Although the IT Forum’s 2018 national meeting research uncovered a variety of universities fostering and scaling digital innovations, some of our most popular content presented strategies to meet modern students’ desire for a mobile, personalized, and digitalized campus experience.
For most colleges and universities, location-based services are a natural first step for innovation as physical mapping efforts can be readily augmented with smartphone applications. However, campus culture and strategy should still shape any individual application. Whether the product of a decade-long strategic plan or a student’s senior project, digitalization efforts are most successful when IT leaders identify and cultivate partnerships with large innovation potential.
Students’ smartphones offer convenient pathways to digital transformation
With 90% of students owning smartphones, they’re now a core technology component of the higher education experience. Increasing screen sizes and processing power mean that smartphones are more than a communication device–they’re students’ window into the world around them.
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and Deakin University in Australia have both recently deployed successful mobile applications that incorporate location-based services for their students. At each university, the development and deployment of the application, as well as the budgets and timelines for delivery, reflected the university’s goals. Whether your campus is starting small or thinking big, these universities demonstrate that successful digital transformations come from careful planning and campus support, not exclusively from funding.
Waitz: A student innovation, scaled through university partnership
The IT organization at UCSD has a history of partnership across their institution to provide the tools and support for digital transformation. At the institutional level, that includes Process Palooza—an annual event designed to make process improvement cool on campus. But the IT organization also looks to the school’s own students for inspiration. In 2017, a group of UCSD students created a mobile solution that mapped student locations.
Best practice guidelines to working with students
Following the initial success and adoption on campus, the students formed Waitz Inc. and the university became their very first (and only) client. The service provides students with real-time population density of UCSD’s Geisel Library floors and Rimac Gym. Waitz devices count the number of nearby cell phone signals and share available space with users. After a year of deployment, 25% of UCSD students had downloaded Waitz and the service sees 1500+ weekly users. More importantly for the students behind the application, their company had a new evaluation of $2.5 million.
In their students, UCSD found passionate individuals to drive change through technology innovation. And with effective partnerships, the IT organization was able to harness that creativity and offer all of the university’s students new, real-time methods for planning their time and movements on campus.
Deakin Scout: One facet of an intensive digital plan
After almost 10 years of strategic planning and securing a technological framework, Deakin University launched Deakin Scout in 2019. Scout combines smart campus technologies with a smartphone application that provides personalized experiences to its users. Get lost in the mathematics building? Scout will provide a building map and navigate to your classroom. Looking for a quiet place to study? Scout will display library population density so you can make an informed decision. Smartphones are a core part of the Deakin experience and the university’s Chief Digital Officer William Confalonieri is actively designing projects to use every student’s device as a personalized portal into a digitally blended campus environment.
While Waitz was a one-off project that grew into a wider partnership, Deakin Scout is one part of a much larger campus initiative with enterprise-wide project funding. In 2012, Deakin hired Confalonieri to serve as the driving force in accelerating Deakin’s digital innovation. Confalonieri designed and augmented Deakin’s digital capabilities across five pillars: mobility, flexibility, personalization, collaboration, and information. From 2012-2019, Confalonieri also helped Deakin build the foundation for digital innovation by developing campus infrastructure, implementing data governance, and stoking appetite for change. Going live this year, Scout is proof that investment in these areas can be used to drive widespread change through new digital applications.
Focus on partnerships to drive change and innovation
A college or university’s size, funding, and location are no excuse for failing to foster digital innovation. To kickstart efforts on your campus, the IT organization must seek out its most productive partners–at the leadership level or on the frontlines of the campus experience. Leaders, students, faculty, and staff all have insights and issues to share. IT’s role in harnessing those partnerships to produce opportunities for change will be increasingly important as digital transformation continues in higher education.