Digitisation of educational services in South Africa

By Catherine Rowell

South Africa is currently a major growth region for the education sector, with the rise of new colleges and education establishments across the region. Last year, Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI) changed its name to Pearson Institute of Higher Education. The name change was a natural progression since in 2010, Pearson bought a majority stake in MGI and in 2013 became 100% owners of the institution.  

Through its implementation in South Africa, Technology Director Thuli Hlongwane has been behind the development and delivery of the company’s applications for students at the Pearson Institute, in addition to overseeing the company’s financial and HR systems. Hlongwane is also responsible for managing the project management office (PMO), encompassing all technology implementation, direct delivery and system integration. She explains: “With students, we look at them as prospects at Pearson, from the time of registration to enrolment. We do that on a CRM application. We are then able to progress the student through the level of registration.”

In order to provide a personalised and world-class service, Hlongwane liaises with colleagues and speaks with students directly in order to efficiently look at requirements from a systems perspective. Pearson has also recently gone live with a new HR platform, integrating current systems to ensure the best possible experience for staff and bring forth streamlined business processes.

At present, Pearson is in the process of enrolling students which occurs twice a year, once at the beginning of the year, and then in mid-year. All students are enrolled on Pearson’s CRM application, at which this information is then linked to target systems, such as the institute’s financial systems and student information system. However, Pearson is currently working on a platform regarding online registration for students.

Well equipped

Students at Pearson Institute are provided with tablets, containing full academic content and global systems, such an eReader and the student portal application. These technological developments have proved advantageous and have become part of the students’ induction process and success throughout their studies. Measurable learning outcomes and employable graduates are cornerstones of success.

Hlongwane explains: “For us it is all about student experience. Through the tablet, students will know their way around, have access to  different systems and know what’s available within the institution, just before they set into class”. However, in certain subjects, some students still prefer textbooks, but Hlongwane concludes “this is the exception rather than the norm”.

PIHE’s Learner Management System (LMS), myLMS, will enable students to gain access to their course material, assignments, quizzes, results, and ongoing communication with their lecturers. The myLMS team adds: “Communication with our students is of the utmost importance. The LMS system allows us to post new information directly to students, or to groups of students by qualification, campus, or nationally.”

Integration of our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, Salesforce, allows Pearson to capture and identify trends and provides insight into the students’ needs and wants, and how the company can provide the best student experience.

The advantages of the integration of current systems has even been considered for students who are graduating from the institution. Hlongwane explains: “It is more on the employability side. We implemented a system for the students who are graduating and also for current students to make sure that they have proper access or exposure to employers, whether as interns or for permanent positions”.

Further enhancement

With the revamping of Pearson’s academic management systems (AMS), technology will further support all activities on the 12 campuses for an increased number of students, which is rising year on year. Hlongwane explains: “It’s centralised because we have one technology team supporting our operations, and also, ensures that we have the proper support in place.” Pearson’s helpdesk is currently outsourced, but it is imperative that all calls are logged through this system by the respective campuses, with follow up on all incidents and proper troubleshooting on all issues. Calls must also be directed to the right environment.

Pearson’s global projects, such as its OneCRM application are implemented by global teams, incorporating strong partnerships with consulting/implementation companies. However, Pearson also partners with a number of local suppliers in the hosting of the institute’s applications, telecommunications and local networks deployment. Whilst Pearson’s student portal is also hosted externally, its AMS application is supported by local partners, alongside the institution’s two financial applications.

Long term, Pearson’s continual focus on the student journey, data security, alongside the integration of systems will enable students to interact with the institution more effectively.

“The rebranding of MGI to Pearson Institute is a positive step towards ensuring excellence in learning and providing high quality education to all students. Measurable learning outcomes and employable graduates are cornerstones of our success.  Providing educational materials may be what Pearson is best known for but we also own and operate a number of learning institutions around the world”.  Hlongwane adds that being part of an international company improves partnership with global universities and students benefit from these partnerships.


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