Interview With Balasundaram Athreya: The Significance of Technology Adoption in HEIs

As the impact of technology on the learning and teaching process continues to evolve, we recognize the importance of keeping pace with these changes. In a recent conversation with the CollPoll team, Mr. Balasundaram Athreya, President (India Operations) & Chief Digital Officer at Manipal Global Education Services, shares his insights on the crucial role that technology adoption plays in higher education institutions. He sheds light on the benefits that institutions can derive from implementing technology and its potential to revolutionize the education landscape.

 

About Mr. Balasundaram Athreya!

Balasundaram Athreya is a highly experienced professional with over 35 years of expertise in diverse roles spanning multiple countries. As the President and CDO of Manipal Global Education Services, he is responsible for mentoring the digitization strategies of all campus businesses and driving digital transformation initiatives to enhance stakeholder experiences. He is also actively involved in leading and supporting specific SBUs within Manipal Global. 

Mr. Athreya’s management capabilities are broad, including finance, projects, infrastructure, student services, and digital experience innovation. He joined Manipal Education in 2009 and has held various roles across special projects, business delivery fulfilment, leadership, people and team development, and strategic planning support.

 

Mr. Balasundaram Athreya shares his views on the importance of adopting technology  for HEIs and the implementation of CollPoll to enhance the campus experience.

 

You had a glorious stint in the corporate sector but planned to switch to higher education. How has your journey been from experiencing diverse leadership roles in the corporate space to constantly striving to improve education in India?

I believe, even today I am a part of the corporate sector in higher education; it is also part of an education brand that is 60 years old and is one of the most trusted and revered names in the Indian education industry. So Manipal is a highly regarded brand in both healthcare and education in India. Apart from its strong presence in the university space, it has also expanded into other areas of education where it can collaborate with the industry to provide skilling or reskilling programs for current job roles.

The Manipal Group found that creating a corporate entity and working with the industry was the way to address the gap between the graduation output and industry needs. The Academy of boot camps was created, including the Manipal Academy of Banking, to provide specific skilling programs that help people have the market knowledge and better-standardized production methods. This collaboration between academia and industry is essential to upskill youth and help small and medium industries in India to gain more economic value.

 

Could you through some light on how Manipal Global Education has used technology to transform the experience of the stakeholders?

Since 2009, we have heavily invested in adopting SAP to create an entire ecosystem of platforms and support student lifecycle management. However, over the years, SAP became increasingly strenuous and difficult to assimilate to our requirements. While SAP laid the foundation of technology, we also experimented with other platforms including Microsoft tools, and software to manage content, academic administration, and other campus operations.

In 2018, we custom-created a complete student lifecycle management and implemented it in all our institutions. However, the pandemic made us re-look at our technological strategies. We standardised a few new platforms to boost stakeholder experiences including CollPoll as a nimble, easy-to-use platform for relatively simpler and less regulated institutions of the Manipal group.

The implementation of CollPoll at the Manipal Academy of Banking has been highly successful, and we are now considering adopting CollPoll’s Learning Management System to further improve the overall experience for students, faculty, administration, and all other stakeholders involved. Our aim is to make processes more user-driven rather than technology-driven. We look forward to enhancing student, faculty, administration, and overall stakeholder experience at our institutions.

 

What are the top 3 things you find most exciting about CollPoll?

What excites me the most about CollPoll are the following three things:

 

  • Firstly, the platform is incredibly user-friendly and straightforward, with no complexities or difficulties to contend with. The way in which the features and workflows are presented is easily understandable and relatable, making it simple to navigate and utilise.
  • Secondly, the platform has been designed in a clear and uncluttered manner, with a well-organized structure and a user-friendly user interface. With almost 75% of the required features already included in the platform, it is highly advantageous for higher education institutions.
  • Thirdly, CollPoll‘s capability to seamlessly integrate with other platforms is a major advantage. It provides a comprehensive range of modules and features on a single platform, including a student lifecycle system, academic administration system, student accounting system, blended learning management system, an exemplary examination management system, and more. All of these functionalities are available on a single platform, making it highly convenient for users.

 

Could you share some tips for other higher education institutions on – how they can plan the implementation of technology and deal with the resistance that comes along with it?

Resistance to change is natural and is born out of uncertainty. I believe that it is the duty of education leaders to lead the implementation of technology from the front. Making sure that people understand the why’s and what’s of a process is very essential.

To start the implementation, the institutions should focus on offering better user experiences and should support the users, especially during the start of the transformational journey. Even with the implementation of CollPoll at Manipal Academy of Banking, I made sure that we took in every ounce of understanding of the features, modules, and workflows of the platform.

From my perspective, the primary challenge that institutions encounter is not resistance to change but rather insufficient support from leadership. If leaders take complete responsibility for leading the projects and driving change, it becomes easier. Today, different technology-based programs and platforms should be introduced as something that makes workflows, experiences, synergies, and efficiencies more natural.

 

How would you describe the contribution of CollPoll to the institutions of Manipal Group?

CollPoll came in as a great fit for our institutions. The platform comes with a ready-made kit to support various campus operations of higher education institutions. Thus, making support an important part to play. Understanding the customer requirements and offering an alternative approach is also very essential. CollPoll has provided the support of being present whenever necessary for our teams.

According to my understanding, the relationship with the customer grows when you become a part of the user journey. Realising the limitations and requirements of a feature and delivering the right support is critical.

 

Mr. Balasundaram Athreya shares his views on CollPoll!

 

CollPoll offers the commitment, professionalism, and support that we require at our institutions. From effective team cooperation to understanding our challenges, the platform has really helped us throughout the processes.

 

Thank You Mr. Balasundaram Athreya for such a wonderful conversation, we look forward to having you again!

Keep watching this space for more interviews of CollPoll on higher education space and emerging trends!

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