Today’s university students to shape the future of enterprise software for the education sector

In line with yesterday’s release of Ernst & Young’s landmark research paper The university of the future, executives from two leading Australian universities have told TechnologyOne (ASX-TNE) at the Universities Australia 2018 Higher Education Conference in Canberra, that embracing new technologies is essential to becoming a digital university of the future.

Vice Chancellor at University of New England, Annabelle Duncan, told TechnologyOne that the Australian higher education sector needs to evolve to meet the changing demands of students. University of New England is recognised as a leading innovator in flexible online study.

“Forward-thinking universities are embracing online study and making schooling more flexible to meet the needs of their students,” Ms Duncan said.

“Students are comfortable with using technology; in fact, they expect it. We need to offer them a flexible way of university learning that can be done from a smartphone or tablet, on a plane, at work, on the train, etc.

“Universities are businesses and they need to run that way. We need to think of our students as customers and become more student-centric, to ensure what and how we teach is responsive to student needs,” Vice Chancellor Duncan said.

Victoria University’s Teresa Tjia called for greater industry collaboration stating software providers could play a key role in supporting the education sector, by being ahead of the curve and understanding student expectations.

“Student expectations are changing rapidly, and I think the real point of differentiation for technology vendors will be understanding those expectations,” Ms Tjia, the University’s Vice President and Registrar said.

“Technologies like cloud and Software as a Service are now an expected part of the service; the next phase is having a technology partner that’s invested in the relationship, innovation and focused on the student experience.”

Ms Tjia said her university was adapting to digital disruption with the introduction of a newly-launched ‘block’ model of teaching. Victoria University is one of the first in Australia to embrace the innovative, internationally-proven model.

“It offers students a way of study that is sequential and intensive, for example, studying one course in four weeks and then taking a break, rather than studying four subjects concurrently across a whole semester.

“Our biggest challenge in the higher education sector today is relevance, and finding ways to stay relevant at a time when information is ubiquitous. That’s why it’s important to be adaptable and flexible to meet changing student expectations,” Ms Tjia said.

The EY research incorporates interviews and workshops with more than 50 university leaders, policymakers and observers, and surveys of more than 3000 students and employers. The report finds that disruption threatens to make the dominant Australian university model ‘unviable’, particularly in light of the impact of digital technologies.

According to research and development (R&D) evangelist at TechnologyOne, Matt Deshon, today’s university graduates are actually shaping the next generation of enterprise software solutions. TechnologyOne’s two largest markets are local government and higher education, with 60 per cent of Australian universities, and 64 per cent of TAFEs, using TechnologyOne software.

Mr Deshon told leaders of Australian universities at the Universities Australia 2018 Higher Education Conference, that it is their graduates who will be the key to meeting changing student expectations.

“Australian universities produce amazing graduates in the information technology discipline,” Mr Deshon said. “Having been recently immersed in the current Australian university model, and understanding its strengths and pitfalls, there are no better champions of change than this new generation of technology innovators.

“Australia is fast gaining a reputation for creative and innovative technologies. We believe we need to actively foster a diverse and vibrant ICT industry and engage early with Australia’s youngest and brightest minds in STEM subjects to develop the software solutions of our future.”

Victoria University and the University of New England are both users of TechnologyOne’s enterprise software, built specifically for the education sector.

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