Supporting composability with future-proofed technologies

Supporting composability with future-proofed technologies

Higher education institutions are now considering composability and what technology they’ll need. We look at how Ellucian’s Experience platform can help.

Composability is a concept that has been around for several years, but since the pandemic, businesses, including higher education institutions, have begun to see the benefits of the approach. Stephen Haynes, Principal Consultant in EMEA at Ellucian, looks at one of the key building blocks of composability, technology and how Ellucian’s Experience and Banner APIs can help.

According to Gartner, a composable business is built up from interchangeable modules which can be shifted and rearranged as needed to adapt to the everchanging market. There are three building blocks in composability: composable thinking, business architecture, and technologies. Together, these three blocks help organisations adapt to changing markets.

During our recent UCISA roundtable discussion, one topic of conversation was about the blockers for higher education institutions to adopt a composable business model, given the prevalence of legacy disjointed technologies that don’t connect to each other or across the university.

Why is composability so important today?

Over the last decade or so, many higher education institutions have been building their own custom systems, adopting narrow point-solutions and expanding them as the need arose, leading to disjointed systems and processes. But, between funding constraints, the pandemic and competition for skilled workers, universities need an alternative.

At Ellucian, we’ve also been considering how we can support higher education institutions with what they want now, while preparing for what they’ll need in the future. To do so, we look at what is working within other industries, how the market is changing, as well as funding further research and development.

After careful analysis, we started to consider a different approach, which Gartner coined as composable thinking, looking at how it could be utilised in higher education and, more specifically, how our products can support it.

Introducing Ellucian Experience and Banner APIs

The future of student administration will be built on a pluggable architecture of microservices, which could be offered by a range of different vendors. Ellucian’s Experience Platform and Business APIs can help create that architecture.

It’s no longer enough for systems to be able to interact with each other, they need to be brought together in one place.

Ellucian Experience as a platform, which works in conjunction with Ellucian Banner, offers institutions the opportunity to integrate all their chosen services in one place, via a personalised intuitive dashboard for their students and staff. Whether it’s the student’s timetable, emails or grades from the VLE, it’s easy for them to find what’s important.

Ellucian Experience helps organisations improve their efficiency, offering the best user experience for their staff and students, while still remaining agile enough to respond to changes. It’s backed by business process APIs which are a key part of our overall product strategy: to deliver open, interoperable cloud-based solutions and capabilities that provide the best experience for customers.

Ellucian Experience web components
Sample personalised staff dashbaord

The technology behind Ellucian Experience

The Experience platform is built using industry-standard technology and can integrate both content created and delivered by Ellucian and content from third-party applications.

Data from these applications is aggregated via REST-based APIs, allowing Experience to leverage the power of our Business Process APIs. These APIs enable a business process to be executed via an API call, fulfilling the actions a user would normally undertake on pages in Banner. As an example, a typical process for setting up a student would involve going through a set of administrative pages. At Ellucian, we have used innovative coding techniques to generate APIs for these types of administrative processes, allowing third-party applications to integrate with these via the platform.

Integrating with third-party applications is quick and easy with our Software Development Kit. It can take as little as a few weeks to quickly build content that pulls in data from external systems, such as a student’s emails from Gmail or their assignments and grades from the VLE.

Ellucian Experience portal
Sample personalised student dashboard

The platform also helps drive consistency for your user interface, so you don’t have to start from scratch whenever you want to add new content. Ellucian Experience provides a built-in design system, with a catalogue of web components for you to choose from. Your student’s dashboard will look and behave the same way, regardless of where the data is coming from.

Benefits for your institution and your staff

There are many advantages for institutions that choose to use Ellucian Experience, the first being speed and agility. It is now far quicker to surface content from multiple applications on campus, providing your staff and students with a single place to access all their critical information and services and allow them to take actions without having to log in to multiple systems.

  • Demand from students is changing year on year, so technology needs to be able to adapt. Higher education institutions have to work on a 12-month horizon, rather than a five- or 10-year plan. With Ellucian Experience, integrating new products has decreased from over a year to a matter of weeks, so institutions can quickly react to the changing marketplace.
  • As a true enterprise platform, we release an update for Ellucian Experience every three weeks. With these updates you can also push out changes, so you can respond to the changing need of your students quickly.
  • The Experience platform is built on industry-standard software, so the skills needed to work with it are industry-wide, which means new employees, including graduates, can come in with the right knowledge to be able to make use of the system.

An improved student experience

Ellucian Experience isn’t just easy for staff, it’s simple for your students to use too. All the headline information they need is presented in one place, with a simple single sign on to access everything they need. Students don't require any training on the platform, as it’s intuitive. As they progress throughout their degree, they can adapt the platform to what they need at that time. For example, at the start of the year they can have their timetable featured at the top and near the end of their degree it can have information about graduation.

This is set to be a huge improvement compared to many university portals that students have been using, which make them go to multiple pages or platforms to find the information they need.

However, to ensure your users have the best experience possible, there needs to be a level of governance from Head of Student Experience or Digital Officers. What is presented in the platform should be informed by an overall plan for a student’s journey throughout their degree.

Making the most of Experience

Here are a few ways to make the most of Ellucian Experience.

Allow students to act there and then. The platform shows students the headline information they need. But to improve their experience, let them take actions within the platform. For example, if they see they have an outstanding balance in their account, they should be able to pay then and there.

Don’t present unnecessary information. Too much information can be overwhelming. Keep only headline information on the main dashboard with the option to drill down if needed. If we go back to the account information example, the outstanding balance is important and easy to digest, but they don’t need to see all the individual transactions.

Consider support for multiple languages. Many universities have international campuses, so it’s worth considering when you’re creating your content if there are any common languages you should translate content into.

Make use of the catalogue of delivered web components. This will ensure a consistent and intuitive experience for students and staff. It’s always worth starting with the catalogue of components, then if what you’re looking for isn’t there, look at the wider community. Experience is built on React JS, which is widely used to power modern web applications, so there are plenty of components from other third parties to take advantage of.

Predicting the future of higher education is nearly impossible. But, with technology like Ellucian Experience and our Business Process APIs, adapting to change can be easy.

To download Gartner's 2022 CIO and Technology Executive Agenda report, please visit:

Learn more about Ellucian's approach.

Meet the authors
Stephen Haynes
Stephen Haynes
Principal Solutions Consultant, Europe and Asia Pacific, Ellucian

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