Today’s guest post is by Ed Schlesinger, better known as @studentforcenow on Twitter. Ed is a father and a businessman who has an incredible vision for the possibilities of cloud computing to help higher education. His brainchild, Studentforce is a unique portal for universities which connects students to faculty and administration to everyone. With the announcement of Chatter, Ed immediately saw the amazing potential that Chatter would have on Studentforce and I want you to hear what he’s poured his heart into. Let it spur you on to think of new and deeper uses for Chatter in your daily work and life.
The Higher Ed Cloud
Salesforce.com and its forward thinking management, employees and partners whose efforts have sparked the revolution that is happening NOW; even as I type this response, should be lauded for its accomplishments. However, while having a ‘great’ idea; one that resonates with all of us and becomes just plain common sense should be celebrated, its the execution on that idea that is the true measure of a game changing technological, financial and sociological success that is the shift that benefits us all. That is the true accomplishment salesforce.com can beat its chest about – execution.
In order to reinforce that momentum and truly democratize the availability and use of powerful enterprise class SaaS, studentforce endeavors to place the platform in the hands of those who truly know how it can be used – students. Delivering on Don Tapscott’s 1998 prognostication “… that the most revolutionary force for change is the students themselves. Give children [students] the tools they need and they will be the single most important source of guidance on how to make the schools relevant and effective” is a tall order made possible by the force.com platform; and, more recently, the introduction of Chatter – a secure medium by which students collaborate with one another; faculty do the same; and, each group shares with one another. Student Chatter + Faculty Chatter creates a dimension of conversation and collaboration never before available.
Recently published studies report that faculty (80%) use social medium; and, a growing number (30%) use collaboration tools, available as a service to communicate with their students incorporated into lesson plans. We already know that students (and others) have already enthusiastically embraced social medium and its growth is accelerating throughout the world. But there still exists a disconnect between faculty, students and staff on campus. As the further ‘commercialization’ (by no means a bad thing) of collaboration platforms evolve it seems to be at the expense of PRIVACY. That will inhibit the execution of a great idea. Ironically, security and privacy must be intact so that collaboration and sharing can occur. Think about it – strange; right?
With Chatter layered within the force.com architecture, we now have a platform that is secure; private where necessary; and, holds the promise of exponentially increasing the transfer of ideas …. so the execution of those ideas can occur. Chatter also ” … brings the data alive” by automating the notification of important events as they occur and delivering them specifically relevant to the tasks they are associated with. And its MOBILE; available on my Blackberry, iPhone, iPad and yeah – future mobile devices.
What better audience is there to take a wonderful idea (SaaS + Collaboration + Mobile); effectively executed for businesses, non profits and individuals than those who have grown up using these tools? And, by giving students ” … the tools they need” a generation of productive, knowledge seeking students will be able to execute on the ideas that have not yet been thought of as they become citizens participating in business, teaching and life long learning.
Studentforce Chatter Use Cases
Here are a few possible use cases for Chatter in the Higher Ed space off the top of my head. There are probably many, many more that I have not thought of or have not yet been even considered until Chatter has been deployed among students, faculty and university admins.
- Admissions/student recruiting would be able to identify the ‘right’ fit applicant for the school and engage them through the process. Instead of marketing “TO” the student the school is “ENGAGING” the student applicant through Chatter – all branded with the Universities’ materials
- The boarding process for new admitted students can be accomplished through single sign on and documents, workflow, etc. can be accomplished through an appealing interface with drag and drop (think eSignatures, etc.). There would be a significant return on investment once this is implemented including, but not limited to: postage savings, printed materials, labor to print and send documents from varied departments at the university, reduction in duplication of effort, significant reduction of errors
- Even if Chatter was limited ONLY to engaging students from time to time in an efficient manner retention will be dramatically increased
- Documents, links, events, other information can be shared among user; or, IT designated GROUPS facilitating the transfer of documents, video (‘Lectures On Demand) information securely
- Faculty can distribute assignments to students in their classes and students can submit completed assignments securely; same with grades or any other information between secure groups. This is a DRAMATIC increase from Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard. There is a significant ROI for this application as universities will NO LONGER be captive to expensive maintenance contracts from Client Server based systems. With that said universities that have signed long term contracts with these providers can still improve their users’ experience and increase the return on investment of those systems by front ending them with Studentforce equipped with Chatter
- Career services will be able to notify students of specific internship opportunities based upon their interests, major, skills, specific qualifications etc. and students will be able to apply to university partners with drag and drop capabilities. Similarly, companies that hire from Universities through specific programs can have access to the PROFILE available in Chatter through Portal or S2S deployment – again; in a secure manner
- Study Abroad processes will be vastly improved whether it be the student application process where numerous documents are required to be exchanged between students, the home school Study Abroad Office, Scholarship Vendors, Student Loan Vendors, and the Study Abroad school’s admissions, registrar and bursar departments
- Documents, events, can be shared among students who are Freshman, Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors; students who share a major; share an association with a specific school (IT, Arts & Sciences, etc.) and the combinations of those. Therefore ALL Juniors in IT; or ALL Seniors in Arts & Sciences.
- References and recommendations required by hiring companies or graduate schools can be transferred through Chatter
- Financial Aid and other government required documents that require secure transmission (completed tax forms of students that are required by Financial Aid offices; signed Master Agreements for Loans required by banks and government entities, etc.)
- Emergency Notification and unified communication across campus