Next Generation – The education software framework

Integration, interoperability and digitisation are all terms we are becoming familiar with. But what implications do these concepts have for the way HEIs will interact with their students over the next decade?

As I go about my daily activities on-line I am constantly being prompted to install the latest plug in, visit the app store or download a new widget onto one of the many dashboards I use on a regular basis.

The power of a well-developed software framework is that it enables software vendors to easily create and distribute their product into a market who otherwise may never have stumbled across the, sometimes niche, product they produce.

A great example of this is the fact that I have recently installed a plugin to my chrome browser which lets me colour code and edit the text on the tabs.  For me this is a huge timesaver and makes what is an already market leading browser even better to use. Is it useful – absolutely. Would this product have been of any value to me as a separate application – definitely not. This is the power of making a platform accessible to the creators of features and applications that are perceived as added value to the end users.

As I look at the plethora of software vendors competing to provide registration, workflow management and student support systems to HEIs, I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for someone to realise that stand-alone closed platforms, no matter the size, are simply not a viable long term approach to supporting a user base.

I can of course understand why the big-name software houses are not particularly interested in pursuing this new strategy. After all, they have long established software platforms of their own. Not to mention a customer base who regardless of their level of loyalty are tied into a complex bespoke and integrated software platforms and equally complex software agreements.

As a producer of a software product for the EdTech sector, I am also fully aware of the significant barriers to entry to the HEI market for a vendor with a new product. The greatest of which is the fact that administrators and users of institutional IT systems do not want yet another login to yet another stand-alone product, no matter the alleged benefits being extolled by the latest player on the block.

But what would happen if someone produced a platform which operated like the Google Play store or the Apple App store? What if HEIs had access to a framework which not only facilitated but actively promoted access to titles currently only available as stand-alone products.

One only has to attend an EdTech conference or trade show to instantly see how many potential opportunities exist for integration of innovative and cost saving applications.

I don’t know when this approach to the provision of software to HEIs will become a reality. But I am certain that, as if often the case, the first player to bring the concept to the market will have a huge advantage over the also-rans. I am also certain that the multitude of companies who are currently producing small apps and programmes that would add value to any HEI, will come knocking on that software vendor’s door to get access to the platform.

Author: Michael Humphreys, CEO: ORAC