Information with any value will always be at risk. Even institutions with world-class security systems know that a breach is still possible, even likely. The best strategy? Plan ahead.

A well-rounded security plan accounts for both short- and long-term needs, mapping out actionable strategies to reduce risk, while knowing how to address the inevitable breach. Just as threats evolve, infosec plans must be continually revised alongside the policies and technology that support them.

10 questions to gauge the strength of your information security plan

1. Do we know our security requirements? 

To outline, budget for, and implement an effective security program, you must first understand what needs to be protected and what it will take to do the job right. This includes taking an inventory of the following: 

  • Your institution’s data and information assets
  • The technology, people, and processes that affect how that information is stored and shared
  • The security posture of your partners and other external parties
  • The tools and capabilities required to safeguard your assets

Even systems and data that are not under the direct control of your central IT team should be included in this audit. The institution is responsible for protecting all its information assets, regardless of ownership, so your plan must be comprehensive.

2. Are we staying up to date on legal and regulatory requirements?

In addition to your own internal standards, there are a range of legal and regulatory policies governing data privacy and protection. Requirements may vary by state, country, and institution type, but failure to comply can impact your funding and reputation.

The best strategy for staying current and compliant is to create a strong partnership between your IT and legal departments. Don’t leave it to technical staff to interpret the law. Your legal team is best equipped to: 

  • Understand and monitor local, state, federal, and international policies 
  • Put regulations in context as to how they relate to your institution and the level of risk involved 
  • Help manage compliance 

3. Do we have adequate policies and standards? 

Every school should have a clear set of policies and standards governing how institutional data gets used, stored, and shared. Here are a few guiding principles: 

  • Develop an “Acceptable Use” policy that dictates what employees and other users can or can’t do on the institution’s network and systems 
  • Set standards for how often passwords must be changed and how strong they must be 
  • Create policies governing the use of personal devices on campus

The SANS Institute—a non-profit organization serving security professionals across multiple industries—offers templates for creating and implementing a range of information security policies. 

All employees should be educated and expected to follow institutional policies and standards. Ensure other users are informed of their responsibilities as well. Some organizations have a formal certification process for new employees—or all employees at regular intervals—to ensure compliance.   

4. Are we tightly managing identity and access?  

Identity and access management is about giving the right people access to the right information at the right time. If you don’t keep a tight rein on who’s accessing what, you leave multiple entry points for hackers. 

For example, here are two common scenarios that put many institutions at risk: 

  • There are dozens of systems across campus that aren’t linked and require separate IDs and passwords. To make life easier, staff tend to use the same password for a low-security system (like a survey application) as they do for a high-security system (like payroll). A hacker then only needs to break into the survey application to gain entry into payroll. 
  • There isn’t a clear process for changing or removing credentials when employees switch roles or leave the institution. Perhaps a disgruntled former employee can still access financial information or a staff member who has moved to a new department can still access information that’s no longer relevant to their job.

As institutions across the country weathered transitions to remote learning, new security gaps emerged, possibly accounting for the number of ransomware attacks on higher education doubling between 2019 and 2020, as reported by Educause. Now is the time for institutions to ensure they have a unified, centralized system for managing identity and access—one that is well integrated into daily business processes.   

5. Have we engaged senior management and the board? 

Security is not just a technology challenge, it’s a business imperative. Given the large potential impact of a data breach, senior management and board members must be highly engaged in information security planning. IT alone cannot weigh risk vs. cost or ensure a culture of compliance at every level of the institution.

When faced with funding decisions for network security, senior leaders need to understand exactly what’s at stake. According to IBM’s 2021 report, the average cost of a data breach in the education sector is $3.79 million. For colleges and universities, however, the true expense can’t be calculated, as any failure to secure personal information risks noncompliance with federal regulations, potential funding opportunities, and most critically, student trust.

6. Are we providing adequate ongoing education? 

Lack of awareness and education about security threats is one of the biggest risks for most institutions.

You must have a well-documented and adequately resourced plan for ongoing information security training. This could include everything from mandatory courses on phishing and malware to regular messaging on the latest threats.

Educause offers a number of free resources institutions can use to educate faculty, staff, and students about cybersecurity. 

7. Are we careful when choosing partners? 

When retail giant Target experienced a massive data breach in 2013, it was not their own network that hackers broke into but rather the network of a heating and air conditioning sub-contractor that had worked at a number of Target stores.

