Salesforce.org Higher Ed Advisory Council Introduces Unity

By Salesforce.org | September 15, 2015 | | Dreamforce, Higher Education

By: Colleen Whelan, Director of Client Engagement, Campus Community Technologies at Yale University

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

While some will debate who uttered those sage words, most will agree that knowledge and experience have the greatest impact when shared and that engaged learning makes a stronger impression than rote lessons. We certainly agree and are excited, in fact, thrilled to unveil our community building and campus engagement application today.

It’s called Unity. It’s a product for the higher ed community that was developed by the higher ed community (the Salesforce Higher Education Advisory Council (HEAC) partnered with Motivis Learning). It’s been developed as a result of collaborative effort and sharing of expertise. It’s designed to lower barriers to progress, accelerate results, and help you accomplish your goals. It’s poised to do the same for your campus constituents! Oh, and did we mention – it’s free.

So, what IS Unity?

It’s a digital community platform that blends intuitive front-end experience with powerful back-end tools and information.

The HEAC submitted the project as part of last year’s Force For Change Grant program. We envisioned and proposed a virtual forum where:

  • Students have a front-end platform that makes it easy to navigate the school’s resources. Empowered with instant access to people, ideas and information, they can focus less on logistics and more on value-added activities that help them to achieve their individual goals.
  • Faculty and administrators have a single point for online engagement and a means to more effectively interact with students and help them succeed. The social front-end combined with a data driven back-end opens up new opportunities for reporting and analytics on student activity and behavior.

We dreamed up a digital community to support all parties in the learning experience; facilitate interactions that build stronger, more meaningful relationships, and; positively affect academic outcomes.

Building the Dream

The HEAC, with inspired leadership by Rebecca Joffrey, Director of Interactive Services at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, developed the case and made the pitch for this new vision on Salesforce Communities. The Salesforce.org demonstrated their support by awarding the HEAC a Force For Change grant.

Still, we needed a team to actually MAKE the product. Enter, Motivis Learning. Motivis had deep edtech development expertise proven through their work with competency-based College for America. Motivis signed the Pledge 1% and were ready to give back. They contributed both time and resources to bring Unity to life.

Unity for Higher Ed

Unveiling the Dream…at Dreamforce

Today, we are all happy to bring the HEAC’s vision to reality in the form of this powerful community building tool that layers on top of Salesforce–making it easy for schools to get started right out of the box. Unity extends the power of Salesforce Communities enabling students and educators to interact, engage…really get involved in the learning experience (per the sage quote referenced at the beginning of this blog post).

With robust functionality and an intuitive interface, Unity has the potential to make strong impressions and have a positive impact on higher education communities and collaboration. We hope that our dream will enable students to be like T.E. Lawrence’s “dreamers of the day” who “…act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

Introducing Unity

Oh! The Best Part…

Unity is free! The HEAC, Salesforce.org, and Motivis, are offering Unity for free as an open-source version as well as a fully-managed and supported free version from Motivis that will launch on the Salesforce Appexchange later this fall (licenses for the underlying Community product must be purchased). The highly flexible, configurable and open source design allows any organization to leverage the solution and tailor it to their individual needs.

So whether you are a faculty member or a staff member working in student advising, housing, career services, financial aid, admissions, the registrar’s office…take some time to explore what Unity has to offer.

Or if you’re at Dreamforce, look for the Unity booth in the Foundation Zone and catch a demo.

We look forward to hearing stories about how Unity helps you connect your campus.

About the author
Colleen WhelanColleen Whelan is Director of Client Engagement, Campus Community Technologies at Yale University. Colleen collaborates with colleagues in central IT and throughout Yale to achieve institutional goals related to community, outreach, and administration through the use of technology. Colleen led a project to build a custom events app for a reunions on the Salesforce platform for the alumni association. Prior to working in academia, she worked at an interactive services firm and the Federal Reserve. She served on the Force for Change Grant committee that produced the open-source product, Unity, for the higher education community. Colleen is a founding officer of the Higher Education Advisory Council. Of note: Colleen hosted the first Salesforce.org Summit for Northeast Higher Ed institutions at Yale University.