With two kids in college and three more close behind, like any parent, I hope for the best possible experience for them. I want them to have a clear understanding of the course paths they’ll need to take to earn their degrees, course availability, other interesting on-campus opportunities, and so forth. I want them to feel that their universities are supporting their needs and guiding them through their college years. And, of course, being an information systems guy, I want them to have easy access to all the course and college information they need, which in this age means a social and mobile experience.
We’ve learned from conversations with a number of higher education institutions that their student systems, typically built for a pre-Internet generation, weren’t designed to meet present-day expectations. They’re expensive to maintain and designed for back-office optimization rather than for student and faculty accessibility and collaboration. These systems don’t do enough to support students’ education goals or real-time analytics and communications. And in many cases, colleges have had to bolt on applications to their student systems in an effort to modernize them, all at significant additional costs.
Yet a student system is the lifeblood of an institution. It should fully support its missions of teaching, learning, and research. It should offer visibility into every student’s path to a degree and reflect diverse and flexible curricula and degree programs. It should be a tool both students and faculty find invaluable. And it should help bring students and institutions together with jobs and the employers who are looking to fill them.
So when Workday higher education customers saw how their Workday HCM and Financial Management applications could transform their operations, they consistently asked us to use our technology to build a student system in the cloud. Many feel they are locked into expensive maintenance cycles, and there is no innovation, competition, or choice in the market. In response, today I’m announcing our intention to build a new offering: Workday Student.
As many of you may know, I have a soft spot for education. My mother was a well-loved elementary school teacher, and I look back at my own college experience at Cornell as a time of great personal growth. It was at college where I first felt a passion for business and innovation, where I matured in character, and where I was able to learn from mistakes.
Professionally, my companies have always had a special relationship with educational institutions. The first two companies I founded developed systems specifically for universities. Today at Workday, I help run our Education & Government (E&G) business. For this team, we’ve handpicked and recruited the most skilled and knowledgeable people we know to lead it, and their work will be a model for how we enter other industries.
The E&G team’s goals are twofold: (1) To help universities and government entities successfully deploy more flexible and affordable cloud-based administrative systems, and (2) to build Workday Student, a unified student system that provides the modern planning tools students and faculty need to have a successful campus experience. Our team is also looking at any and every angle to find the absolute best way to deliver products and services to E&G customers—with customer needs always in mind.
Why might Workday customers outside of education find all this interesting? The answer lies in the employment cycle that begins with recruiting. We think with some innovative thinking and technology support, that cycle can be expanded to start earlier in future employees’ careers—that is, while they’re on campus. If colleges and businesses can align to match jobs and skills with grads, and if systems can be built to better connect industry and education, then we can more effectively create and fill jobs. And we all know the larger implications of a well-seeded job market.
We’re already working with higher education institutions—including Broward College, Tallahassee Community College, Yale University, and Southern New Hampshire University—to make sure our student system is exactly what colleges and universities need to recruit, admit, award, enroll, retain, and prepare students for employment. We’re looking at some unique challenges, but we’re also energized by the opportunity to change the game for students, faculty, higher ed institutions, and potentially, organizations looking to hire our future innovators and leaders. And with a 2H of 2014 initial release goal for our first component, maybe a few of my kids will be able to use and enjoy the Workday student system too.