No one remembers the name of that HVAC company, but they surely remember Target as a company that loses personal data. Target also paid a heavy financial price to rectify the situation and appease customers. The key takeaway? You are ultimately responsible for your students’ and employees’ personal data, even when—especially when—it’s being shared with third-party vendors. So, choose partners wisely.

Ask potential partners the same hard questions about the security of their information systems as you do about your own. Discuss auditing and compliance up front. Put processes in place to hold them accountable. If they can’t meet your standards, look for someone who can. 

8. Are we using appropriate technology? 

Technology can greatly enhance information security. The key is to modernize and simplify, since complexity only makes it harder to monitor and control who is accessing what.

  • Identify and retire legacy systems and business processes that are needlessly cumbersome or no longer receive security patches.
  • Streamline the steps you use to grant system and data access, as well as those used to close the loop once an employee moves on.
  • Install updates and patches as soon as they’re available.
  • Invest in new tools and technology regularly

While it might feel like the investments you’ve already made will soon be obsolete, a lot of malicious activity remains rudimentary in nature. If you’ve implemented basic security protocols and technology, they’ll still be effective against all but the most advanced attacks for quite some time.

To address more advanced threats, or if you’re having trouble getting basic systems and processes in place, consider relying more on partners. Vendors that specialize in information security have significantly more resources and expertise than institutions can likely build in house. Transitioning data to the cloud, for example, might be a smart security move for institutions with outdated infrastructure or skills. By outsourcing some aspects of security, you can use your own resources more efficiently.

9. Do we aggressively follow up on incidents?  

We live in a world where data breaches are “when” not “if.” That’s why responding appropriately to security incidents is as important as preventing them.  

Gather data on incidents that will help you reduce recurring issues or prevent more damaging impacts. Establish routines and best practices, so that you can mobilize quickly in the event of a breach. Review and analyze your trends. Data can also help you make the case for spending more money on things like firewalls or network intrusion detection.   

10. Are we making continuous investments? 

Information security is an ongoing practice, not a one-time implementation. You will never be fully protected because there will always be new threats. But with careful planning—and a sustained investment of resources—you can effectively mitigate risk.

Make sure that your annual and long-term budget for information security reflects its level of importance to your business. Help decision makers understand the link between data protection—or lack thereof—and successful recruiting, advising, fundraising, and other key functions. Stay actively engaged with industry forums and workgroups to understand evolving threats and security best practices.

Get comfortable with discomfort 

Planning for something to go wrong, in a world where what can go wrong is constantly changing, is uncomfortable, to say the least. But if you can get comfortable with discomfort—becoming agile, alert, responsive, and realistic—you can create the level of security that faculty, staff, and students need to thrive. 

Learn more about information security in higher education. 

Insights - Infosec tips
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Learn how to revise your plan to keep pace with threats and legal requirements. 

Spartanburg Methodist College to Modernize Technology Operations with Ellucian

Integrated Cloud-based Solutions Will Upgrade User Experience and Improve Efficiencies

SPARTANBURG, SC and RESTON, VA — Ellucian, the leading higher education technology solutions provider, today announced that Spartanburg Methodist College will modernize their technology operations with Ellucian cloud solutions. Part of the HESS Consortium, and a new Ellucian customer, Spartanburg Methodist College joins more than 1,100 institutions worldwide that have chosen Ellucian as their higher education cloud solutions partner.

Spartanburg Methodist College will automate and streamline processes campus-wide using Ellucian Colleague SaaS, a comprehensive ERP system including Student and Financial Aid solutions. Ellucian Experience, a new user experience platform, will simplify everyday tasks and access to information, linking people, processes and applications through a personalized dashboard. In addition, Spartanburg Methodist College has selected Ellucian Analytics and Ellucian Intelligent Learning Platform to connect data across systems, deliver key insights and empower faculty and staff to make data-driven decisions.

“Following several years of record enrollment numbers, we needed a modern and robust ERP solution that would offer a great user experience and future-proofed flexibility to support our continued growth,” said Trey Arrington, Vice President for Operations, Information Technology, Spartanburg Methodist College. “Ellucian Colleague has a strong, supportive customer base with a fantastic reputation in the market among long term customers and recent implementations, and we look forward to a strong partnership.”

