Cloud Education Series: Oracle Higher-Ed Cloud Initiatives - An Interview with Oracle Strategists

Title: Oracle Higher-Ed Cloud Initiatives: An Interview with Oracle Strategists
Author: Stu Churchill-Hoyer, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Blog Series Overview:
The Cloud Educational Blog Series is sponsored and hosted by the HEUG Campus Community Advisory Group, with the intention to start educating and socializing the user community on Cloud terminology, case studies, and relevant resources related to Cloud technologies and innovations.  To view other articles in the series, please go to the Article Index for the Cloud Blog Series.

Article Overview:
This article showcases an interview between the Campus Community Advisory Group and Oracle strategists in an effort to inform and educate the community on Oracle’s current embodiments and vision for their Higher Education Cloud products.

Over the last few years, Oracle has been making great strides in their Cloud initiatives for the Higher Education industry.  In an effort to help us, and the greater HEUG community, better understand Oracle’s Higher Education Cloud initiatives, the Campus Community Advisory Group recently interviewed a couple of Oracle strategists.  Please see the full interview below; our two interviewees from Oracle were: Susan Beidler, Sr. Director for Product Strategy for Student Systems and Geoffrey Corb, VP of Customer Success for Higher Education Development.

The Interview:

CC AG Interviewer: Susan, what is your role at Oracle?

Susan: I’m the Sr. Director for Product Strategy for Student Systems.  The Strategy team focuses primarily on what our customers need in our products and how we can anticipate the functionality and capabilities they’re going to need in the future.

CC AG Interviewer: Geof, what is your role at Oracle?

Geof: I’m the VP of Customer Success for Higher Education Development. My role is focused on helping our customers get the most of out of their investment in Campus Solutions (I lead the CS development team) and partner with them in developing practical strategies for migration to the cloud.

CC AG Interviewer: Could you briefly tell us what the Student Cloud product is and how that differs from other Cloud product offering from Oracle, such as Student Management?

Susan: The Student Cloud is not a single product; it is an umbrella marketing term for a group of solutions that we’ve built to provide new capabilities for our Higher Ed customers.  When we refer to the “Student Cloud” we are talking about the following products:  Student Management, Student Financial Planning, Student Engagement, Student Support and Student Recruiting.  We have built these products as a full suite, but knowing our customers’ preferences for deploying solutions based on their specific goals, customers can license and deploy these products individually.

CC AG Interviewer: As you just stated, Oracle’s Student Cloud Suite currently encompasses several products.  Can you briefly overview the current product line and the basic functionality within each of the products?

Susan: We currently have five main products within the Student Cloud Suite including: Student Management, Student Financial Planning, Student Recruiting, Student Engagement, and Student Support.  Here’s the status for each:

1) The Student Management product covers the student lifecycle from admissions, enrollment, student records, advising, and student account through graduation.  The Student Management product was released in 2017 and provided support for the business model commonly known as “Continuing Education” in the US or “Further Education” in other countries.  Basically, the initial release supported all the academic structures for any institution type, but provided business process support for a “pay to enroll” model in which a guest or student could review learning options on your website, put their choice in the Cart, and then immediately pay for that choice.   With each quarterly release of Student Management, we’ve added more functionality that supports both the Continuing Education model as well as support for traditional, undergraduate programs. With our November 2018 release, we’ve delivered the core functionality for undergraduate programs, and there is a lot more to come.

2) The Student Financial Planning product, which we acquired back in April, is a comprehensive, automated and highly personalized Financial Aid solution.  This product is being deployed now, and with the integration for Campus Solutions we delivered in October, we expect our customers to be giving this new product a strong look.  The SFP solution goes beyond what we can currently do with Campus Solutions financial aid, supporting dramatically more automation and personalization, as well as support for multiple term structures (standard, non-term, non-standard term).

3) The Student Recruiting, Student Engagement and Student Support products leverage Oracle’s CRM/CX solutions.  Student Recruiting supports the key capabilities required by that business function, Student Engagement covers marketing and outreach functionality, and Student Support provides support for help desk functionality, FAQs, etc.  These three products have been available for a few years and we are currently designing CX-type functionality into the transactions within Student Management in an effort to further simplify the student’s interaction with their institution.

