4 min read

How Colleges and Universities are Preparing for Post-COVID Reopening

By BP Logix on Jun 24, 2020 6:12:04 AM

American colleges should be applauded for their quick and decisive action to protect the health and safety of their communities when COVID-19 first hit. Now that states and institutions are gradually shedding shelter-in-place policies and allowing the opening of businesses and gatherings, there will be scrutiny on higher education leaders to create a logical, workable plan for the fall semester and the foreseeable future.

In an effort to determine effective plans for reopening in the fall, colleges and universities are currently reviewing guidelines and policies from a variety of private and governing bodies. Because there is no single organization policing these plans, it is up to individual institutions and state-wide systems to evaluate guidelines and policies and ultimately determine what will be most effective for them.

Four areas to focus on when returning to campus

To be judicious and thoughtful in their approach, most schools are taking into consideration the advice of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state and local guidelines, local laws, and the concerns and needs of their own campus communities. University leaders are rapidly reviewing their own policies, in addition to research from the CDC, the American Health College Association, and insights from a variety of college presidents. From this work, we can see that there are four main areas of focus around which colleges and universities are creating their own set of reopening guidelines:

Student and faculty behavioral strategies

Schools want to reduce the spread of viruses by limiting exposure among students. This includes reducing class sizes for on-campus courses, mandating wearing of face masks, and education around things like hand washing, self-care, and limiting gatherings to small groups. Much of these efforts will require education and instilling behaviors. Some schools will choose to simply not return in the fall to seriously limit any form of exposure. Others will pursue a hybrid plan of online and offline courses. Those that will have students on campus in the fall are preparing for the need to increase staffing and resources at campus health facilities.

Effective management of campus facilities

University facilities, student services, and IT teams are working quickly to adapt the physical environment of their schools to be more conducive to social distancing. This includes upgrading and managing ventilation and water systems, adopting continuous disinfection and cleaning practices, limiting usage of common areas like recreational areas, dining halls, and student unions. The impact of these things will dramatically change the student experience, and schools are being cautious to balance safety with student needs.

Balancing remote learning with student needs

The move to online learning that began in March 2020 won’t go completely away. Some schools are opting for 100% online in the fall, while others will adopt a hybrid model. Schools realize also that most students have access to laptops or tablets, which will enable them to be effective at connecting to online, remote classes. For students who don’t have the technology required, colleges will need to provide these to them or offer an effective way to stay engaged when not in actual classrooms and lecture halls. Most schools are currently developing comprehensive strategies for online learning as a long-term option for college students, so what happens in the fall of 2020 could likely form the foundation of the future of learning in higher education. Doing so requires more than just porting coursework and curriculum to an online format, and will demand the efforts of academic experts, IT leaders, and representatives from student, faculty, and university administration.

Protecting the physical and mental health of students and faculty

The CDC recommends that schools develop protocols for isolating, transporting, and caring for students and faculty who develop symptoms or are diagnosed with COVID-19. These include processes that impact health and safety regulations beyond just the campus; local and state health officials will need to be alerted and cases tracked.

The actual implementation of fall plans will undoubtedly integrate various elements of these four factors. Current scenarios that are being considered include the following:

  • Business as usual - some campuses, like Purdue in Indiana, will resume normal campus life and on-campus learning, albeit with precautions and social distancing policies in place. For schools that choose this route, students will be in classes, some recreational activities will resume, and there will be a semblance of normal campus life.
  • 100% online - the California State University system has opted to keep all students at home and go completely online for the fall. There will be economic factors that these schools will need to deal with, as some students will opt not to return to college or may take a gap year. Additionally, faculty and IT teams will be working feverishly to ensure that they can deliver all aspects of academics via the Internet.
  • Hybrid model - the hybrid model of learning will function with classes being conducted both face-to-face and online. For many schools taking this route, they have established a threshold for the number of students allowed in an on-campus class. Many have chosen to limit the number of students in a face-to-face class to fewer than 20. All other classes will be conducted online.
  • Adapted schedules - a common approach is to begin the fall with a mix of online and in-person classes, and to reduce the amount of time the students are on campus. Many will start with their regularly planned beginning of the semester but will close at the start of the Thanksgiving break. That break will last until after the new year, which limits the amount of travel to and from schools, and thus, hopefully reducing exposure to students and faculty.

