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Get to Know HEDA, The Foundation of Education Cloud

By August 29, 2018

Higher Education Data Architecture
Welcome to the first of a three-part blog series on our Higher Education Data Architecture or HEDA. Whether you are completely new to HEDA or are looking to learn about the latest HEDA innovation, this is the blog series for you. Curious about what topics we’ll cover? Take a look at what’s in store for our first ever HEDA blog series:

So let’s dive right in and get to know HEDA, the foundation of Education Cloud.

Last March, we announced the next step in deepening our commitment to higher ed innovation with Education Cloud for Higher Ed. Think of Education Cloud as an umbrella over a powerful set of solutions for recruiting and admissions, student success, and advancement, as well as purpose-built solutions like HEDA (Higher Education Data Architecture), Salesforce Advisor Link, and our new gift processing capabilities in development.*

HEDA (Higher Education Data Architecture) is the foundation of Education Cloud
HEDA (Higher Education Data Architecture) is the foundation of Education Cloud

Well, if Education Cloud is the umbrella (or for the purpose of this analogy, the roof of the house) then what is the foundation? Every robust house needs a strong foundation to build upon, and that’s where HEDA comes in. HEDA, our Higher Education Data Architecture, is a free open-source managed package designed to configure Salesforce out of the box for Higher Ed. Our purpose-built products, such as Salesforce Advisor Link, are built on HEDA. And as we continue to innovate at, any new products will also be built on HEDA – it truly is the foundation of Education Cloud. In this blog post, we will get into the nitty-gritty of what HEDA is and how you can use HEDA to unlock a 360 degree view of your students.

HEDA 101: Higher Education Data Architecture

HEDA is a completely free and open sourced data architecture, built in close collaboration with our higher ed partners and customer community. With HEDA, you have a flexible, scalable, and customizable architecture that allows you to configure Salesforce for your institution’s specific needs. HEDA puts your student at the center of every interaction and breaks down institutional silos using two junction objects: Relationships and Affiliations. These objects connect your Contact (i.e. Student) to every other contact and account within your institution’s ecosystem. You can see a student’s professors, advisors, siblings, parents, coaches, tutors, etc. all from a single view. More importantly, you can see everything a student is interested in by the accounts they’re affiliated with. What high school did they come from? What is their major/minor? Do they play sports? What internships are they targeting for senior year?

This visual illustrates a HEDA Contact (student) and a few common relationships and affiliations they would have at their university.
This visual illustrates a HEDA Contact (student) and a few common relationships and affiliations they would have at their university.

Being able to access a complete view of each and every student in one place is invaluable not only for understanding your current student base but also how to best engage with them throughout their journey on campus. Better yet, surfacing this information across all of your students, over time, will help uncover insights that were once sitting in siloed databases across your institution. These insights can drive deeper interactions with current students and can also help create more effective and targeted marketing campaigns for recruiting and admissions.

Let’s say, for example, that an increasing percentage of your incoming freshmen over the past 3 years are from New Jersey and are STEM majors. Of this population the ones that were involved with at least 2 campus clubs ended their freshman year with a higher GPA than their peers. Let’s say the ones that were involved with more than 2 sports programs ended their freshman year with a lower GPA than average. HEDA pulls all of this valuable data into a single view, making it easy for your institution to take action in real time. Instead of spending time gathering student data to capture these insights, you could help mitigate current at-risk students with 2 or more sports by offering additional tutoring resources. You could also advise students not involved in any clubs to engage with their peers that came from the same school district in New Jersey. With this data in hand, your recruiting and admissions department could also create more robust marketing campaigns that target the New Jersey region and highlight your institution’s STEM programs. Amjad Ayoubi, Assistant Dean at Tulane, says it best – “By speaking the language of Higher Ed, HEDA makes it easier for staff to adopt Salesforce and engage students at every stage of their journey. ”

Streamlining Processes, Saving Time, and Improving Student Success with HEDA

Before HEDA came along in March of 2016, institutions were spending time and money customizing their CRM to fit their particular needs. However, every customization solving the same problem differed from one implementation to the next. If a system admin made a career move from one university to another, they would have to start from the beginning and re-familiarize themselves with every custom object, process, and nuance that was unique to that org. At, we saw an opportunity to create a single data architecture for higher ed that could be leveraged by institutions of all sizes – eliminating the need for costly customizations and creating an opportunity for a community driven approach to innovation.

