Ready, Set, Disrupt

By Tony Moore, Vice President of Technology Administration, Xavier University of Louisiana

Ready for a change? Disruption in Higher Education is inevitable, so institutions, especially HBCUs, must change to keep pace with constant change in technology.

"Digital resources that allow students to explore and utilize resources for academic enrichment and career development are key to student engagement which increases the likelihood of degree attainment"


During my 25 years as a student, I have witnessed first-hand the musical chairs that students often engage in during registration. Whether trying to secure their status as a first-time student or register for the next semester, students often move from one physical station to another while trying to complete the process. I can recall on several occasions getting to the end of the process only to find out that I needed another signature to complete registration. I developed a solution to this problem during my graduate studies at Louisiana State University. It would have allowed students to register using a telephone and an Interactive Voice Response System (first online system) in the early 90s. Unfortunately, time, money, and lack of a venture capitalist thwarted those dreams. As a student back then, I knew there had to be a better way of moving students through the registration process. Fast forward 30 years later, the disruption and consumerization of technology has forced colleges and universities to rethink how they deliver services, education, and support to students in a highly competitive marketplace. Today’s students are “digital natives” and desire an experience that is 100 percent online from recruitment to graduation.


Millennials expect technology to be agile, easy, and accessible. Current systems being used cannot keep up with the increasingly diverse student populations. Many students in the undergraduate market are working at least one outside job to pay for tuition and fees. This fact is more prevalent at universities with significant populations of first-generation students. Their reliance on technologies with cellphones, laptops, tablets, and the internet is critical to their success. It is vital that campuses are able to build robust infrastructures and systems that are able to meet these demands to maintain a thriving campus


Agile systems that allow the flexibility and rapidly changing pedagogical learning delivery methods like competency-based learning, hybrid courses, online instructions, and degree programs are must. Digital resources that allow students to explore and utilize resources for academic enrichment and career development are key to student engagement which increases the likelihood of degree attainment. The declining revenue and support from local, state, and federal agencies in the last 20 years has forced colleges to be more strategic with funding and ultimately to do more with less. Low-cost, innovative solutions that can be deployed within a minimal timeframe is driving IT departments to think out of the box and partner with solution providers and manufactures who understand this rapidly changing dynamic.


Big Data is no longer a buzzword used exclusively in academic communities. Predictive Analytics is driving today’s campuses to cultivate a deeper knowledge of their students by using metrics to monitor success, failures, external factors, and incentive that drive student achievement. The 360 view of the student is important now more than ever as universities attempt to stay immersed with students in an effort to support success, retention, and completion. Big Data allows the campus leadership to evaluate trends and patterns for improving the student experience, creating effective processes, and streamlining operations. Analytics assists in all aspects of campus life for admissions, scholarship disruption, curriculum development, attendance tracking, and early alerts to improve student outcomes. Learning outcomes gained through Big Data gives academicians an understanding of which teaching method are more applicable for improving student.


Educause’s latest Top Ten Issues facing IT in higher education focuses on three major precepts: empowering students, trusted data, and 21st century digital strategies. Sounds simple, right? Ideally, systems and technologies must evolve to meet these needs. Student forensics requires a deep identity of student needs, concerns, behaviors, and accelerators to achievement. Technology is indeed the catalyst to the realization of these objectives. However, it requires innovation and seamless cultivation of data from disparate systems.

So, how does Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) address these issues and concerns? At XULA, we have consistently worked to build a mobile-centered, cloud-focused, and data intensive environment. We understand our students require access to resources in a manner that is seamless and available on a 24/7 basis. All new applications and systems must adhere to these requirements so that students are forced to choose technology devices that support their academic aspirations. Conversely, we choose solutions that are device agnostic and provides the same look-and-feel regardless of the device.

Just recently XULA partnered with Round Tower Technologies and VMware to build out the fully deployed vCloud Foundation platform at any college or university in the country. Thanks to the virtualization and efficiency of Cloud Foundation, Xavier reduced its physical infrastructure footprint by 90 percent by going from five racks to half a rack. With the cost and time saved, Xavier can focus on other initiatives that will benefit students and the university. Moving storage to the cloud also offered Xavier a safe place to back up and store data, without fear of losing everything in the event of a natural disaster or failing server. The University’s IT department of two no longer needs to be so hands-on.

Leveraging smart technology and automated environments provides the efficiency and cost-savings to enable us to embrace the continual disruption of technology in higher education. Ready, Set, Disrupt! We are ready!

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