Imagine a learning environment where students can’t hear the professor—or the emergency notifications as part of a safety situation. The basic need of clear audio solutions in higher education impacts so much more than meets the eye.
When applying for any of the more than 200 institutional scholarships at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, whose worldwide campus is based in Daytona Beach, Fla., students used to complete an online form and then spend time gathering an essay and 15 to 20 pages of additional hardcopy documentation. Financial aid staff then sorted and filed it all away in physical file folders.
Adjunct faculty members are an important resource on campuses, supplementing full-time faculty course offerings and making it possible for students to complete required courses on time. But until the fall of 2011, adjuncts and full-time faculty teaching additional courses were causing a tremendous drain on resources at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, located in Green Bay.
Blessed by rising enrollments and increased faculty hiring but burdened by flat IT staffing, Old Dominion University (Va.) officials took a hard look at both its ERP system and itself in hopes of addressing a simple but hugely significant issue. “We framed the basic question as, Is it Banner or is it us?” recalls Bob Fenning, vice president for administration and finance. “We were wondering whether or not we were utilizing Banner in the most efficient way, that we were maxing out all the functionality that existed there, or was the issue how we did business.”
Before August 2011, Texas A&M Health Science Center Facilities & Construction office (FCO) employees frequently used hand-written notes to record and track building problems reported on its eight campuses. Faculty, students, staff, and visitors used a variety of methods to report problems, including phone calls, email, and catching someone in the hall to request help. From building temperature issues to electrical problems or falling ceiling tiles, there was no process for tracking requests or operational trail of the department’s daily work, outside of purchases made.
There doesn’t seem to be anything higher education can’t break apart and dump into silos. Even technology, which was supposed to help integrate things and eliminate duplicate, wasteful efforts we all loathe, isn’t immune to the practice.
At Iowa State University, the two major providers of online coursework—the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS)—were engaged in virtually identical technological activities. When rising enrollment numbers clogged registration for on-campus classes, the opportunity to combine services was realized.
The amount of money that gets routed around a campus without cash ever exchanging hands is enormous. Recording those exchanges is vital for accounting, but often cumbersome. “Universities do a fair amount of chargebacks for their operations,” observes Rich Van Den Hul, vice president for business and financial affairs at Western Washington University. “The copy center is a good example. Facilities work. IT work. So there’s a lot of transactions.”
The purchase of textbooks and other educational materials before the start of the semester has numerous benefits: Students are better prepared heading into classes; faculty can begin teaching from the books immediately; and the bookstore is less crowded during that first manic week. But for students on financial aid at Western Washington University, where funding is disbursed on the first day of class, being well prepared came at a price.
California State University, San Bernardino used to receive approximately 600 completed scholarship applications for the 200 or so on-campus scholarships. On average, 300 additional applications were initiated but never completed. Those were lost opportunities, in part due to the arduous application process, says Louise Jones, financial aid advisor and scholarship coordinator.
There’s a reason someone coined the term “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Northern Arizona University’s Extended Campuses division—with 36 locations plus numerous online offerings—has enjoyed rapid growth in enrollment, pressuring the division’s software development team to keep up with rising demand for student services, course management, prospect tracking, and staff support.