Creating a Smart-Campus Ecosystem: Winner-Takes-All When Students are at the Center of Campus Design

The 10 Most Visionary Education Leaders of 2021

Students around the world deserve world-class innovation versus software and services that merely help institutes compete-against-one-another.

Organizations like Amazon began their journey to success without the intention of trying to compete or replicate the largest retailer, largest tech company, or largest e-commerce companies. Rather, they endeavored to meet the needs of busy consumers with stellar ‘prime’ customer service. To keep the customer at the center of their business model, they excel at innovative approaches across multi-disciplines.  Their passion for innovating at the appropriate micro-level across all technologies and deliverables allowed them to be the macro-winner of a world-class business-to-consumer ecosystem. In essence, Amazon designed a smart-ecosystems across multiple disciplines. They re-invented the same technologies that were used by the original vendors in their industries. They created a smart-design with the customer at the center.

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In many ways, this smart-design across multiple disciplines allowed ‘Amazon and Jeff Bezos’ to appear as ‘winner-takes-all.’  Jeff Bezos has bumped Bill Gates from the top Billionaire spot and named as the first person to amass $100 Billion in net worth.  Granted, money is not the real measurement — but add in the number of satisfied and repeat customers (350 million and climbing) and Amazon is well on its way to a Winner-Take-All pattern of success.

In the area of education transformation using campus technology, smart-designs are playing out the same way. The educational organizations who are learning to glean, implement and deploy the ‘cream’ of all technology innovation at minimal risk, and moderate cost – have the greatest chance at being the ‘winner-takes-all’ in both campus technology and student success.  Gone are the days that educational institutes can invest 100% into every individual technology. However, a campus that begins to integrate the best pieces of technology and innovation to directly impact students will receive the greatest value on investment.

As a technologist who strives to create seamless and integrated solutions, I realize that every minute I reduce faculty and students from logging into multiple technologies, is a minute I add to their personal student-to-faculty engagement.  This attitude with alongside all other leaders at Oral Roberts University (ORU) has helped ORU to be ranked in the top-5 universities in student engagement. Allowing seamless technology to accompany superior Faculty and services gives students the best experience. As Amazon calls their customers ‘prime customers’, ORU treats all students like ‘prime students.’

A campus who can create a ‘smart-campus’ design from wearables, Wi-Fi, Augmented and Virtual Reality, CRM, SIS, LMS, AI, Chatbots, Blockchain, APIs, Avatars, Capture lecture, BI, Degree Pathways, Telepresence, Smart-classrooms, and mobile apps while providing exception student service may be the winner-takes-all in the area of both campus technology and student success.  This past semester, this approach paid big dividends for Oral Roberts University as we reached an all-time high in Freshman-fall-to-spring retention with 95.5%, Sophomore-fall-to-spring retention with 93.1%, and an all-time high 99.4% placement of graduates. It was the micro-innovations in processes and technologies that made all the difference in the world.

This kind of delivery is now being referenced as XaaS (Everything-as-a-Service) and is documented in CIO Magazine by highlighting two leading corporations and Oral Roberts University.

The innovative (smart-campus) approach applied at Oral Roberts University is focused on micro-innovations that directly impact student’s success. Our measure of success is three-fold 1. Did the students receive direct value from what was integrated, 2. Did we successfully hide the product name from being known by students, and, 3.Did we innovatively do something with the vendor product that their own development team did not think about doing? The majority of our vendors have agreed to allow ORU to innovate under the name ORU GeoVision™ which gives all students a single access point to all the crème de la crème of a vendor’s technology.

From wearables, robots, augmented and virtual reality, telepresence, degree evaluations, grades, advisement, recorded class sessions and even the legacy value of the SIS and LMS, we have gleaned the crème de la crème of the product sets. As an example, the legacy Ellucian Banner product’s new innovation of the ‘Student Profile’ which includes ‘Advisement’ changed the universe for faculty and students. They now call it the Student Profile vs. Banner, as it implies putting the student at the center of the innovation.  This innovation was a huge breakthrough as we went from faculty being frustrated with ‘Banner’ to now loving the Student Profile. Don’t judge a book by its cover takes on a whole new meaning when labeling innovation versus a brand name.  Oral Roberts University has gone from the coolness of mobility to the miracle of ‘fluidity’ of education and technology as describe by eCampus News.

A well designed enterprise system built around smart-campus designs will naturally become the ‘Winner-take-all’ ecosystem capable of scaling into the future needs and demands of students.