Our work — Aalto university

Salesforce transforms the academic experience at Aalto University

A splintered IT legacy meant Aalto University academic administrators were spending much of their time on manual work. Then they switched to Salesforce in a project with Fluido – transforming the online experience for everyone on campus.

5

work streams for nine different projects

6

weeks to build the course catalogue

8 000

applications handled in the first five months

800

faculty staff trained to use the system

With some 17,500 students and 4,000 staff, Aalto University is one of Finland’s leading tertiary-education institutes. It was formed in 2010 through the merger of three Finnish universities, each of which specialized in a different area of academia: engineering, business, and art & design. Today these disciplines are taught through six schools.

While its legacy means Aalto can offer students a multi-disciplinary education, it did create challenges for student administration and the online academic experience. Each school came with its own approach to handling applications, engaging with students, and providing faculty members with digital support. Some 40 different systems were in use.

In 2015, Aalto began experimenting with new concepts and tools aimed at offering students a more unified digital experience. This was how the university decided upon implementing Salesforce for its student-engagement platform. In 2020, Aalto put out a public tender for a Salesforce partner. Fluido won the contract.

“This was a significant project for Aalto,” says Fluido’s Education Practice Lead, Kari Poutanen. “The university wanted to completely change the way it engages with students and other constituents, and they realized that their ability to do so is very strongly tied to the technologies they use.”

An integrated student experience

The project began with Aalto’s Learning Services, a function that supports students all the way through their academic experience — from admission to graduation and beyond. As a first phase of the project, Fluido’s task was to build a new Salesforce-based application process for Bachelor’s and Master’s students. Since it was taken into use in December 2020, the new system has handled more than 8,000 applications.

Eija Zitting has been Head of Learning Services at Aalto University since 2014. She explains the background to the project and why her team chose Salesforce:

“With legacy systems from four engineering schools, a business school, and an arts & design school, the online experience was confusing for students and teachers alike,” says Zitting. “We were doing lots of work just managing data between these different systems, leaving too little time for working directly with the students.”

“We understood that new tools were needed, so we performed a thorough review of the different solutions available on the market. From this we learned what to expect and what was possible to achieve, giving us valuable insights for our public procurement. That was when we saw that Salesforce has a lot of good elements we could immediately take into use,” she says.

For a benchmark on best practices, the Learning Services team visited Georgetown University in Washington DC. The 230-year-old university has embraced Salesforce for teacher support, learning analytics, CRM and more.

“We saw from Georgetown’s experience with Salesforce that students have excellent access to all the information they need. Teachers also have great visibility into course enrollments, outstanding assignments and more. They’ve experienced massive reductions in the amount of manual work,” says Zitting.

 

Deeper interaction with students

In addition to making Aalto’s application process easier for administrators to manage, Fluido has also created a single-login dashboard for students. All their important academic information is now in one place.

Salesforce Advisor Link has been brought into use too, allowing academic coaches to engage more closely with students. Prior to the implementation of Advisor Link, students needed to book and reschedule appointments by email. It was difficult for the administrators to track each student, with advice notes often made in different systems.

“Advisor Link is essential for our academics,” says Zitting. “All the information and tools they need are in one place, making student engagement much easier.”

“Here at Aalto Learning Services, we can focus more on interacting with students as the Salesforce implementation proceeds,” she says. “This is not only good for our students’ academic experience, it’s also great for the wellbeing of Learning Services employees. It makes our work much more meaningful.”

Salesforce caters to academia

Fluido has more than a dozen academic customers across Europe, including business schools, private schools, and research universities like Aalto.

“Fluido has been working closely with education institutions for a long time now to create solutions that fit their needs,” says Poutanen. “With Salesforce, it’s easy to build services that offer a great customer experience, while being accessible, compliant and safe.”

“Moving to a unified platform means fewer systems to license and maintain. It reduces complexity and costs by streamlining processes and lowering your on-premise investment. Nobody looks back after seeing the benefits of the change,” he says.

 

Pictures Tuomas Uusheimo 

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