Australian International Student market – a new approach

Posted by Bruno Cozzi on 02/06/2021

To-date, we Student Management System (SMS) vendors have tried to make the system do everything CRICOS providers want; for the same price as a conventional non-CRICOS system. But CRICOS requirements are much more difficult and system requirements vary significantly from one provider to the next. In fact, if vendors charged the full cost of developing and maintaining a flexible and compliant CRICOS system its doubtful any provider would be able to afford it, especially now. It’s no secret that COVID 19 has ravaged the international student market. And right now your focus will be finding alternatives and recouping costs, just to stay afloat. Against that background you can understand why SMS vendors might want to give this market a wide berth. Or they may offer unsatisfactory solutions that make the problem worse.


The lack of affordable, fit-for-purpose systems is one of the reasons good CRICOS providers are having their registrations cancelled, often ending in expensive legal battles with ASQA. That doesn’t work for anyone, not the providers, the students, or the SMS vendors.

Here, we propose a new way of thinking about your business systems. These strategies provide options to get your business compliant, profitable and back on track quickly. So, you’ll be ready for when the international borders reopen.. 


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                                                Get the right chess pieces on the board 

CRICOS-compliant all-in-one Student Management Systems (SMS)s are the most common solutions adopted by CRICOS providers across Australia. But do they make sense? We think not. They are expensive, difficult and costly to maintain, and the likelihood of them being able to deliver all the claimed functionality to an acceptable level of quality is unrealistic. That means you either need customization or go without. Now if you thought off-the-peg pricing for this type of SMS was expensive, you may need a chair before you engage in budget discussions about your customization project. 


What about this idea: Use an SMS that integrates with a state-of-the-art business productivity suite like Microsoft 365 and Teams. Chances are you already have Microsoft 365 in house. Well guess what? MS 365 can do 1000 times more to improve your CRICOS business than the best standalone CRICOS-compatible student management systems in Australia today. If your MS 365 environment is set up correctly, and can integrate with your standard Student Management System (SMS) then you’ll be flying in no time.  


                                                                                    Here’s Why 

  1. Business Productivity. Microsoft 365 has the world’s best-known Business productivity tools that we all use every day, Outlook, Excel, Word, lists, Forms, PowerPoint and many more apps included in a neat, secure, reliable and fully maintained online platform. 
  2. OneDrive (Or SharePoint). Your central location for version-controlled business documents that enable you to engage with your clients, prospective students, agents, partners and suppliers; in fully tracked communication pathways. 
  3. Flexibility and Control. You have the power and the tools to configure your business workflows to work the way you do. Tools like Power Automate, Power Apps and the many programmable elements in SharePoint allow you or your favorite IT pro to get your students completing online forms, triggering email notifications to your student administration team, sending out information packs, letters of offer, etc. 

  4. Outstanding API. Gives your “standard” SMS the ability to share data. Your SMS provides MS 365 with student information to personalize communication and agreements like “Letters of Offer”, “Invoices”, and “Requests for Information”. 
  5. Forms. Microsoft Forms allow you to create custom application, enquiry, surveys, and other forms that can be delivered, filled in and submitted online. Forms entries can be used to automatically send application processing requests to your student administrations team. More importantly they put you in control; not only of the form content, but also the form process workflow. 
  6. Reports. Even if you only use Excel or CSV, your reports can be generated from data provided by MS 365, your integrated SMS or both. But if you go the extra 5 yards and splash out on a couple of Power BI Pro accounts you’ll have a state-of-the-art Business Analytics Dashboard at your fingertips. 
  7. Integration. MS365 can integrate with 1000s of business products and add-ons out of the box. If you wanted to integrate with Timesheets, Incident Management Systems, Document archiving services, whatever. You’re likely to find high quality software solutions that MS 365 will enable you to integrate with reliably, easily and cost-effectively.
  8. Teams. If there’s one thing COVID has taught education providers its that they must have the online learning options for the future. Video Conferencing (or Virtual Instructor Led Training) is a large component of that strategy. Microsoft Teams gives you all of that capability in spades. 
  9. Cost. When you look at how much is included in a Standard MS 365 package and the productivity gains it brings you will be confident that “this is how you get value for money”.
    This list could go on for several pages. 


                       Question: What CRICOS Student Management System offers all the above? 

ANSWER: None – regardless of price there is not a single CRICOS compliant SMS in the world that offers all that capability, flexibility, reliability, security and control. So why does this strategy even need to be debated – Surely this is a no brainer?  

The reason this has not been adopted as a standard approach across Australia is simple. MS 365 is not a Student Management System. Without a lot of development and configuration effort; It can’t generate AVETMISS NAT files, it doesn’t let me design course curricula, or qualify my trainers and assessors. It can’t schedule courses, issue certificates, map competencies and elements of assessment to a nationally accredited program, and it knows absolutely nothing about the ESOS National Code.  


                                                        You’re Absolutely Right 

And that is precisely why you need an MS 365 Integrated Student Management System like Bluegem. Bluegem brings you the best combination of product, skills, expertise, industry knowledge, support and 16 years as a Microsoft Gold partner to deliver the most reliable, compliant and fully automated Student Management System for Australian international colleges. We’ve been doing learning management since 2004 and we have no plans to do anything else. 


Without drilling down to the boring detail, here’s the key to our approach: 

  1. Treat every student life-cycle as have two distinct stages: Pre-Enrolment and Post-Enrolment.
  2. Render to Microsoft the thigs that are Microsoft’s, basically all the Pre-enrolment processes.               (Pre CoE).
  3. Render to Bluegem the things that identify an active International student in accordance with ESOS (Post CoE) 


Principal: A person doesn’t belong in a Student Management System unless and until they’re a Student. All the cartwheels and hoops that CRICOS providers have to engineer and deal with to process applications, and obtain a CoE have absolutely nothing to do with Student management. This is the very area that MS 365 with all its flexibility is extremely good at. Now when you take away all those complex processes described in the ESOS National Code, what you’re left with is a common old garden variety AVETMISS-compliant SMS.  


                            Guess where all the unique provider-specific processes live?  

That’s right – in the Pre-enrolment stage. That’s where you most need flexibility and control. MS 365 is really good at flexible application processing, document management, communications and workflow automation. Bluegem LMS/SMS is really good at student Management. Together they make an amazing house-and-land package. But they need a highly skilled construction team to develop an outstanding property. The Bluegem team has the Leaning Systems expertise, outstanding industry knowledge and 16 years of Microsoft integration experience. The perfect partner to help you with that new build. 

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