“Spartanburg Methodist College’s transition to an open, interoperable ecosystem with Colleague SaaS at its core will deliver improved reliability and efficiency using technologies that integrate seamlessly,” said Laura Ipsen, President and CEO, Ellucian. “Our cloud-based solutions will enable greater access for faculty and staff to data and insights from across the college to improve student outcomes. We look forward to partnering with Spartanburg on their digital transformation in support of a better experience for their students, faculty and staff.”

The Higher Education Systems and Services Consortium (HESS) is a consortium of private colleges and universities focused on collectively lowering costs and increasing collaboration among members in the areas of administrative systems and services. Ellucian serves more than 130 HESS institutions.

For more information on Ellucian cloud solutions visit:

About Spartanburg Methodist College

Located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Spartanburg Methodist College is a private, liberal arts college open to students of all religious and non-religious backgrounds. The college serves approximately 1,000 students and offers six associate degrees, a unique customizable bachelor’s degree with six concentrations, a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and nine 100% online associate and bachelor’s degree programs. SMC’s unique Camak Core professional development program prepares graduates for successful careers with education in key soft skills that employers value in new hires. Affiliated with the United Methodist Church and established in 1911, SMC students experience the transformative powers of academic excellence, intellectual exploration, social awareness, and character development in a supportive environment where they can thrive.

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Welcome to Ellucian Connects
#EllucianConnects for more podcasts featuring #highered trends, tips, tech & more.

What’s the value of enterprise architecture, and how does it fit into the overall strategy of your organisation?

Join Ellucian’s Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect, and our guest speaker, Marc Lankhorst, Managing Consultant and Chief Technology Evangelist at BiZZdesign, for a discussion about enterprise architecture in the higher education landscape.

Ian and Marc cover how enterprise architecture can help you create a cohesive digital strategy that exists throughout every arm of your institution. They also discuss the growing need for technology innovation and transformation in the face of ever-present disruption.

Key takeaways

  • What is Enterprise Architecture, and how can it be leveraged by organisations in higher education?
  • In the midst of uncertain times, how can Enterprise Architecture help drive digital transformation?
  • What is the importance of creating a cohesive strategy that incorporates every function of your business?

I see organisations speeding up digitization efforts, that they might have had planned already, but suddenly it’s become a matter of survival to move into the digital space...

- Marc Lankhorst
Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson
Enterprise Architect, Ellucian

Marc Lankhorst

Marc Lankhorst
Managing Consultant and Chief Technology Evangelist at BiZZdesign


Discover more industry insights and learn how Ellucian is empowering institutions across the world to connect, adapt, and grow.

Podcast: Driving institutional success outcomes with Enterprise Architecture
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What’s the value of enterprise architecture, and how does it fit into the overall strategy of your organisation? During the podcast we discuss enterprise architecture in the higher education landscape.

Welcome to Ellucian Connects

Ellucian’s higher education experts Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation and Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect discuss how partnership and collaboration, with technology that is up to the task, can help your whole institution to connect, adapt and grow.

Key takeaways

  • How can universities leverage data to build a community for their staff and students?  
  • What is driving the need for collaborative technology in higher education? And, how can collaborative tools increase student engagement?
  • Universities need to ensure that their level of interactivity and interoperability is repeatable and sustainable.

Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation, Ellucian
Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect, Ellucian

Humans connect no matter the circumstances and challenges presented to them. This new reality has opened up new opportunities for collaboration – whether it’s talking to different parts of your institution or using new technologies to connect in different ways. Ellucian gives you an opportunity to streamline efficiencies and take advantage of new possibilities. It’s all rooted in one fact, one ideology, and one belief: we grow together.

When things are changing quickly, the shared knowledge of community is more critical than ever. As part of the We Grow Together series, this episode will focus on the power of community, and we’ll hear from Ellucian experts who are helping institutions reach their goals and driving transformational change through collaboration and technology.


Insights - We Grow Together Podcast Series 3 - Together
Teaser Text

As part of the We Grow Together series, this episode will focus on the power of community, and we’ll hear from Ellucian experts who are helping institutions reach their goals and driving transformational change through collaboration and technology.

Welcome to Ellucian Connects

Ellucian’s higher education experts Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation and Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect discuss how partnership and collaboration, with technology that is up to the task, can help your whole institution to connect, adapt and grow.

Key takeaways

  • Universities have been urged to make more data-based decisions - what is the first step in creating a data-driven culture? 
  • In what ways are student expectations dictating the digital landscape of higher education institutions?
  •  Learn how the higher ed community is creating a culture of improving and enhancing processes to support the student experience.

Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation, Ellucian
Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect, Ellucian

As part of the We Grow Together series, this episode will look at the theme of higher ed always pushing boundaries. From new student services to innovative technology and the cloud, we look at how institutions across the globe are aiming ever higher. What drives this aim? How does technology help institutions drive this forward?
We will wrap up the podcast with a summary on post-normal higher education and how institutions can work together, with students, staff and faculty,  partners and other institutions to learn and grow together to meet their individual goals. 

Insights - We Grow Together Podcast Series 2 - Higher
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As part of the We Grow Together series, this episode will look at the theme of higher ed always pushing boundaries.


The purpose of higher education, whether it’s to prepare a person for life or a specific job (or to push the boundaries of research) – is based on a drive for betterment, new knowledge and to constantly redefine our future. 

This enterprising attitude for progression shouldn’t stop at academia – higher ed institutions themselves need to constantly improve, adapt and grow to keep up with changing student and staff expectations. 

Mapping academia 4.0

Digital transformation strategies are pervasive in higher education, with some institutions at the beginning of their journeys and others advancing rapidly. No matter where you are on your journey, it’s important to map what the future may look like, to ensure the software you’re using today is ready for tomorrow. This blog looks at five key areas that are revolutionising the face of higher education: intuitive student information, virtual recruitment, personalised learning, on campus versus online learning and activating the cloud for cost efficiency.

Intuitive student information 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has long been heralded by retail and e-commerce to understand customer purchasing trends but it has a use in higher ed too. AI can be used to drive better insights to improve the student experience and overall student outcomes. Machine learning can be used to help identify student patterns to gain a better understanding of student behaviour. It enables institutions to respond quickly to identify risks of a student dropping out, predict students that may need extra support to pass exams and pin-point which students may need additional intervention with education fees. 

One institution that has leveraged AI to refine its process of identifying at-risk students is Georgia State University’s. The university’s Student Financial Services team set out to create a system that harnesses AI to provide early alerts and extra insight to help staff offer the right interventions.

By applying AI analytics to the vast amount of data in the university’s student information system (SIS), the team developed a new platform to help students pay for their studies. Thanks to the hard work behind the scenes, one year since launching the programme, the university served twice as many students without increasing staffing levels and students who sought assistance were 20.6 percent more likely to complete all financial-aid requirements and bring their balances down to zero. 

Virtual recruitment 

Student recruiters will use a mix of digital and face to face approaches, both in the immediate post-COVID future but also in a bid to broaden recruitment opportunities across the globe. 

Virtual student interaction has already moved outside the lecture room, with recruitment set to leverage digital technologies. As one in six high school seniors in the US who originally planned on attending a four-year university before the coronavirus pandemic are now considering a different path, it is imperative student recruiters adapt – and quickly – to keep prospective students engaged and interested. 

Whether students are engaging with key department staff and student leaders on their own time or through planned virtual meetings, they need to be able to access key information in flexible, and digestible ways.  Read more here

Customized and personalized learning

The personal demand principle, created because of technology’s ability to serve personalised data to users, means that students and staff in higher ed are moving to a model where they access information when it is relevant to them, whether it’s on their phone out and about on campus or on their laptop. 

This impacts on not only the courses offered to students, with a greater level of personalisation than previously required, but also creates an expectation shift that goes beyond education delivery. Students and staff expect to be able to access the information they need, when they need it. This has implications for data access behind the scenes. For example, if a student makes a change to their address information, staff expect that information to be updated quickly so whenever they run a report on student information, it is always up to date and accurate. 

This is where solutions such as the Ellucian Ethos platform can offer an advantage. The software platform establishes a uniform data structure, integrating Ellucian, partner and institution applications to enable informed decision making across campuses and programs. 

One institution to do this was Southern New Hampshire University, who partnered with Ellucian to integrate Ethos and MuleSoft with its internal processes for real-time data reaction. 

Toby Carroll, Director of Development and Integrations, Southern New Hampshire University, explains: “An advisor can now contact a student if they get a failing grade, and they’re going to know that within a very short period of time.

“Before we put this system in place, once you clicked your application, it would take 15-20 minutes before that would even get in front of an advisor, it would be put on a spreadsheet, and you’d see it the next day. Now, from the time that you say yep, I think I’m interested in SNHU, within six seconds, an advisor can call you and start to talk to you about your options at SNHU.”