HEDA emerged as the solution to help institutions get up and running faster with Education Cloud. Partners, customers, and subject-matter experts across the industry helped establish a common framework that would allow universities to speak the same fundamental language across their various orgs. Partners are now able to build solutions on HEDA that they can reuse from one contract to the next. Plus, with releases every two weeks, HEDA customers get access to the latest higher ed innovation to help drive student success from recruiting and admissions all the way to advancement. With HEDA, the customization delta is reduced and Gantt charts across academia are now less cumbersome.

It’s also incredible to see institutions and partners teaming up to solve common problems across higher ed with open source solutions built on HEDA. For example, University of Miami built Interactions for Student Recruitment on HEDA and University of Maryville built Enterprise Application Solution for Yield (EASY) on HEDA, both of which are currently available on GitHub for any institution to download today. In fact, Maryville University just won a Campus Technology Impact Award for their innovation with EASY. Check out our latest blog post on Maryville’s win.

Community-Driven Innovation

HEDA innovation truly stems from our higher ed community – we value customer feedback and listen to our community when developing impactful technology solutions.

Take for instance the two new HEDA objects that were released in June, ‘Program Plan’ and ‘Plan Requirements’. The development of these two objects started with our customers. A member of the higher ed community posted an idea in the Power of Us Hub that identified an opportunity for HEDA to help institutions organize their academic programs in a more effective way. This customer highlighted that the path a student takes to attain a certain degree may change or evolve over time. One cohort may be prescribed a certain path, while the following academic year’s cohort may have several paths to choose from to attain the same degree. This necessitated two new objects to fall under the ‘Academic Program’; so we introduced ‘Program Plan’ and ‘Plan Requirements’ into HEDA. The development of these two new objects is truly an example of our community-driven innovation. The original customer idea picked up momentum across two different Open Source Community Sprints, then made the top priority list in the HEDA backlog and was successfully released into production orgs on June 26, 2018 for customers to use.

An Entity-Relationship Diagram (ERD) of how HEDA works with each database object and their relationships.
An Entity-Relationship Diagram (ERD) of how HEDA works with each database object and their relationships.

Now instead of having to edit or customize the parent ‘Academic Program’ account, the institution can use ‘Program Plans’ and ‘Plan Requirements’ as a method of organizing their degree requirements. As you can see, this is a many-to-many relationship, and institutions can link multiple courses/programs to one another. Plan Requirements can either be a hard requirement, e.g. “Everyone MUST take Algebra 101” or it can be a more loosely defined requirement, e.g. “You must take 6 credits of Calculus 200+ level courses.” It can even get broader than that and say “12 credits of any foreign language course.” Now, institutions have the flexibility to easily organize all their courses, course offerings, and Program Plans as they pertain to a particular Academic Program.

An example of a how courses, plan requirements and program plans connect back to the academic program.
An example of a how courses, plan requirements and program plans connect back to the academic program.

You can learn more about the two new HEDA objects in our Release Notes and our official product documentation.

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about HEDA and the latest innovation, make sure to sign up for a 30 day free trial and join the Power of Us community to connect with other higher ed institutions. Stay tuned for the second blog in this series where we’ll hear from a customer on their HEDA migration story.


*Any unreleased services or features referenced herein are not currently available and may not be delivered on time or at all. Customers who purchase our services should make their purchase decisions based upon features and products that are currently available.