Institutions of education and higher learning share many of the same challenges around digital modernization as their commercial counterparts: legacy systems and applications built for the spreadsheet era, a diverse end-user base with varying levels of comfort with technology, and a growing demand to support new apps across multiple operating systems. Oh, and there’s the minor issue of securing decades of personal information and an army of mobile devices you have little to no control over joining your network and accessing educational services on a daily basis.

The mandates for colleges and universities are clear: limit digital disruption, modernize entire app portfolios, and provide exceptional customer experience. But how can you do all this with limited IT staff and budget? There are ways OutSystems can help.

Higher Education Can Benefit From Low-Code

As with any academic endeavor, proper research is crucial. So we do some of our own, and each year we publish the results in our annual OutSystems State of Application Development report. 

The great thing about the report is that we get data and insights from all major industries, and we can aggregate the data to reflect the views and challenges of the whole, or segment it and deep-dive into a subset, including education and higher learning.

For instance, we know that the demand for app development is at an all-time high: 


  • 47% of respondents in the education sector plan to deliver 10 or more apps, compared to 42% overall. 
  • 21% of respondents in the education plan to deliver 25 or more apps; this is the same as the percentage overall.
  • 10% plan to deliver 100 or more apps; this is the same as the percentage overall.

When asked about the speed of delivery, 26 percent of the IT pros in the education sector responded that they were somewhat unhappy, compared to 28% overall.

Right off the top, you can see the similarities between the challenges colleges and universities face and those facing other large organizations.

The report also captures data on other pressures IT teams are experiencing including:

  • A shortage of skilled developers
  • The investment organizations are making in customer-centric practices (design thinking, journey mapping, lean UX, etc.)
  • How the backlogs in educational organizations stack up to other industries
  • And more

Citizen Developers Just Need a Little Direction

In Stack Overflow’s extensive 2018 survey, respondents comprise nearly 100,000 self-identified developers, and almost a quarter of them (25,000) indicated they are enrolled in a formal college or university program full-time.

A student citizen developer community that big represents an enormous potential college-age workforce whose efforts could benefit a college or university’s IT endeavors.

The tricky part here is governance. Sure, on campus, you have a tremendous talent pool of smart and motivated developers. But, most of them probably aren’t building apps in their spare time that will directly benefit the university.

Curiously, in our report, only 48 percent of education sector respondents thought they had citizen developers on staff. The key word here is “thought.” Presumably, there are many unsanctioned developers on today’s campuses building apps that benefit students. It’s just that the university doesn’t know about them, and those apps don’t have the institution’s blessing or branding.

Imagine corralling just a few of those part-time developers and putting their efforts to good use, and maybe paying them a little (or cutting their tuition a bit). 

“Sure, but they don’t know our systems.”

That may be true, but with OutSystems, integration is almost effortless, allowing citizen developers to quickly get up to speed and developing applications your organizations can use.

We found that organizations using a low-code development platform were nearly three times as likely to state they “rigorously governed” citizen development.

Sounds like a win-win.

Low-Code in Education: Peer Reviews

The potential use for a low-code, rapid application development platform at an institute of learning is nearly limitless. If your existing IT systems are newer and the weight of legacy technical debt isn’t holding you back from innovating, then OutSystems low-code platform will feed your creativity, allowing you to create new and innovative apps for both students and staff.

But what if legacy systems are holding you back from innovating? Good news. OutSystems can evolve your underlying technology stack, requiring no major rewrites or reskilling of resources. This lets you easily integrate with your existing systems and layer on additional features and functionality.

In an article published on, Hillary Hartley, deputy executive director at 18F, the U.S. government’s digital services initiatives office, said, “You know, you can have a fantastically boring old legacy system, but if you put an API around it, you can do beautiful, new, amazing things with it.”

The choice is yours, and the sky is the limit. We’re here to help you along the way, just as we helped these public universities innovate and grow.

Georgia Tech saves $540,000 on development costs after the first year of using OutSystems

Georgia Tech is the premier engineering university for the state of Georgia. Today, it boasts an undergrad class of more than 25,000, and it actively shares resources with state and local governments, charitable endeavors, and other public and private organizations.

When the university needed to develop a better, more centralized method for managing reservations and resource sharing of its research and lab tools for the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology, it turned to OutSystems. Read more about how, in just 15 weeks, the university built an entirely new laboratory management system that handles more than 150,000 equipment reservations each year.

Kent State adopts OutSystems: Initial app rollout delivers a self-service portal that eliminates 3,000 support requests annually

Kent State, consistently ranked a top public research university, has more than 45,000 undergrad and graduate students spread throughout its 18 campuses in Ohio, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, China, and India.

With such a diverse and geographically different student body, the university wanted to automate the delivery of some of the more commonly requested customer support activities, freeing up IT to devote more time to innovation. See how Kent State quickly delivered two new solutions that saved more than $45,000 annually.

Get In-Depth Data and Analysis

 Want to see OutSystems in action in more education use cases? See these and all of our Case Studies online.