On campus versus online 

Two sectors that remained open and active to deliver services amidst the coronavirus pandemic were healthcare and education. For a sector that largely hadn’t changed in 400 years, higher education had to adapt – and adapt quickly. Students who were used to being taught on campus saw their courses switch to online delivery. Whilst the world emerges from this pandemic, it’s arguable that many institutions will need to continue to deliver a mix of on campus and online learning. 

For example, how will international students continue learning when they can’t travel to the country in which they study? And how will we continue to meet the changing expectations of students, who may now be used to learning predominantly online?  The answer is in a blend of on campus and online learning. 

By adapting course delivery in the immediate post-pandemic world, institutions will be able to stand out and attract new students whilst driving revenue when budgets are feeling the pinch. The key is crafting courses that are insightful, meaningful and effective and ensuring the software backing up online learning services is robust and efficient. 

You can read more about recommended strategies for effective teaching online here

Revenue down, costs up

Institutions will be looking at ways to reduce labor costs, improve efficiencies and ensure teams are focused on improvements to deliver great experiences. Preparing for a move to the cloud is essential for institutions looking to cut costs in the long-term delivery of IT services. 

This was the case for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities who when making a switch to the cloud saw their costs drop from $3,000 an hour to run their ERP to just $300 an hour – a meagre 10% of the previous cost. 

Commenting on the move to Ellucian, Joseph Tolisano, Chief Information Officer, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said: “Moving… to the Cloud gave us more security, monitoring, and a more cost-effective solution.

“Once we moved to the Cloud, the cost model changed to just over $300 an hour, because you're [Ellucian] maintaining and monitoring those systems 24 hours a day. You're doing all of our upgrades. You provide full DR [disaster recovery] for us.”

How will technology help the sector get there? 

Digital transformation strategies are pervasive in higher education, with some institutions at the beginning of their journeys and others well on the road.  

One thing we can be certain of, is that the future will be different than today. Whether it’s meeting changing student and staff expectations, the introduction of new technologies or an unplanned global pandemic, change is inevitable. Therefore, it’s vital you’re able to grow and adapt with the right mix of technology solutions and partners, like Ellucian, to challenge you and support your vision of the future. 

To learn more about the role of technology in empowering change in higher education, you can read our latest blog here

Insights Image - The Roadmap Higher Education 4.0
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The roadmap to the future of Higher Education


Key takeaways

  • Higher education institutions can keep ahead of the curve through the integration of synergic technology
  • Think of technology as a tool to enhance student engagement
  • Share data and enable a data-driven culture

As technology evolves, so does the higher education campus. For example, student enrollment is becoming digitalized, with online enrollment systems instantly adding registration information to one centralized database.

Coronavirus has also been a driving force for institutions choosing to devise their digital transformation strategy. This is even more so the cause because of the pandemic. Institutions are expected to remain competitive while maintaining expectations for students, staff and faculty.

One way higher education institutions can keep ahead of the curve is through the integration of synergic technology. Students and staff are now accustomed to collaborative technology in their personal lives. Whether it’s the ability to control home heating systems with their phone, to e-Calendars giving reminders of events, to instant messaging platforms aiding communication, staying connected has become an integral part of everyday life.

The modern student, staff member or faculty advisor has become accustomed to using technology in everyday life, and they expect the same from higher education institutions. From the way an institution registers and stores student data, to updating grades on a centralized app, if a campus wants to keep up with their students and staff, it needs to embrace collaborative technology.

Higher student engagement

It’s easy to think of technology as a distraction, instead of a tool to enhance student engagement. It’s commonplace for students to use their phones and tablets as their chief information source, so it makes sense for students to have access to their progress, grades, campus news and more, from their mobiles or tablets.

A 2016 survey by Ellucian has shown that 98% of students want their schools, colleges and universities to use their personal data in order to enhance their time and experience in higher education.

When students have increased access to resources, information and tools, they can take control of their education and direct their own learning. This, in turn, means that they will achieve more, and build a better rapport with university staff.

For example, when Wake Technical Community College received a Project COMPASS is a U.S. Department of Education First in the World grant, they wanted to find an innovative solution to increase their student engagement and success rates for online students.

They had identified that there were persistent, “achievement gaps between students of color and their counterparts”, and wanted to improve the retention rates and the success rates of online students through collaborative teaching methodologies.

