Higher education institutions constantly strive to improve the student experience, and a significant aspect of this endeavour is modernising the admissions process.
For IT leaders, integrating modern admissions platforms with existing legacy systems is one of the most substantial challenges in this transformation. For example, some legacy systems utilize old technologies, programming languages and data formats that are not compatible with newer systems, making data transfer a difficult task.
However, there are ways to overcome the challenges that arise through system integration in a higher education setting. This blog article will guide you through seven essential steps to dismantle the roadblocks associated with integration and digitise your admissions process.
Start by gaining a thorough understanding your existing legacy systems – their capabilities, limitations, and the specific areas where they need to meet the requirements of a modern admissions process. By identifying these gaps, you'll understand what needs to be addressed by the new system.
Review all the available documentation relating to the legacy system, including user manuals, design documents and system architecture diagrams. Understanding the system’s workflows and features will give you a solid foundation of knowledge to build upon.
Together with other key leaders in the institution, set goals and clearly establish what you aim to achieve with the new admissions platform. Do you want higher efficiency? An enhanced user experience? Clearer analytics? All three? Defining your goals will help set you up for success when it comes to integration and implementation.
To help you set your goals, here are nine key consideration:
When selecting a new admissions platform, you should ensure it can effectively bridge the gaps you identified in the legacy system. But it's equally important for the new platform to be capable of integrating with your legacy system. Look for modern admissions platforms with robust APIs and proven success in working with legacy systems.
One of your first priorities should be to identify external interfaces, systems and APIs with which the legacy system interacts, and understand the data formals, communication mechanisms and protocols involved in these interactions. APIs are crucial for integrating disparate systems and enabling data exchange. Your legacy admissions system might not have robust APIs; a customized solution might be necessary.
Integrating complex systems comes with certain inherent – yet mitigatable – risks, such as data loss, compatibility issues or disruption to services. Rather than performing an abrupt complete switch to the new platform, consider implementing a phased transition approach. This will enable you to confront any challenges in a more manageable way.
You could, for instance, run a pilot with one of your programmes or departments and address any concerns that arise before moving onto the next phase, thus minimising the risk of organization-wide disruption and critical failures. By phasing the integration of your legacy and new admissions software, you can keep your core operations running while introducing new functionalities and workflows. This can help users adapt to the changes too.
At each phase, be sure to evaluate and gather feedback to discern what is working well and any areas for improvement. Including stakeholders’ feedback in the process is not only valuable from a technical perspective, but it can help boost user ‘buy-in’ too.
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A solid implementation process guarantees success. Look for vendors with experience implementing the platform – they can help navigate the integration process and troubleshoot issues. Integrating platforms with different architectures and formats can be complex, which is why having experts that can navigate both can help the project run efficiently.
An expert who understands both your legacy and new system can identify potential challenges and come up with customized solutions for your higher education institution.
Integrating modern and legacy platforms requires training and support for users who are accustomed to the legacy system. Educate users on the new features and functionalities of the integrated solution, and provide ongoing technical support.
First, identify the skills and knowledge required to operate the new elements of the admissions system; what is the existing skill level of your staff, and are there any knowledge gaps that need to be addressed? Then, create a training plan that outlines the objectives, outcomes, and training methods and learning styles.
Here are some best practices that constitute a through and effective staff IT training plan:
Before going live with the new platform, conduct comprehensive testing to ensure all functionalities work as expected and the integration with the legacy system is seamless. Testing can highlight any errors relating to functionality and usability early on, allowing the implementation team to address them before the new, integrated solution goes live.
During testing, you should look at how the system performs under different workloads and scenarios – can it handle an increase in user traffic, and is it intuitive from a usability perspective?
You should continue to monitor the system closely after the launch, addressing issues promptly. Monitoring tools or real-user monitoring (RUM) solutions can measure response times, page load times and transaction success rates from different locations and users. Ongoing monitoring also helps detect and respond to potential security issues quickly.
Integrating a modern admissions platform with an existing legacy system requires careful planning, technical expertise, and thorough testing to overcome compatibility, data migration, security, performance and user experience challenges.
Yet despite the challenges, the benefits of a more efficient, user-friendly, and data-driven admissions process make the endeavour worthwhile. By following these steps, IT leasers can drive their institutions towards a smoother, more modern admissions experience, delivering substantial student and staff benefits.