Transforming The Modern Campus With Intelligent Number Crunching

Malcolm Woodfield

In human affairs, change is one of the few constants. Yet for centuries, the standard educational model changed slightly, if at all. A person from the 16th century traveling to the 20th century would find little that she recognized. Classroom teaching would be one exception.

This historical resistance to change is quickly coming to an end. New digital tools are radically re-imagining how education is delivered and experienced. Today’s learning institutions can make education more accessible and relevant through the use of integrated analytics. Ultimately, this leads to campuses that operate with greater efficiency while also producing better student outcomes.

And that’s a combination that should have everyone in the education field excited.

How analytics are helping transform the modern campus

The power of data analysis is transforming virtually every industry. No prior technology has offered the same potential to radically improve an organization’s processes and operations. By collecting and analyzing key data sets, critical decisions can be backed with greater evidence. Enterprises can also uncover insights that would otherwise remain hidden. Patterns and trends are uncovered and processes become more efficient as feedback is analyzed.

The modern campus is an especially interesting illustration of this change in action. One example: Today’s colleges often struggle with student retention. This problem is particularly acute for students from less privileged backgrounds. Elevated dropout rates can cause financial and reputational problems for schools while damaging the future prospects of students.

The integration of analytics can help solve this problem. Georgia State University, for example, built a massive data set tracking thousands of student decisions. The daily decisions made by these students were then analyzed to uncover patterns leading to academic trouble. The system checks student behavior against 800 separate variables, then flags students who could be in academic danger.

The data points go deeper than just attendance and grades. If an English major gets an average grade in math, no flag goes up. If a chemistry major struggles in the same class, however, intervention may be needed.

Operational improvements on campus

The benefits of analytics extend well beyond the classroom. It’s not unusual to read about today’s colleges and universities struggling through financial turbulence. Part of the reason can be traced to the gradual extinction of the conventional higher ed business model. Today, those who wish to remain competitive in a challenging market need to remain ahead of the technology curve.

This is where the value of modern analytics truly shines. Predictive insights into the thousands of processes and decisions that underpin the operation of today’s campuses are invaluable. One example: Instead of operating as a siloed entity where each department is an island, the right analytics platform can offer campus-wide connection. Departments can work in greater harmony, eliminating redundancies and improving efficiency. Decisions about procurement and other expenses can be made centrally.

Staffing decisions are critical to the bottom line. Analytics can help ensure resources are allocated effectively. Data-derived insights can help with temporary staffing needs. Some functions can even be automated, creating significant cost savings. Data-generated insights can also help identify the almost countless small inefficiencies that plague an entity as large and sophisticated as a campus. Everything from food costs to maintenance expenses can be lowered with data analysis.

The takeaway

Compared to other fields, education has been slow to embrace the benefits of data analytics. This is especially true at lower levels, where innovation faces significant structural obstacles. School boards are often slow to change and the implementation of large-scale technology can be daunting. Yet the advantages of a data-driven approach are too profound to ignore.

Institutions that stay perched at the vanguard of the data revolution will deliver improved student outcomes and better experiences. Personalized education can help students stay engaged and effective. Meanwhile, analytics will make campus processes and operations more efficient, helping schools stay competitive.

That’s a future that students, parents, teachers, and administrators will all be thrilled to witness.

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.