They decided to leverage their existing technology and implement Ellucian Colleague®, which meant they could create academic plans to help students stay on track for academic program completion and graduation. They used data to determine baseline and create control and test groups. As a result, they improved withdrawal and success rates by six percentage points for students overall, and 10 percentage points for students of color.

Enabling a data-driven culture

When departments, campuses and silos of a university communicate and share data, they have the ability to better understand what their students and staff want and need. This communication also makes it much easier for institutions to identify and solve common challenges.

This was echoed by Bakersfield College. They aimed to create seamless transitions for students transferring from Bakersfield to their local university and knew the best way to do this was through data-sharing. They used Ellucian Banner® as their data repository to manage critical student information and deliver services to keep them on track.

They were able to identify and pull pieces of data information regarding curriculum, student course-taking patterns, and more. Departments would communicate and store data in one central place, that was easy to access and interpret.

This meant Bakersfield could create a seamless transition for students who were taking courses at the community college and transfer this information to their local university smoothly. In doing this, they were able to increase the number of degrees awarded, the number of students who successfully transferred, and overall student experience.

Automating workflow

Automation in the higher education landscape can maximize efficiency, save time and eliminate waste, all of which will have a positive impact on workflow. This automation can be implemented on a micro and macro-level, whether it’s from free, easy-to-use apps that lecturers can implement, or a SIS (student information system) that eliminates time-consuming everyday tasks.

Becker College had a slow and broken system where they were using PDFs and Word documents to create forms for the students, staff, faculty, and adjuncts. This process was made even more cumbersome because there wasn’t a single, campus-wide source for forms. Different departments would have their own ways of creating a form, which meant there were inconsistencies with the data that was uploaded onto the system, creating many challenges.

In 2017, Becker College started to look for ways to automate this process and many others, while increasing efficiencies across its two campuses. The institution decided to implement Ellucian Workflow to boost efficiency and coordinate the flow of information across each campus. They were eager to implement the system because of its integration with Ellucian Colleague, the institution’s ERP (enterprise resource planning system).

In doing this, Becker had better control and access to forms, and errors were significantly reduced. Additionally, they were able to process new hires in one day, rather than two-and-a-half weeks.


When higher education institutions embrace innovation for internal processes, they can improve how faculty and staff work together, and the student experience becomes prioritized. Easy-to-use, collaborative technology will become ingrained in pedagogy, giving students, staff and faculty a seamless user experience.

Why the modern campus will rely on collaboration technology

Why the modern campus will rely on collaboration technology

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When institutions implement the right technology, it will give students, staff and faculty flexibility and enhance their academic experience. Find out more.

Welcome to Ellucian Connects

Ellucian’s higher education experts Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation and Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect discuss how partnership and collaboration, with technology that is up to the task, can help your whole institution to connect, adapt and grow.

Key takeaways

  • What does the future look like, and how may it change for the better following the pandemic?
  • In the last decade, the economy changed and shifted under the influences of automation, technology, and skill demands.
  • Now, these changes are accelerating. How can institutions keep up?

Kari Branjord, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation, Ellucian
Ian Anderson, Enterprise Architect, Ellucian

As part of the We Grow Together series, we will be hearing from Ellucian’s higher education experts on how partnership and collaboration, with technology that is up to the task, can help your whole institution to connect, adapt and grow. The first podcast looks at the theme of growth and change - Grow.

Insights - We Grow Together Podcast Series 1 - Grow
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As part of the We Grow Together series, the first podcast looks at the theme of growth and change - Grow.


Key takeaways

  • COVID-19 has significantly worsened mental health for 20% of college students
  • Students are worried about basic needs like accessibility, security, housing, and food
  • Virtual support services are not meeting student needs
The impact of COVID-19 on student well-being
The impact of COVID-19 on student well-being
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Survey data illustrates the impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health, uncovers unmet needs, and highlights where support services can be improved.


Key takeaways

  • Institutions are starting to see how digital solutions can aid business continuity
  • Prolonged disruption causes a range of problems, and makes academic continuity increasingly difficult – what is the solution?
  • Building a resilient network – universities now rely on digital software

The world has experienced pandemics, epidemics and disasters over the years; responding to a crisis isn’t a new experience for many higher education institutions.

From the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic that claimed the lives of 500 million people (CDC), to Hurricane Maria in 2017, higher education institutions have put countless emergency response teams together in a bid to minimise future disruption and prepare for the unexpected.

