Predictive Analytics for #HigherEd

Published by EdTechDigest – February 24, 2017

How real-time decisioning is shaping higher education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Joe DeCosmo and Sean Naismith

CREDIT Enova.pngThe need for institutions of higher education to deliver solid return-on-investment for their students has never been greater. With the cost of traditional higher education continuing to rise, universities are in competition with each other to essentially secure high-paying careers for students upon graduation. Meanwhile, for-profit universities are striving to meet gainful employment regulations and debt-to-earnings requirements that are meant to ensure students graduate with the skills and tools necessary for career success as well as the financial capability to repay student loan debt with sufficient career earnings.

Now, and in the future, higher education institutions need innovative ways to deliver on their students’ return on investment.

Now, and in the future, higher education institutions need innovative ways to deliver on their students’ return on investment. Advanced, real-time predictive analytics decisioning technology is emerging…

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The First Jedi of @Salesforce for #HigherEd


Back in 2005 when Salesforce was still a very young platform Ed Schlesinger designed Studentforce, the first Salesforce application for Higher Education. In September 2005 Studentforce was among the first 25 products/services that were showcased on the beta version of the AppExchange.


What is Studentforce

Studentforce is a purely declarative application built on the Salesforce platform. It not only helps students to easily manage their day-to-day activities, but also allows school faculty to manage students within their educational life cycle.

As grown ups, we tend to say that the lives of students are easy and full of hedonistic fun. But this is because we have already developed our own life experience. The reality is we didn’t think this way in our school, college and university days. Do you still remember how many different tasks your days consisted of? I cannot name a single student who never missed a class because they thought it was taking place on another day. Neither do I know a student who never had to work on an assignment last minute because they completely forgot about it. Have you ever been in a situation when you (or any of your school friends) couldn’t remember the name of that red head science teacher with big glasses? Well, guess what?  That’s because none of us had the power of Studentforce.

With Studentforce, you can track classes, assignments and the grades you receive for each assignment. You can easily manage student loans, search and apply for internship opportunities and set various reminders. It even allows you to store the names of all your teachers and the subjects they teach. My personal favorite, though, is being able to discuss teachers with other students in Chatter. Sounds handy, right?

Teaching students to manage their days in an efficient way also means preparing them to be responsible adults.

Ed told me a story about his daughter’s teacher who forgot that she had already checked and marked an assignment paper. Because Ed’s daughter stored this information in Studentforce, she was able to easily find the missing information and produce it in evidence to back up her case. If that happened to me when I was a student, I would probably end up re-doing the paper. Doesn’t sound fair, agree?

Real life Jedi

I have always wondered what it was like to create Salesforce apps back in 2005. What were the available functionalities? What were the main challenges, frustrations and limitations? How did developers manage to turn their ideas into working solutions without the tools that we have today? Who, and what inspired them?

I believe that people who created those first Apps and made them available to the public were real life Jedi. It can be difficult to design a well performing solution. And, in my opinion, it was much harder back then. In 2005 Salesforce developers didn’t have extensive Apex libraries, Visualforce, Lightning Components or even workflows. Many things that can be easily done by a newly certified Salesforce Admin or Developer today belonged to a long list of unavailable functionalities. There were not many training resources available either. Someone who wanted to design a new Salesforce app had to think not just about the functional side but also how to technically implement it using a very limited range of tools and resources. These people had far less power at their disposal then today’s application developers.

From a great idea to a functional solution

 “I am by no means an expert. I am a non-technical user who has been able to develop what many think is a functional tool for students,”

Phil Wainewright quoted Ed in his blog post “Web 3.0:’s ‘Business Web’ in January 2006 (

A couple of months ago Ed Schlesinger, the first Jedi of Salesforce for Higher Education shared the story of Studentforce with me. Today, almost 11 years later he still stands by his words.

Prior to working with Salesforce platform Ed Schlesinger sold PeopleSoft implementation services to Higher Education. He already knew this industry well and noticed there were no solutions built with students in mind.  However it was Ed’s daughter that inspired him to actually start working on a solution design. One day she looked at his computer screen while Ed was working selling Salesforce implementations.  She pointed out the calendar, the tasks and said it would be great to have tabs that said Term/Semester, Classes, Assignments, etc.

At that time Salesforce had not made the platform available to developers. Almost the only configuration change type you could do was changing tab names in a rudimentary fashion.  Ed was forced to start designing Studentforce without the ability to create new objects. The solution he designed was based upon interviews he had with his children’s college and high school friends.

Ed Schlesinger then made Salesforce aware of what he was doing. Shortly after he received a call from their first CTO/CMO (Tien Tzuo who is now CEO of Zuora).That was in March 2005.  By June 2005 Salesforce had announced a beta version of the AppExchange and that 25 products/services built on the platform would be showcased.  Studentforce was one of them in September 2005.  Studentforce was the only OEM type (built fully 100% Declaratively and 100% Natively and not related to CRM) solution showcased on the AppExchange in September 2005.

Beyond September 2005 Ed continued to mature the application taking advantage of new platform capabilities as they surfaced.

I believe that Ed inspired many developers to create new Salesforce apps. Being the first at something is never easy. You don’t know what to expect. You have no idea whether your project is going to be successful or not. But the only way to find out is to actually do it.

If you have an idea and would like to develop a Salesforce app, do it now.

You won’t be the first Jedi of Salesforce for Higher Education, this place belongs to Ed Schlesinger. But you can be the first Jedi of your own Salesforce area.

Spring ’17 Release Recap

Adam To Architect

One of the great things about Salesforce is that they have releases 3 times a year with 250-300 new features each time! One of the not as great things about Salesforce is that means reading through very long documents (466 pages this time) if you want to keep up. Fortunately for you, this and other blog posts can give you a taste of the new Spring ’17 release without having to navigate all 466 pages on your own!

