud Reduces Complexity and Increases Efficiency

Supporting the IT functions of an entire college or university is no easy feat. That’s why it’s important for IT leaders to find ways to reduce complexity and improve system efficiency. Fortunately, transitioning to the cloud provides these much needed benefits. Huron’s survey respondents ranked “reducing complexity” (30 percent) and “improving efficiency” (34 percent) as the top two benefits the cloud offers to colleges and universities. By adopting cloud, IT leaders will streamline interactions between the student and the university, resulting in quicker response time to technical issues or administering help to at-risk students. In the university of the future, students spend less time struggling with technology and more time succeeding at their studies.

5. Cloud Gives Students Unlimited Access

Traditionally, students pursue their education on-campus. While many students still opt for an onsite education, there is an increasing trend of students completing their education online, from anywhere in the world. To support these different types of learners, the higher education institution of the future must enable students to access course scheduling, class materials and financial aid from anywhere. IT leaders in higher education agree with this; Huron’s survey respondents listed the top two benefits of the cloud for students as “access to courses and learning materials” (41 percent), and “the ability to efficiently manage enrollment and financial aid” (33 percent). By customizing how the students interact with their education, colleges and universities can appeal to more qualified students without barriers or borders.

While cloud technology provides many benefits for internal IT systems and back-office functions, the real value of the cloud for colleges and universities comes from the positive effect it has on student experience and success. Through the cloud, the higher education institution of the future is better able to manage and customize the student experience from application through to graduation, ensuring the university meets its goal: to attract, retain and graduate quality students.

About the Author:

Joy Walton is a managing director for professional services firm, Huron. Joy collaborates with colleges, universities and research institutions on projects related to information systems design and implementation, research administration and operational improvement.

Add your opinion to the discussion.