The Connected Internet Campus Evolves On The Leading Edge

Malcolm Woodfield

Today’s higher-learning institutions may need to come to grips with the fear and wonder of digitization and understand that it brings everyday people closer together.

It makes perfect sense for college and university community members to be both awed and afraid of technology. It has the potential to leap teaching methods forward and leave skin and bone educators in the dust. The same idea holds true for management and staff members. Digital information streamlines work responsibilities, and people may feel it could automate them out of a job. In terms of reducing worry about digital connectedness, let’s look at transportation as an industry that flourished thanks to digital connections.

Internet of Things

Think back to how things were done 50 years ago. Getting a ride meant searching through the phone book and calling a cab company. The operator relayed your information to a driver. With any luck, the cab arrived within an hour of when you needed the lift.

Fast forward to the turn of the century. To get a ride, you Googled a nearby cab company and may have been connected to a driver on a cellphone. The more direct communication closed the person-to-person gap.

Fast forward to today. You hit the Uber app on your smartphone and connect to an ordinary person like yourself. The driver is probably close by and comes right over. You also pay online, and the transaction is swift and efficient. The difference between 50 years ago and today isn’t just the advancement in technology or communications. What has really changed is the close connection between customer and driver. The number of jobs also increased. This is an example of how the Internet of Things (IoT) brings people closer together, not further apart.

Rethinking interpersonal relationships

Universities are a type of hybrid organization in many ways. Management acts like most corporations when it comes to managing resources. The goal is similar to many companies that want to improve productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. But educators see the role of the university through a different lens.

Professors have a laser focus on higher learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge. These are not widgets that can be produced or bean-counted. Eric Stoller said it well in his article, “Tech Hype: Emerging Technologies are Our Future.”

“For higher education, while businesslike in some capacities, student success, learning, and research are the primary drivers. And, unlike a lot of businesses, higher education isn’t always comfortable with innovation… the unknowns can frighten institutions that are based on tradition and a known model.”

Digital connectedness can help bridge the understanding gap. Platforms can be put in place that provide transparency. Decision-makers can enjoy unrestricted access to areas of information for critical assessment. Increasing transparency between management and faculty helps confidence grow. It also puts people on the same page regarding shared challenges. A higher-learning institution is a community, and everyone is all in it together.

Connecting with students

Today’s students don’t need to be educated about the IoT. They grew up in digital connectedness. They also have an expectation that getting a college degree will be accomplished with the cutting-edge digitization they use on a daily basis.

A prime example is a New England university that earned the reputation as America’s top party school. The infamous label hit the institution in the early 1990s, and many students tried to live up to it. The university then made several poor decisions that drove away students who were committed to academics. The college library began closing on Friday nights because staff thought students were all out celebrating. The more studious students grew frustrated. That was particularly true of advanced-degree candidates. Some started to transfer to schools that were considered more serious about academics. As it turns out, party fever was short-lived. But the library remained closed. What decision-makers lacked was a way to track library activity.

According to Eric Stoller, “Using the data gathered from student information systems as well as learning management systems (also known as Virtual Learning Environments), campus leaders can create large sets of data that can be analyzed via a process known as predictive analytics.”

If they had IoT tools at their disposal, they would have enjoyed real-time analytics. They would know how many students used the study rooms, archives, and checked in or out materials. A fact-based decision would have helped to shed the unwelcome label. Instead, they played right into it and lowered student satisfaction.

Slow-learning, traditional institutions are already being challenged by online degree programs. It’s important to ride the tech wave. It’s important that a school works with a platform for information, student feedback, and connection to educators. Targeted use of IoT can bring university community members together the same way Uber brings passengers and drivers together. Digital connection is simply removing the obstacles that get in the way of people communicating with one another.

IoT brings people together

The foundation is a digital core that compiles real-time data. It connects to the other pillars that include suppliers, customer experience, workforce, and an asset supply chain. Institutions that bring all these moving parts together under one platform have tremendous access to information. This leads to clear understanding about student experience, faculty challenges, and the ability to tweak best practices. As Stoller says in “Digital Engagement – How Technology Enhances the Student Experience, “almost all of the ever-evolving and sophisticated technologies that are implemented at universities in order to enhance the student experience lead to improved human interactions.”

What IoT connectedness really does is put everyone in one big room and let you talk to each other.

For more insight on digital leaders, check out the SAP Center for Business Insight report, conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics: “SAP Digital Transformation Executive Study: 4 Ways Leaders Set Themselves Apart.”


Malcolm Woodfield

About Malcolm Woodfield

Malcolm Woodfield is the Global Vice President, Head of Industry Business Unit Education & Research, at SAP. He manages a global team accountable for the overall business, market, customer, and revenue success of the Higher Education / Public Services portfolio (including all Applications, Analytics, Mobile, HANA, and Cloud) globally.