[Summary] Transformation In Campus Management: Tech Adoption & Lessons During 2020

What are some exciting start-ups and businesses you’ve seen after coming into higher-ed/campus management? Is there any success story you would like to share?

Prime Venture’s Vice-President, Gaurav Ranjan, responded to the question saying that campus management is not as much about curriculum management as it is about digitization, campus operation, and curriculum delivery. The one trend that he sees coming is the focus on outcome-oriented programs with a focus on online teaching and learning. This is due to COVID accelerating the entire education system. These programs ditch rote-learning in favour of job guaranteeing, contemporary skills. To explain this better, he gives the example of their portfolio company, Sunstone, with a policy of “pay after placement.” i.e., learners are bound to pay only if they get a job at the end of the program. Gaurav mentioned Sunstone’s collaborations with several companies to design the curriculum to make the program relevant to the current industry requirements.

Gaurav talked about upskilling the grey collar segments. White-collar upskilling has been common in IT and tech sectors in the past, but now grey collar upskilling is picking up. He gives the example of a beautician working in a non-branded salon, skilling herself to work in larger, metropolitan brands, or a paramedic working in a standalone hospital getting skills and certificates to be a part of a bigger hospital chain.

With the COVID-19 accelerating the whole online curriculum delivery, in-class engagement has not been properly replicated. “There's great scope in the in-class-engagement segment," Gaurav added. One of Prime Venture's EdTech portfolio companies had primarily served the US market with a presence in almost 35% of its schools; Asia had very low adoption of in-class-engagement tools. That changed towards the end of 2020 with significant adoption by Asian and Indian schools.

Talking of campus management, Gaurav said operations digitization has come a long way. Operations digitization like fee collection, assignments, hostel management etc., are now a top priority for institutions. Institutions want to digitize entire operations – academic or otherwise – with comprehensive one-stop solutions. "This segment was a little slow earlier," Gaurav said, "It used to take (up to) two years to sign a customer… Now sales cycles have come down from two months to two weeks". He attributes this to businesses getting more inbound sales and traction due to COVID-19.

On being asked about innovative start-ups targeting higher-ed and campus management space inside or outside AWS, Sunil PP, Head of education & Non-Profit, vehemently agreed with Gaurav adding that everyone has had a learning management system but never used it. "(But) the pandemic has driven the usage significantly", Sunil added.

On the upskilling side, AWS has been in talks of enabling grey-collar workers with Alexa skills to help them earn more money. Another deviant trend, Sunil added, with virtual education is the rise of virtual interactive labs. These labs are trending because they aren't just the usual stream of online content but impart practical skills online, which was earlier thought impossible. Sunil added that in the K-12 space, teacher's education is becoming interesting, because, the new education policy is driving for many developing skills. Per his assumption, training teachers can become a big thing.

Have campuses done a good job of managing things in the current scenario? How have technologies helped? How will the scenario evolve once the market re-opens?

Hemant Sahal, Co-Founder & CEO, CollPoll said, "institutions really did a quick-fix". They were caught unprepared, but as Gaurav said, "in-campus technology has become a necessity". Earlier, only well-off institutions were looking for it, but now everyone wants it. In the adoption of technology by everyone, Hemant made three observations:

  • Amalgamating several technologies makes them incompatible with each other. Like using Zoom and Google Meet resulting in lack of sync or information for participants.
  • In a rush to shift things online, institutions adopted the solutions of whoever came to them first. There is now a need for a more systematic adoption of technology.
  • Institutions are looking for more comprehensive online enterprise solutions – like Google Suite or Microsoft 365 – rather than individual products from various providers. Comprehensive solutions would be primarily driven, firstly, because of affordability since comprehensive suites provide better value than individual products; and secondly because comprehensive suites provide better cross-system dataflow, making it easier to connect timetables with LMS data, examination platforms, and other databases that the institutions already work with.
  • Hemant also added that now that things are getting more organized on the tech adoption front, institutions will get the benefits of having affordable solutions. They'll get the real returns of technology and improvements in better ways. Institutions will gradually be willing to spend more money on solutions as well.

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