As colleges figure out their plans, they are factoring in things like feasibility, economic impact, and ensuring they are staying true to their academic missions. Irrespective of the path they take, it will undoubtedly hasten the implementation of certain strategies that some schools had planned for a much later time. But just as universities are leaders in innovation, they may be the best places to see how disruptive changes will impact the face of the new university.



Topics: COVID19
5 min read

Colleges Use Workflow & Process Management to Navigate COVID-19 Disruption

By BP Logix on May 21, 2020 2:06:10 PM

nathan-dumlao-ewGMqs2tmJI-unsplash (1)

No matter their size, private/public designation, endowment, or geography, all colleges and universities are experiencing major changes due to COVD-19. While large universities have received the most attention for the challenges they’re experiencing, it’s often smaller schools that are hit hardest. 

Faced with limited budgets and fewer resources, small colleges are already dealing with the challenges of meeting enrollment demands, effectively servicing students and being nimble enough to adapt to change. With major disruptions for all schools because of COVID-19, smaller schools have to make moves to be prepared for navigating uncertain territory. 

There is no question that smaller schools are an essential part of higher education. They usually have better student-to-faculty ratios, offer specialized academic tracks and are better options for students who want to be part of a smaller environment. 

Small liberal arts colleges emphasize a broad array of academic disciplines, while some regional schools focus more on training for professional services like fire services, nursing and other service-related professions. 

Higher education workflows address key technology needs

The changes that stem from the coronavirus have thrown everyone for a loop. Schools are having to build solutions immediately to address current needs and they are developing plans for an uncertain future. The major difference between big and small schools in the current education landscape comes down to technology and how it’s applied to solve these problems. 

However, budget restrictions of smaller schools prevent massive student relationship management systems and armies of software developers that spin up solutions as needed. While scale of technology may always be an issue, the approach to problem-solving can be addressed by schools of any size. Workflow can be the defining factor for schools being agile because workflow is foundational to how problems are solved, irrespective of the technology that’s used.

Establishing a workflow & process management foundation

Effective workflow, however, is more than just a series of tactical activities. It aligns with user intent and is applied to the unique technology functionality required of a college’s students, faculty and other stakeholders. 

It also helps to create behaviors that maximize usage and deliver meaning to users. This is especially important when higher education is changing behaviors for things like online learning, applying for financial aid, hiring and offering new types of student services. 

A workflow foundation will also help when even those new solutions change as schools change regulations to adapt to new governmental and health and safety requirements.

The three most critical aspects of aligning workflow, technology and university needs are ease of use, solution context, and communication. Effective workflow ensures that all these elements are met so that users have not just a more efficient experience, but one they can begin to rely on to consistently meet their needs irrespective of the rate and type of change they will experience in the short- and near-term. Let’s look more closely at how these factors can support the needs of smaller schools:

Workflow & process management simplifies digital experiences

Process Director provides a great example of how ease of use can translate into effective solutions. It enables the creation of sophisticated, low-code digital applications that take into account the necessary data and workflow sources on the back-end, and considers how users on the front-end will actually use the app. 

By being able to create simple apps that integrate relevant information, including smart forms and processes, students can get the information they need and take action on things like class scheduling, financial aid, and other relevant events. The teams who build the apps benefit from Process Director’s agile approach to adapt as needed to increase adoption and productivity. 

While Process Director is easy to use for those who need to build applications rapidly and continuously meet changing needs.

Workflow & process management provides context for data

Small college IT teams use Process Director to optimize the use of data so that the applications they create help students engage and complete tasks with limited disruption to their schedules. 

Process Director helps direct the way that organizations surface and orient data through interactive forms and workspaces. Just as human interaction is complex, Process Director looks at the workflows in applications not as a linear phenomenon, but as a continuously shared collection of usable elements that allow for context-based structural changes, last moment decisions, and individualized attention depending on each circumstance.

The case management approach inherent in Process Director also helps greatly when delivering applications that integrate historical data on students (transcripts, payments, scholarships). With navigable data that can be filtered for omission or inclusion depending on the situation, applications can adapt as the students’ situations change and evolve.

This approach supplies students with applications that provide them with what they need when they need it, all without forcing them to search outside the context of the case to find answers.

