When I first started chatting with David Marr at this year's Blackboard Education Technology Conference* (also known as Bb World or #BbW12 on Twitter) I was immediately intrigued by how much he sounded like someone who really "got" Student Affairs. Marr, the President of Blackboard's Transact platform, spoke to me about student engagement, financial aid, the admissions funnel, retention, auxiliary services, strategic enrollment management, campus cards, and Student Affairs advancement.
Campus cards, as I've previously written about aren't necessarily that interesting. However, according to Marr, what makes campus cards important (and their future replacements) is the concept of a campus credential. An individual student's credential can be "carried" with them throughout their entire experience with a school -- from prospective student on a campus tour to an alumni of an institution, this credential maintains an interesting position within the fabric of a campus. For example, according to Marr, Blackboard has been working for the past 3 years on building Near Field Communication (NFC) technology into their Transact systems. While it's not widespread in use, NFC may be a game changer in the campus card / campus credential arena. The capabilities of mobile transactions coupled with analytics and strategic initiatives seem to be coming soon to a campus near you. With NFC-ready smartphones being produced at a breakneck rate, it's only a matter of time before transaction services catch-up with mobile technology.
Using a smartphone to access a residence hall, pay for a meal at a dining hall, or to provide identification to campus officials is only part of the NFC equation. According to Marr, in the near future, an institution's brand will be connected to the mobile services that they can provide to their community. With security concerns always part of the mobile transaction mix, Marr acknowledged that it's something that they are always working aware of with Blackboard Transact.
What do you think? Will NFC be a game-changer in the mobile transaction space for higher education? Or, will NFC be too little too late? Perhaps a new technology will arrive before NFC adoption hits critical mass. All I know is that I can't wait to ditch having to have a wallet full of plastic cards.
*Full disclaimer: I'm giving a sponsored talk on mobile and higher education at #BbW12.
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