Universidad Insurgentes improves the student experience to help every student reach graduation

Modernizing a university with technology

In 2017, when Universidad Insurgentes (UIN) was purchased by new owners, the first task was to bring technology into its classrooms. “Before, the university was very traditionally managed—there was no software, no technology,” explains Ricardo Phillips, CEO of UIN. “All this time, we’ve been putting in technology to the back office and academic offices.”

As part of the process, Félix Parral, UIN’s chief academic officer, and Victor Lazarín, UIN’s chief commercial and student experience officer, also added technology to improve the student experience. On each campus is a Google lab stocked with Chromebooks, the recommended device for UIN students seeking to buy laptops to use at home or on campus. Libraries now also have Chromebooks for students to use or borrow, and all students have a Google login so they can access Workspace solutions like Google Docs and Google Sheets.

Perhaps the biggest leap forward was the adoption of Google Classroom, which UIN pairs with Open LMS, the open-source learning management system. Since many courses at UIN are taught online to allow students flexibility in reaching their educational goals, Classroom has proven to be a critical tool for students and educators.

Ease of use is critical for UIN tools, as is the ability to use technology to improve student success. Most of the UIN student body is low-income, and many students are the first in their families to attend college. Seventy percent of students work while they attend school, and so take classes in the evening or online to accommodate their schedules. Many come to UIN with only minimal knowledge of technology, so any tools that the university provides needs to be as easy to use as a mobile app—a requirement that Classroom and Workspace meet.

An upgrade to improve access to video conferencing and data analysis

UIN leaders decided to upgrade to Google Workspace for Education Plus for several reasons, including broader access to Google Meet as well as enhanced security features. However, initial conversations around upgrading to Education Plus began as UIN worked toward its goal to help students make the most of their time in college, and provide them with the technology and support they needed to succeed.

As part of its goal to help its students succeed, UIN leaders want to keep close tabs on how students use technology solutions, their class attendance and performance, and how well they’re able to complete homework assignments. “For low-income students, as many as 50 percent might not graduate,” Lazarín explains. “That’s why we’re taking the information we gather and putting it all into one database where we can try to measure how attached students are to the university.”

UIN took early steps toward creating the retention database by using BigQuery, the serverless, scalable, and cost-effective multi-cloud data warehouse that’s part of Google Cloud. By upgrading to Education Plus, UIN can continue to refine its database, perform deeper analytics, generate reports, and monitor trends.

Video offers greater flexibility to working students

A key component of retention is improving the overall education experience—everything from offering flexibility to students who can’t always attend school in class, to easily delivering class materials to remote students. With Education Plus, UIN staff and educators can connect with up to 250 participants in each virtual meeting, or livestream up to 100,000 in-domain viewers.

With as many as 250 people in a Meet class, we now have more ways to share educational content with students. Meet is also integrated with other Workspace tools, so we can take advantage of the breadth of Google.

Félix Parral, Chief Academic Officer, Universidad Insurgentes

“We needed more powerful and flexible technology for online classes,” Parral says.

With larger Meet classes and other Workspace tools, UIN can continue to offer flexibility when making classes available to every student. During the university’s three-year degree programs, the first year is largely full time; the second and third are a mix of online and part-time classes. “Some classes may have only 20 students, while some will have dozens more,” Phillips explains. “In those larger Meet classes, we can have more students review materials through Classroom and still receive feedback from teachers, even if students have less time during the Meet to work one-on-one with teachers.”

Ease of use for everyone in the university community

Phillips sums up the benefits of Education Plus in one word: easy.

“For the students we’re teaching, this is very important,” he says. “Because Meet and other tools in Education Plus are easy to use, the student experience is much better. Our kids are busy with work, and have to take buses and the Metro to get to UIN campuses after working—they don’t have the time or the patience to deal with complicated technology.”

Education Plus will also make life easier for UIN educators as the database on student retention is built out. “Teachers will benefit from understanding student behavior, and how we can improve upon the data we uncover,” Phillips says.

And finally, Education Plus is easy for UIN’s IT team to manage. “We can run the back offices on Education Plus as well as offer a simple platform for education,” Lazarín says. “Education Plus is easier for students and teachers, while giving us the core strength we need in the background.”