The Importance of Communication

Students and faculty are being bombarded with emails, texts, direct messages and a host of other types of communication in order to get the information they need. However, that information can go unnoticed if it doesn’t fit with how they are accustomed to consuming news and alerts. Schools need to ensure that students see important messages, but also create ways for students to communicate back with them.

With capabilities that facilitate connecting and communicating across departments, Process Director can help schools collect applications, forms and data sources into a collective portal that delivers all student’s actionable needs into a single interface. That reduces response time and enhances the kind of communication students need in order to adapt to changes, stay on top of opportunities and always be current about how they can interact with their school.

Final thoughts

No school, irrespective of size, can meet the demands of the post-COVID-19 world on an application-by-application basis. Small schools that want to align their goals and processes to student behaviors will need to apply change through the use of smart workflow and processes. 

To serve these needs, Process Director provides digitally transformative and contextual education workflow solutions, facilitates efficient distribution of information and streamlines the monitoring and management of information.

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

Topics: application development case management education COVID19
4 min read

Low-code Development Supports College Admissions Changes Due to COVID-19

By BP Logix on May 11, 2020 5:45:32 PM

headway-5QgIuuBxKwM-unsplash (1)

"There's no good time for a pandemic. But for admissions, this has got to be the worst time.”
- Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management at Oregon State University

For millions of current and incoming college students, the financial, health, and social factors surrounding COVID-19 are causing them to change their higher education plans. As a result, college admissions and IT departments are going to have to change their normal processes to adapt to the needs of a whole new wave of college students.

Consider the findings from a recent poll about incoming college freshmen: One in six high-school seniors who expected to attend a four-year college full time before the coronavirus outbreak are now planning to embark on a different path in the fall of 2020. Three out of five students who still plan on attending college are seriously concerned about their ability to afford college.

The reality of all this uncertainty creates a huge workload for college admissions officials and IT leaders who will need to develop new software applications processes to address a variety of admissions issues, including:

  • Enrollment deferment 
  • Changing admissions requirements
  • Communication with students
  • Timelines and plans for reopening campuses, which includes facilities and scheduling

These are just some of the issues that schools are dealing with, none of which can be addressed in a simple fashion. For IT departments, the key is agility. Decisions are being made by school leadership on a daily basis which impacts enrollment, admissions for the fall semester and beyond. 

Low-code development starts with data, builds with process

University data and content is currently stored in a wide variety of applications. They range from the basic (spreadsheets and graphics) to complex (some data analytics solutions and massive ERP systems). All of that data serves a purpose, and in a time when colleges are moving quickly to create new and updated admissions and enrollment processes, the data has to be able to be called into use whenever and wherever it can be most applicable. Information is important, but using it in context with other data is where schools stand to be most effective. To do this requires being able to build software apps quickly and for specific purposes.

The best way to bring new applications to productive use is to reduce development time, and when addressing the changing landscape in response to COVID-19, speed is critical. To meet this challenge, low-code development has emerged as an efficient way to create software. It is a methodology and approach that uses reusable, pre-built components of code and applies them in a drag-and-drop fashion that simplifies the coding effort and accelerates the pace at which applications are built.

Rapid application development for the post-COVID university

The promise of low-code development is attained through speed, efficiency, and the democratization of technology. Business needs can be met through rapidly-built applications that can be created by non-programmers. All of a sudden, solutions can be created and put to use by those closest to business problems. At a time when the future is difficult to plan for, this level of agility will give college IT departments their best chance at delivering solutions for these unique times.

It’s easy to think of low-code as a rip-and-replace substitute for all application development, but in this case, it’s more about enabling university administrators to iterate on their changing admissions application requirements.  It also puts people who are closest to problems in a position to create or at least initiate solutions. But much of the ability to do that corresponds to understanding admissions needs, changing academic requirements, and the available data the school can work with. Even though low-code is much easier than complex development, it still demands time, a plan, and trial-and-error. 

There is no one single system of record that can be used when changes are happening so quickly; colleges typically rely on a variety of different student information management and other types of enterprise planning apps. The key becomes, then, the ability to integrate data from those sources into custom-built apps to serve their changing needs. Speed will be critical to developing these new apps. Schools will not have time for traditional software development cycles, which means non-developers will have to be included in the process of scoping and building apps. 

Learn how colleges like Cal State Stanislaus and Ogden-Weber Technical are using process director and preparing for a post-COVID reopening

Topics: application development case management education COVID19