Is this the start of a technological ‘revolution’ for UK universities?

Using the pandemic as a springboard to digital growth and competitive advantage

Creating fast, automated technological processes is essential to limiting disruption in higher education and returning to a semblance of normality.

However, traditional technologies aren’t cut out to handle these new variables. The time required to manually code applications to create staggered schedules, monitor attendance and vaccine status, and provide instant updates to students poses a serious challenge for overstretched software development teams.

“Creating portals and apps is a great way to return to ‘business as usual’, while also providing the type of user experience that many Gen Z’s have come to expect”

As a result, IT is feeling the pressure to coordinate and automate manual processes to deliver pandemic-safe services to students and staff. Creating portals and apps is a great way to return to ‘business as usual’, while also providing the type of user experience that many Gen Z’s have come to expect.

Enter low-code

One technology that could clear a path towards a sustainable post-COVID future is low-code. Low-code is a software development approach that requires little to no coding in order to build applications and processes.

Low-code platforms are agile, scalable, and able to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment. These platforms use visual interfaces with simple logic and drag-and-drop features instead of extensive coding languages. This makes it easier for university IT departments to quickly build applications to get back to ‘almost-normal’ and create a world-class end-to-end digital experience for the future workforce.

Reducing workload

Flexibility and agility are essential to creating apps that monitor vaccination status, attendance, and maintain schedule synchronisation. However, IT teams cannot keep up with the workload required to provide this using a traditional application lifecycle model.

Low-code eases this burden; by speeding up application development lifecycles, time-poor developers can create effective applications in a fraction of the time it had previously taken

Instead of coding from scratch, low-code platforms let developers work from existing templates and drag prebuilt elements, forms, and objects together to create the app they need with far less hassle. For more complex applications, developers can also extend the apps using common coding languages.

As universities become increasingly reliant and judged upon their technology capabilities, coding skills will become an even rarer commodity. Therefore, the ability to streamline innovation will be essential for IT teams at uni when it comes to creating a leading digital experience.

Reacting to uncertainty

The physical changes needed to get students back safely vary greatly from institution to institution. With low-code, universities can adapt as efficiently as possible.

Whether it’s implementing social distancing or creating apps to scan vaccine passports, universities are in unfamiliar waters. With low-code, developers can swiftly change their area of focus without squandering development time.

Regardless of COVID, the world is a faster changing place than ever. In the long-term, it’s crucial to have a system which enables developers to arrange everything quickly and remotely using applications that work across multiple IoT  (Internet of Things) devices and departments. Automating processes that were once face-to-face will be essential for the post-pandemic future.

Communication and hybrid learning

One of the things that has suffered most throughout the pandemic is communication. Reports of students hearing about cancelled programmes through the news illustrates this point starkly. Through low-code, universities can change this.

For instance, one university recently created a bot with low-code platforms that was able to answer student questions and concerns instantly. Building these seamless communication channels will set universities up for long-term success. Importantly, this solution also improves overall student satisfaction by providing access to any commonly asked questions in a quick, efficient and low-cost way.

As hybrid learning continues to prove viable, the traditional talent pool of universities will expand, and universities will need a communication mechanism that helps them facilitate this. For instance, over the course of the pandemic, the University of Sussex went from managing 200 users in a digital space to 20,000, scaling up rapidly with low-code.

Low-code growth

Ultimately, like the rest of the marketplace, universities are customer service companies.

The pandemic has exposed this more than ever, and providers need to up their game. Students are free to walk, and universities need to use this pressure to inform and guide them to offer unique services. The universities that succeed in the future will be those that offer the best digital experience from start to finish.

Universities can use this current opportunity to embrace digital technology and improve how they serve students, who will no longer tolerate poor, cumbersome and brittle processes. They want the same experience they get in the consumer world. They want mobile student payment card top-ups, instant course approvals, automated reimbursements, and automated scheduling. All this and more can be achieved with universities today, with the use of low-code.

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