However, gaps in business continuity plans were uncovered when coronavirus came into the public’s consciousness at the beginning of 2020. Governments all over the world put lockdown measures in place, which meant higher education institutions were tasked with moving their resources, processes and practices online, overnight. As a result, their crisis response teams were pushed to the limit, and many fractures in their day-to-day operations were revealed.

In fact, senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Goldie Blumenstyk, suggested that coronavirus looks like it could be a ‘black swan’ moment for higher ed. A ‘black swan’ event is characterised by its extreme rarity and catastrophic impact, and COVID-19 was arguably the catalyst for many institutions having to devise a digital transformation strategy overnight.

There were blanket cancellations of in-person lessons, many university admissions funnels grinded to a halt and institutions had to transition from working onsite to remote working in a short space of time. In doing this, institutions were able to see the benefits that come with implementing digital solutions specifically designed for higher education.

Blumenstyk writes, “It seems safe to say that this will be not only enormously disruptive but also paradigm changing. The “black swan,” that unforeseen event that changes everything, is upon us.”

A sudden glimpse into the future

Additionally, this ‘black swan’ event has brought many underlying historical problems to light that can no longer be ignored. From admissions and enrollment challenges to limited resources and communications issues, every aspect of how the higher education landscape operates is under scrutiny, and institutions are starting to see how digital solutions can aid business continuity.

It’s also giving students and faculty a glimpse of what the future of higher education could look like, with remote working becoming second nature, and digitalisation at the core of every interaction. A recent report by McKinsey reinforces this notion stating that, “COVID-19 crisis seemingly provides a sudden glimpse into a future world, one in which digital has become central to every interaction, forcing both organizations and individuals further up the adoption curve almost overnight.”

For Oregon State University Foundation, they were able to pivot and adapt when the order for remote work came down. With cloud systems immediately available, their employees were up and running from their home offices within days.

Such fast action enabled the Foundation to establish the Beavers Care Initiative to assist students affected by COVID-19 and support the university in securing philanthropic funding for research and outreach solutions related to the pandemic.

Academic continuity

Universities and colleges take pride in being able to deliver the services that their students, staff and faculty depend on, but prolonged disruption causes a range of problems, and makes academic continuity increasingly difficult.

From frustrated students who are unable to finish their degrees, to financial and unemployment problems and academic planning, coronavirus is threatening the reputation and finances of each institution.

As a result, there’s the risk of disengaged students no longer enrolling due to the disruption with academic and financial services. If enrollment numbers fall, there’s a real possibility that the future of public higher education is in danger, as half of the revenue comes from student tuition.

The University of Louisiana Monroe knew just how important it was for them to keep admissions and enrollment figures steady during COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, they knew that the repercussions of COVID-19 would have a profound impact on how they operate and decided to put preventative measures in place.

In order to protect their enrollment pipeline and ensure a smooth transition as the team began to work from home, they launched a one-month initiative to waive application fees using their CRM (customer relationship management) system to set-up the promotion, track applicants, and create and send emails. #FreeAppApril, promoted via traditional and social media channels, more than doubled the number of applications compared to the same period last year.

Building a resilient network in a time of crisis

In order to minimise disruption and ensure business continuity, universities are relying on digital software such as CRM systems, student information systems, video conferencing applications and more. This couldn’t be done without the cloud because it can’t be interrupted by anything, be it a power outage or a national emergency. This rapid transformation has given institutions that were once apprehensive about technology the confidence to use digital tools day-to-day.

However, colleges and universities need to do more to build a resilient network that not only ensures business continuity, but keeps staff and students connected during challenging times. Previously, we talked about the importance of creating a data-driven and more collaborative culture within higher education , and this plays a key part in creating an effective academic continuity plan.

When faculty, staff and students are willing to collaborate and embrace change, the institution as a whole becomes more agile, meaning continuity plans will evolve along with the educational ecosystem. This, in turn, will help institutional leaders establish a global understanding of essential services within the institution.

So, whatever the future holds, having the right technology that can evolve alongside the institution itselft as it grows is crucial. Ellucian is committed to actively monitoring and responding to higher education trends, innovations, and challenges, meaning that we are well positioned to innovate and evolve to meet our customers’ changing needs. We’re here to help you grow, together.

Resilience in a world of remote working - how can higher education institutions ensure business continuity and stay connected?

How can higher education institutions ensure business continuity and stay connected?

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Coronavirus becomes a catalyst for higher ed digitalization. Find out how institutions can ensure business continuity and stay connected during disasters.

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