In an era of relentless technological advancement, institutions of higher education are actively seeking to keep pace, striving to streamline their operations to enhance productivity and manage the complex web of data they handle. AGH University of Krakow initiative - DSI.Portal - emerges as an innovative solution to these challenges, offering a cohesive ecosystem aimed at revolutionising the digital transformation landscape in academic institutions.
Created by university for universities.
AGH DSI.Portal in short
DSI.Portal is a software platform that solves the following problems:
Problem: Organisations struggles with a huge number of systems that stores its data. Answer: DSI Connects all of them into one useful resource. No need to replace them. No need to modify current architecture. You get one coherent and reliable data hub.
Problem: Users are unable to find informations, thus knowledge is obscured and unavailable. Answer: Uses LLMs (ChatGPT like AI interface) to understand user requests and provide the matching resources.
Problem: Introducing new system into already complicated environment is futile. Answer: Creates an easy-to-implement developer’s environment, whereby organisations employees are able to extend the system by themself.
Problem: Systems available on the market are hard to use and train, thus have a steep learning curve for employees. Answer: Leverages beautiful UX and modern design concepts. Built upon the most recent frontend technologies for best user experience.
Problem: Systems available on the market are created by and for corporations, not for education sector. Answer: A tool created by university for universities with higher education needs in mind.
What distinguishes DSI.Portal from existing systems
At the core of the DSI.Portal's vision is the digital transformation of processes—integrating diverse tools within specific organisations to create seamless workflows. The AGH University of Krakow started an inside pilot program to exemplify the idea. It includes several integrations, the amalgamation of knowledge from varied sources, and the navigation of sometimes conflicting stakeholder interests.
Other universities have developed similar tools, but hence they weren’t universal, they have struggled to achieve any adoption. Such tools typically encounter issues due to each organisation’s unique requirements, resulting in the necessity for a rigorous process of requirements engineering and technological customisation. It is because they built it only with their own particular interest in mind. But not this time.
Is a platform for connecting existing systems, a tool for cooperation. It uses a REST API (API-Platform) for communication between modules and systems.
Gives a user friendly interface to other scattered systems - designed to be their frontend.
No need for replacing existing tools, just leverage what is best in them.
Offers ready to use components and guidelines for developers to grow on what is already done.
Was created solely with academic purpose in mind.
Challenges faced by universities in implementing digital transformation
Being a part of a higher education world AGH knows first-hand how difficult it is to not stray off of the digital transformation path. HigherEd organisations usually stuck across these problems:
Lack of integration between multiple systems or the integration is pricey and difficult
Big systems are designed for corporations, not crafted for education
High budget requirements that make them inaccessible for many public institutions, especially the smaller ones
Lengthy and complicated buying process that discourages businesses from creating tools for universities
No direct incentive to collaborate in this manner between organisations
Solutions are built by solo engineers, thus they are non-user-friendly (often times even ugly and unusable)
System are built to solve only one problem, for one organisation, making it impossible to share solutions across.
A Platform for Development and Innovation
Knowing these obstacles the strategic plan for DSI.Portal involves making it a comprehensive ecosystem that supports new approach in digital transformation.
It is done by using well versed technologies like PHP, Python. They are widely known and many of the universities staff will already know them. This makes the further development affordable and allows for in-house teams to build and innovate on top of our platform. By design there are PostgreSQL and a MongoDB databases, but other solution can be integrated as well.
By enabling the distribution of tool implementation capabilities, akin to the Apple Developers Platform, it allows organisations to customise and adjust this software their experience. Each entity could use core tools developed by AGH and independently integrate additional modules, harnessing the data shared across this ecosystem's components.
This modular design is already evident in software giants like Salesforce and SAP, which provide a data layer and interfaces accessible to certified developers for crafting bespoke tools. Likewise, DSI.Portal is expected to serve as a development gateway, fostering an environment where innovative projects (e.g. utilising machine learning and big data) could thrive.
MVP launched in 2023
The first stop on this path was to deliver a MVP by the end of 2023, focusing on functional modules CoCo and LAURA along with building a bedrock architecture and technology for the future development and growth.
LAURA - Documenting educational/scientific achievements. Managing achievements throughout the organisation along with evaluation and employee assessment.
It is a single place where organisation employees can collect their achievements and create their portfolio. The module allows, for example, to prepare quality education reports based on the achievements of teaching staff. In addition to collecting achievements, it also has the task of caring for their quality, therefore it has a built-in mechanism for verifying and approving achievements introduced by employees.
