Recap and Reflections from nSquared 2022

Amanda Mason,
Director of Business Analysis
Linda Feng,
Principal Software Architect

Earlier this year, N2N Services hosted “nSquared”, a day-long event of panels, presentations, vendors, and customers discussing the paradigm shifts in digital solutions impacting student experience for higher education institutions worldwide. The conference brought together thought leaders interested in the technology integration changes facing Higher Education.
The event was kicked off by Sebastian Barron, a representative from Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s office. Sebastian highlighted the impact of education to transform the economic outlook for citizens within a generation, an especially significant statewide initiative supported by Governor Kemp’s office is a Georgia focused program for Cyberstart America. CyberStart America is a free online game that teaches young people about cyber security. This has the potential to create opportunities for more qualified people to fill needed cybersecurity jobs in the state.

We also heard from thought leaders like Ben Nelson of the Minerva Project, John Katzman of Noodle, Rick Torres of the National Student Clearinghouse, author Jordan Shapiro, and Dr. Emad Rahim, an educator and higher education leader with a moving life experience as a survivor of genocide. Dr. Rahim was particularly inspirational, reminding us what is important when providing learning opportunities to help each learner overcome obstacles.

Unstacking Student Data and Campus Infrastructure


Amanda Mason and I were thrilled to be included in a panel called “Unstacking Student Data and Campus Infrastructure”. We discussed the transition to cloud infrastructure and SaaS products, and how campuses are increasingly looking for best practices, recommendations, and security methodologies to follow to support this rapid transformation. The panel, with institution representatives and industry veteran solution providers, shared their views on this strategic migration.

 

 

Amanda started by asking the institutional leaders to describe today’s reality, sharing their real life experiences and needs. She then transitioned to the providers on the panel, asking them to talk about how they are rethinking student data and campus infrastructure. Mark Simpson from UT Austin framed the problem nicely: he said what they are looking for is better student experiences, and better ways to combine data about students for insights that will help to serve students better.

“Our technology is not meeting expectations, but it’s getting the job done. So how do we do better? What are the driving forces? There has been an appetite for over 10 years for cloud-based student products. Where we are going is smaller, more nimble, to deliver faster.”

Kevin from Sheridan talked about the move to the cloud as a market organizational challenge. He described the challenge of not just lifting and shifting today’s processes at Universities, rather actually needing to reengineer and reimagine the business processes themselves.

Then we heard from others on the panel who highlighted the opportunity to reimagine those services previously offered on premise. As an example, Raj Kaji from Akademos talked about the shift from books as they move to digital assets - can we look at data capture to see how students are reading? Jason Pyle of Anthology pointed out how smaller cloud services are easier to set up and manage. Justin Wenig of Coursedog cited the ability for institutions to think about creating an “Amazon-like experience” for course shopping in their institutional catalogs. Chris Riddle of AWS talked about the promise of building systems in the cloud that incorporate feedback from users to better serve students.

So we have a need, and some would say, a once in a lifetime opportunity. But why aren’t we there yet? The reality is that the vast majority of today’s SIS systems are monolithic and highly customized over decades, and they will probably be the last to move to the cloud. With existing student administration groups already challenged with budget and resource constraints, they may not have the time and energy to move to the cloud.

This is why now more than ever, API and integration platforms like N2N play an important role in enabling access to parts of the monolithic SIS‘s and bridging between cloud and on prem. When one factors in the amount of money currently spent maintaining all aspects of a typical institutional SIS, cloud-based implementations may very well prove to be a lower total cost of ownership over time. Granted, making changes like this can be very tricky. It's a bit like trying to build a new road while there are already cars driving on it.

Amanda closed the panel with a heartfelt statement about the fact that all of us were on the edge of creating and providing for the newer modern technologies. She thanked us for the work we were all doing in changing the future for students.

All in all, we were fortunate to be part of this event that was very well organized by the N2N team. The event inspired us to consider opportunities to reimagine the student experience, leveraging modern cloud infrastructure and improvements to underlying integration. The sessions were excellent and even included a fun remake of the classic Beatles song, “Yesterday”, performed by Arjun Gopinath, an N2N developer. It was a great opportunity to get to know the N2N team, who clearly are committed and passionate about student data interoperability.

Watch the recording of “Unstacking Student Data and Campus Infrastructure”, or check out the podcast recording.

Amanda Mason

Amanda Mason

Director of Business Analysis
As Director of Business Analysis at Unicon, Inc., Amanda has 20+ years of business and technical analysis and management experience, with an emphasis on being a liaison between business and technical teams to ensure constant and clear communication, as well as ensuring all business and technical requirements and expectations are established and met. In recent years, Amanda has worked on a plethora of different project types and sizes worldwide.
Linda Feng

Linda Feng

Principal Software Architect
Linda Feng is a Principal Software Architect at Unicon, Inc., a leading provider of education technology consulting and digital services. Linda has deep experience in student information systems (SIS) integration, open standards, and big data/ learning analytics, most recently as Senior Product Manager for Canvas SIS Integrations and Canvas Data at Instructure. Prior to Instructure, Linda held the position of software architect for Oracle's Student Products Division. In the last several years, she served as co-chair of the IMS Global Learning Initiative Learning Information Services & Privacy Working Groups, helping to bring a new Enterprise interoperability standard to market.
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