Higher education has been on a tear in recent years, racing to digitize processes once held sacrosanct, such as libraries, curricula, and centuries of collections. But higher-ed institutions still struggle to keep pace with digital transformation in many core operational systems, particularly those managing the student lifecycle—from recruiting to student records to alumni fundraising.

Fierce competition for technical resources, scarce funding, and entrenched legacy systems can make it difficult to shake the dust off of internal processes. Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project, said that “if he had to give campus IT a grade, he’d give it a C-plus or a B-minus at best,” in an interview with Inside Higher Ed.

Off the shelf, few applications (old or new) cater to the varied and complex needs of educational institutions. The lack of IT resources, coupled with the reluctance of vendors to allow customizations, makes adaptation of existing systems untenable. So universities end up settling for applications that meet only a portion of their needs, and must try to “bolt on” other solutions and customizations as best they can. Over time, this creates thorny problems with maintenance, and typically deteriorates usability, increasing the odds that users will abandon the costly software (or at least complain very loudly).

So how can a higher education institution:

● Deliver personalized apps for students, professors, and administrators to accomplish their goals simply and easily?
● Replace or transcend monolithic core systems with adaptable, agile systems?
● Reduce or even eliminate costs for customizations?

An extensible, no-code platform can make it all happen, more quickly and less expensively than you might imagine. Berklee College of Music in Boston and World Maritime University in Sweden have already seen success, along with many others. With the right no-code platform schools can create and modify completely custom enterprise software without writing a single line of code—drastically reducing barriers to innovation.

A comprehensive no-code app development platform can integrate countless major data sources—including cloud, on-premise, and legacy systems—into a single user experience, allowing universities to consolidate and simplify their business processes for greater efficiency. Then, using simple, drag-and-drop, point-and-click tools, a broad range of higher ed employees can become developers, assembling all kinds of scholastic enterprise software such as:

● Student data systems, including recruiting, application tracking, and admissions
● Class scheduling, registration, and curriculum management
● Grants management, donor portals, and invoicing.

By putting the right tools in the hands of all functions, a school can create, adapt, and iterate applications as quickly as the needs change.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Berklee College of Music has a well-established reputation for providing the highest caliber of music education. With each semester, the admissions operations team faces the same gargantuan task of sifting through countless applications from prospective students. To help manage the volume of applications, as well as track applicant criteria such as location, skill set, desired major, background, and application progress, Berklee opted for a no-code app development platform to help them scale while increasing efficiency. In less than a week, the admissions operations team created their own custom admissions app, with no help from IT, that saves them approximately 15,000 hours annually.

Another organization solved its financial aid problems in a similar manner. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) provides nearly 2,000 schools nationwide with industry research and trend analysis, leadership and governance guidance, as well as professional development opportunities. They also handle financial aid applications, a crucial administrative process bogged down by convoluted and unintuitive enterprise software that required its own employee training course to use properly. Applicants only loaded a few at a time, with little to no filtering options to find specific candidates and demographics. After building their own app with a no-code development platform, NAIS introduced new filtering options, a higher number of results per page, mass actions, and other organizational features that provided the functionality so highly desired by their employees.

The right no-code platform will not necessarily require a complete overturn of established business processes. Instead, a no-code platform can “float” on top of any existing software to streamline user experience or to integrate legacy data sources into a “single pane of glass” around specific processes. For example, World Maritime University used Salesforce to create the back end of a new enterprise resource planning system, and then used a no-code platform to assemble its front-end interface and user-specific functions. The increased user adoption within the university resulted in a higher return on investment (ROI).

The secret is out. Higher ed institutions can now put made-to-order apps into the hands of students, professors, and staff. By replacing or supplementing monolithic systems with a no-code platform, higher ed can become truly agile, lowering costs and delivering higher ROI. Armed with adaptable apps, schools can become as digitally savvy as students. A scalable, no-code platform holds great promise for colleges and universities—the potential to equip every constituent with the apps they need to get work done more quickly and efficiently, while pushing digital transformation far beyond the boundaries of the past.

About the Author:

Skuid founder and chief executive officer, Ken McElrath, is a serial entrepreneur, design thinker, professor, author, and artist. Before launching Skuid, he co-founded Skoodat to build education solutions on the Salesforce platform, and Cazabba, a creative and technology services firm. He led marketing and product management for RetailersMarketXchange, a Bay-area startup funded by Chevron, Oracle, Altria, and McLane Company. He also spent seven years with MicroAge Inc., where he led marketing for its systems integration division.


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