Mobile Mashups — Meeting the Digital Integration Challenge
Matthew Sherlock, Product Director – Campus Solutions, Ex Libris
Universities are complex places. With numerous departments servicing different user groups across multiple campuses and even countries, data flows across systems constantly so that end users can receive the services that they need.
Users don’t want to feel like they are moving between different interfaces. They don’t care about what the back end systems is – they simply want to access services in an intuitive way, with a coherent workflow that is focused on their needs, rather than the technologies or systems involved.
Institutions are increasingly looking towards a consistent native mobile technology to be able to bridge these various systems in a format that students engage with – providing what I call a mashup of services.
The term mashup is commonly used, for example, in the music industry, to describe two or more pieces of music that are combined to make a new tune. One of my favorites is a mashup of Pink Floyd and The Bee Gees. (I’m probably showing my age here.)
More recently the term “mashup” has been appropriated to describe web applications that work together to give users a better, more integrated experience, making a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
EDUCAUSE has identified digital integration as one of the top 10 issues facing higher education in 2018, or in its words, the challenge of “ensuring system interoperability, scalability, extensibility as well as data integrity… across multiple applications and platforms.”
Integrated services have obvious advantages. Integrated services allow the institution to give users a holistic view of services, ensure that strategy is aligned across departments, and enable better use of resources.
In practice, imagine a student going into a library. There are a number of functions that they may need to complete, and they are going to access different back-end systems to complete those tasks. They may need to search and discover resources, reserve them, and even pay fines. If you can “mashup” these different services into a single front-end system, it makes for a much better user experience.
How does mobile help, I hear you ask? With smartphones, students and other university users can carry their institution with them wherever they go. They already expect to be able to manage every part of their life via their phones. Institutions need to make this process as easy and intuitive as possible, allowing them to access services on the go.
Mobile is the perfect vehicle for delivering mashup services – multi-system integration delivered through an intuitive, personalized interface focused on what the user needs rather than the system being accessed, all accessed from a device that travels with the student every step of the way.
Through the correct use of mobile to deliver services and information to students and other users, institutions of higher education can meet the digital integration challenge in a way that feels like a natural extension their users’ lifestyle. Mobile mashup services are the epitome of what mashups are all about: the best of all possible worlds.
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