If you’d like to check it out for yourself though, feel free to peruse the HTML or PDF versions. I’ve included links to the portions that I mention in the titles of each subsection. You can also check out the summary videos for each cloud on the Salesforce website.


General Salesforce Enhancements

Here the my favorite General Salesforce Enhancements for this release. These changes apply to both Salesforce Classic and Lightning Experience.

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A Look Back at @jenwlee’s @Salesforce 2016

Jenwlee's Salesforce Blog


On New Year’s eve, while 2016 may not have been a great year in various events that happened, as I reflect back on the year, it has been a good year for me as it relates to Salesforce.

I am so grateful for the following…

I Became 3X Salesforce Certified

In January, I took two exams on the same day and added the Advanced Administrator and Platform App Builder certifications to my existing Administrator certification. #CertificationGoals

I shared my study/exam taking strategy with links to study resources on my blog. They are my most popular blog posts.

I Was Recognized as an #AwesomeAdmin

At the Boston World Tour in April, I was recognized by Salesforce with the #AwesomeAdmin award.


I Learned to Code

I was extremely lucky to have been selected via lottery to participate in the RADWomen program. This was huge since I never win things. So, for 10 weeks, I…

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State of 2016 Infographic

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The State Of Salesforce 2016 | An Infographic

University Research Is a Prime Candidate for IT Investment

By Dave Doucette of CDW

University research is arguably one of the most important activities undertaken in higher education, accounting for nearly $70 billion in funding in 2014. For many faculty members, research is as important as teaching, and their findings routinely contribute to societal advances in medicine, business, humanities and other disciplines.


With billions of dollars in research funding at stake, higher education institutions have several reasons to reconsider their approach to academic IT.  Despite this significance, parts of the research sector may have some catching up to do when it comes to leveraging educational technology and integrating more effectively with institutional IT. There’s a strong imperative to do so, starting with the fact that more strategic technology investments and deployments can dramatically increase efficiency. State-of-the-art tech solutions are also critical for ensuring that valuable research assets, such as confidential data and proprietary intellectual property, are protected from malicious intruders.

The good news? Institutions that rethink their approach to research infrastructure have a golden opportunity to help researchers work smarter, faster and more securely.

The Potential for Big Gains in IT Research

Back in 2009, a commissioned review of the research infrastructure at the University of California, Los Angeles, found some surprising gaps related to technology. According to the report, despite the large sums that UCLA invested in research — at the time, roughly $1 billion annually — it lacked an overarching strategy to guide research-related IT.

Several months after the review, UCLA released a nine-year IT Strategic Plan that called for a new approach to IT infrastructure, one that connects investments in IT to the university’s larger strategic goals. Among other changes, the plan included a dramatic realignment of administrative activities that support research.

When the infrastructure that supports complex research projects is not maximized, it creates inefficiencies in the administrative tasks that consume much of researchers’ time, making projects more expensive and time consuming. Less-than-optimal technology means that researchers may not have the most cutting-edge tools at their disposal when it comes to collecting and analyzing data and performing compute-intensive experiments.

By contrast, state-of-the-art technology solutions increase opportunities for collaboration with experts around the world and maximize efficiency through cloud-based platforms and services.

The Security Imperative in Protecting Assets

A more strategic approach to research computing — customized to the unique needs of research environments — is important to ensure that researchers can protect proprietary and confidential assets. Research universities possess extensive amounts of such data, both their own and that which they handle on behalf of government agencies and private companies.

At the same time, to accommodate the information sharing that many projects require, institutions often maintain greater openness in their IT environments compared with private businesses. Together, these factors make institutions an attractive target for malicious intruders — a critical concern in an era of rising cybercrime in higher education.

When research programs are too disconnected from IT departments, or when they lack a guiding technology strategy, they run the risk of becoming more vulnerable to attacks. This is important not only to protect data, but also to keep institutions competitive: Increasingly, federal research funding is tied to more stringent cybersecurity guidelines, such as the Federal Information Security Management Act.

Improved Infrastructure Creates Benefits Across the Board

At many institutions, research is closely integrated with teaching and learning, in both formalized curricula and assistantships outside the classroom. Undergraduate and graduate students often support research teams to gain hands-on practice in their disciplines, take advantage of unique learning opportunities and develop real-world skills for the workplace. These benefits, coupled with the extensive use of research assistants in higher education, mean that improving technology infrastructure can also have a dramatic effect on teaching and learning outcomes.

Institutions have many reasons to take a fresh look at research computing, and all of them make a compelling case. Researchers also have at their disposal some of the best minds in the world, not to mention those billions of dollars in research funding. Just imagine the great work they could accomplish with even better IT infrastructure.

Process Builder: Implement Simple Nested If/Then Statements using Invocable Processes

Jenwlee's Salesforce Blog


With Winter 17, we can now build reusable processes with the introduction of invocable processes! We now have the ability to build DRY solutions. Hooray!

We interrupt this blog post for an important message…

Jen Lee will be presenting a Release Readiness Webinar, Keeping it “DRY” with Reusable Processes, on December 13th at 10am PT/1pm ET.

Register by clicking on the image below.


Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

There are two reasons why you may want to use invocable processes:

  1. Modularize sections of your processes. Call it from multiple processes or from multiple action groups in the same process. Update those actions in one invocable process, all processes then use the updated actions.
  2. Implement simple nested if/then statements using invocable processes. Rather than build and invoke a flow or write code, we can now build a second level of logic into another process.

This blog post will focus…

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