CC AG Interviewer: What framework, in comparison to the PeopleTools framework in Campus Solutions, are the Student Cloud products built on?

Susan: All of the Student Cloud products are “cloud native,” meaning they were built within Oracle’s cloud technology platform, known as the Fusion stack, that underpins other Oracle Cloud apps like ERP, HCM, etc.  However, one of the key differentiators for SaaS products is that customers use the software as delivered, with the ability to configure, but not customize or change, the source code.  Thus, unlike in Campus Solutions, customers will not be able to directly customize the source code.  However, the technology platform enables customers to extend the delivered application to integrate within their ecosystems and build capabilities that are unique to them (e.g, State reporting).  To enable the customer to easily integrate and create bolt-ons to the delivered products, a rich set of RESTful APIs will be provided and the applications can be extended in the Oracle cloud platform (Oracle PaaS) using a variety of popular programming languages and frameworks. This approach offers major benefits to the customer, and safeguards their extensions from forced code retrofits as new software releases come out each quarter.

CC AG Interviewer: To date, how many institutions have implemented any of the products in the Student Cloud Suite?

Geof: We have about 40 customers using various products under the Student Cloud umbrella, most of which are the CX products.

CC AG Interviewer: Please tell us your personal vision – or hope - for the Student Cloud products, in both the near and long term?

Susan: My long term goal is to create a new solution that enables our customers to focus on supporting their institutional mission by providing technology that “gets out of their way” while it enables them much more flexibility and power than before.  My near term goal is to see customers successfully deploy our current offerings: the Student Management solution for Continuing Education programs, Student Financial Planning for advanced financial aid support and the CX solutions to enhance student success.

Geof: I am most interested in the pivot from transactional experiences to relational experiences on modern campuses, and being able to support that via intuitive, device agnostic solutions. Being able to admit, register, and bill students, as well as offer them financial aid and advise them on their academic journey, are basics that we have mastered long ago. However, students and faculty (and staff alike) are accustomed to a certain set of experiences with technology as a consumer— from ubiquitous access via mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, to conversational interfaces with intelligent assistants and agents. I am interested in bringing consumer-grade experiences to enterprise applications and enabling the delivery of radically new and different personalized services to an institution’s many varied constituents. 


CC AG Interviewer: As of today, what is the planned roadmap for major functionality buildouts in the Student Cloud product?

Geof: The cloud delivery model is very much like what we’re familiar with in Campus Solutions.  We have quarterly updates of the products, with the ability to release additional time-sensitive updates for things like regulatory updates or critical bug fixes.  The roadmap for Student Management, in particular, has us delivering more and more functionality to support traditional programs, including admissions evaluations, configurable online application, rules-driven tuition calculation, Guided Pathways support for student planning and many other features.  To help us define designs and confirm priorities, we work with our 7 Student Cloud Focus Groups, made up of Higher-Ed customers, as well as gain input from a variety of additional customers outside the working groups.  And, a major focus for the next 6 months will be on making sure our Early Adopters are successful in their deployments!

CC AG Interviewer: What are your favorite resources for institutions to start learning about the Student Cloud product?

Susan and Geof: – search for Student Cloud!  You can review high level materials there and then you can go directly to the documentation and release materials to learn more about the solution.

CC AG Interviewer: What is your favorite feature/functionality in the Student Cloud products today?

Susan: I am enamored with the Curriculum Registry!  Our Product Managers listened to our customers’ evolving needs for support of different types of curriculum, from full year programs, to competencies, to one hour Continuing Ed offerings.  They’ve designed the Registry (and the supporting Academic Periods and Results structures) to future-proof what an institution may want to offer today and tomorrow.

Geof: Student Financial Planning. I’ve had the “pleasure” of implementing financial aid systems twice at my prior institution and have painfully experienced the limitations of the prior generation’s offerings (note: I’ve not been a CS customer, so my experiences may have been different). The capabilities and power of the SFP solution are like nothing I have seen before and have the potential to radically change our customer’s financial aid offices and operations in the interest of better service to the students and, hopefully, chip away at affordability challenges for students.

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