I was listening to a podcast on Why the Internet will NOT tear apart colleges and I started thinking about using SaaS in Higher Education. The podcast said people are worried that using Internet technologies will make going to college obsolete. If I can do e-learning over the web, why bother going to some buildings to get an education? They pointed out that there is a lot more to going to college than ingesting information. Living away from home, maturing as a person, doing research in a lab, collaborating on projects, attending sports games and socializing are just a few of the benefits of actually being at a college.
So where does SaaS fit in? Most college students use Facebook, so they already use SaaS for keeping up with friends and sharing information. My son uses Facebook for doing homework. Yale University, UCLA and the University of NH(among many others) use Twitter to communicate with students and alumni. Concordia University Texas is using SaaS for admissions. Cheyney University is using SaaS for its new website. And of course many schools are looking tooutsource IT functions to SaaS so they can focus on their core business of educating students.
I think most schools want to save money by using SaaS, but they also take advantage of how easy it is to add or remove users. Lots of schools use alumni and additional staffing during the admissions process. Since SaaS is web-based and many applications have mobile device access this makes it easy to accommodate these extra people. Since SaaS also lends itself to mashups, colleges could develop ways to interface between their applications and many of the social applications their students use, like Twitter and Facebook. The potential is limitless, including using online videos and podcasts for learning.
SaaS can help colleges and universities meet their goals of reducing costs so we poor parents don’t go broke. It also gives the schools new ways of doing business.
photo credit Dmitry B