Reinventing Service Access through the CloudRob Lowden | Executive Associate Dean and Chief Information Officer in the School of Medicine, Indiana University
Today’s students rely heavily upon their smartphones, tablets and laptops to search for campus services and information in an ever-mobile and ever-connected community. Unfortunately, cluttered portals of the past and un-navigable websites can make this task challenging and time consuming.
Nimble cloud solutions have emerged as popular alternatives to historic and often archaic methods of providing students access to the information and systems that support their academic success. Modern student expectations revolve around instant and intuitive access to content that is available wherever and whenever they need it. A fresh and responsive interface is a prerequisite for any contemporary system that is competing for a student’s time and attention. Systems that leverage information to ensure a more robust and custom experience are the minimum bar of expectation. Through a multi-tenant, cloud-delivered platform, the One.IU application provides that cutting-edge experience and saves students at Indiana University precious time compared to the historic portal of the past. With elastic capacity and scalability for growth and demand, the cloud architecture of One.IU is consistent with industry-leading platforms and service delivery architectures that dominate the market.
OneStart, our old portal for accessing administrative services and systems at IU, was well past its prime, with a navigational structure that had grown labyrinthine. Over a decade, it became cluttered with information that didn’t always fit neatly in an intuitive place. It had begun to resemble an overstuffed closet that hadn’t been cleaned out in years, but it was loaded with vital resources that our students, staff and faculty used every day (if they could find them). Things like paychecks, requisitions, our emergency notification system, and even the library portal were packed in—all with highly decentralized service owners, some of whom harbored territorial feelings about their parts of the site. It was clunky, disorganized, confusing, and unfortunately the only way we had for people to access important information. Consumers of the aging portal found the resources and services they sought through learned, repetitive navigation and patient commitment. The longer a student was at IU, the more likely they were to ultimately know how to access content required for success in their academic career. However, new students had no intuitive way to learn the ins and outs of the portal and depended on written, multipart steps to achieve simple tasks like viewing grades. It couldn’t go on like this.
At the ripe old age of 14, OneStart retired this October after the IU community had transitioned to our new solution, One.IU. This journey and ultimate transition started over two years ago and had student needs in mind since its earliest beginnings. In 2013, Indiana University developed One.IU (one.iu.edu) as a way for students, staff and faculty to quickly find and access university services such as grades, class schedules, and email in a marketplace format. We started with the top 100 tasks students performed in OneStart, focusing on things that would have a direct benefit and immediate value to them. Since then, we’ve streamlined access to more than 400 tasks for 130,000 users across eight campuses.
When we began the process of creating One.IU, we thought about how our students, faculty and staff typically access things in their lives. We realized quickly that there’s an app for just about everything, and that’s how a lot of people get around in the world today. So we set out to create an app-store-like experience for our users. We created a core search function like Google’s because people prefer to find things that way, a browse function that behaves similarly to an app store, and a site that works equally well on a desktop, mobile or handheld device.
As a result of our efforts, on-demand access has improved dramatically with One.IU. Students simply search for then click on the task they are interested in accomplishing, and they are on their way. This Search, Click, Done approach saves students valuable time with IU administrative systems and services. They quickly find what they need, immediately accessing and completing the task at hand instead of getting lost in a maze of options and links.
A bonus feature of One.IU’s design is its re-configurability as a discovery gateway for any report or dashboard from any part of IU. Also, because we developed One with the expectation of cloud delivery, multi-tenancy is built in, allowing IU and any other institution to configure a custom tenant and leverage this single cloud-based code source. We’ve applied this same flexible, multi-tenant design concept as a report discovery tool for IU’s Decision Support Initiative, as a municipal service resource for cities, and as a knowledge base that centralizes information for organizations. With a simple search, leaders can easily find and access reports and dashboards to help them make informed, data-driven decisions.
Because One.IU is so versatile, we decided to make it available to others with similar needs. In July 2014, we partnered with rSmart to make this innovative, cloud-based solution available to all higher education institutions as OneCampus. Now everyone from community college districts to large research universities has the opportunity to use OneCampus, simplifying access to campus services and collecting valuable user data to drive future enhancements, features and initiatives.
Author Perspective: Administrator