CoCo - an AI-powered catalogue of the organisation's resources and competences, enabling collaboration with the business and scientific community.
It consists of a publicly available catalogue of competences and services of the university (scientific publications, projects, research equipment, etc.) together with the profile of the scientific creator.
Allows business representatives to communicate with an AI assistant using LLM (almost like a human innovation broker) to explore what the university has to offer their company - even without signing any NDAs.
Potential for Integration in the Scientific Realm
An exciting dimension of DSI.Portal is the potential to integrate the scientific community within a single platform.
While instances could remain isolated for confidentiality, the possibility for selective data exchange facilitates collaboration, big data analysis, and AI-powered endeavours, pointing towards groundbreaking applications and collaborations.
DSI.Portal is also well-suited for public organisations, often beleaguered by inefficient data exchange systems. For example by enabling cross university, LLM-based research for scientists working on the similar problem - the portal could offer a relatively straightforward remedy to such pervasive challenges.
This will of course require all parties to have trust in this ecosystem, and in order to have trust it must offer a robust toolset. This will be the future course of development. Although today one of such solution that DSI.Portal offers is an AI Interface to safely and confidentially ask questions regarding university offering for business. This means that an entrepreneur can find out what patents, knowledge or research equipment university can offer without a help of human (usually a technology broker) or even without signing a non-disclosure agreements (which are usually a deal breakers and make this research strenuous).
AGH case study - DSI.Portal impact
Integrated several different data sources and created a cohesive interface for the user
Use of AI chat interface to enhance search capabilities for technology transfer and helping cooperation with business
Created a catalogue of the organisation's resources and competences, enabling collaboration with the business community.
Transformed paper-process of documenting employees educational and scientific achievements
Questions you may have
How does the DSI.Portal work precisely? How does it integrate with the existing systems? The DSI.Portal operates as an all-encompassing platform that combines all of a university's systems into a unified data hub. Using a REST API, it communicates between various modules and systems within a university, connecting data silos. It streamlines data from various areas like administrative records, academic databases, and research data, eliminating the need for multiple disparate systems. This cohesive strategy simplifies data management and offers an easy-to-navigate interface.
What are some case studies or examples where DSI.Portal has been successful? AGH University, for example, serves as a case study where DSI.Portal has been successfully implemented. The university integrated multiple distinct data sources to create a streamlined, user-friendly interface using DSI.Portal. This transition digitalised many paper processes, like the documentation of employees' education and research accomplishments. As a result, the university was able to seamlessly collaborate with businesses, thereby enhancing its overall potential.
Can it be customised according to the specific needs of a university? DSI.Portal is highly customisable. The platform provides ready-to-use components and guidelines for developers and allows universities to extend and adapt the system to their needs. The software can be adjusted and customised to match the unique requirements of every university.
What are LLMs (ChatGPT like AI interface) and MVP? Can you explain these technical aspects in simpler terms?LLM, or Language Models, is an AI interface used in DSI.Portal to understand and fulfil user requests by finding matching resources. MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, is a term used to describe the earliest version of a product, developed with just enough features to satisfy early adopters and provide feedback for future development.
Beyond efficiency and data management, how does the DSI.Portal aid in the overall growth and development of a university? Above and beyond efficient data management, DSI.Portal fosters an environment that encourages innovation and aids in the overall growth and development of a university. Its developer-friendly environment and modular design enable innovative projects, such as those utilising machine learning and big data, to thrive.
How costly is this digital transition using DSI.Portal? The cost of transitioning with DSI.Portal is designed to be affordable. By leveraging established technologies like PHP and Python, which many universities already have in-house teams for, DSI.Portal avoids the need for costly custom builds.
How secure is this platform? DSI.Portal places a high priority on data security, with stringent measures in place to ensure that data is safely stored and transferred. This software was a subject to security and accessibility audits performed by an external entity.
Are there any limitations or challenges that DSI.Portal has in its current form? While the current form of DSI.Portal offers a substantial number of solutions to various higher education challenges, future developments will focus on increasing its capabilities, integrating more systems, and enhancing its AI components.
What's next in the development roadmap for DSI.Portal? The future development roadmap for DSI.Portal encompasses making it an even more comprehensive tool for digital transformation. The focus will be on enhancing its AI capabilities, including more systems, and fostering effective collaboration across institutions.
DSI.Portal is set to become an indispensable tool in higher education digitisation, offering a versatile platform that adapts to each entity's specific needs. By balancing innovation with practicality and offering a modular approach to digital integration, DSI.Portal is paving the way towards a more interconnected, efficient, and innovative future for higher education institutions and beyond.