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February, 2011

  • FE blog

    And so the cost saving story continues…..£50,000 saved with ICT at Walsall College


    Cost saving stories are being heard more and more throughout the schools of the UK, however it doesn’t stop there. We are now hearing dramatic cost saving stories from further education as Gerald Haigh, independent writer to Microsoft explains how ICT has benefited Walsall College.

    At the 12,000 student Walsall College, the introduction of SharePoint has brought cost savings claimed to be around £50,000 a year – and that, I’d guess, is probably a cautious estimate. A careful audit of efficiency savings would probably unearth a much bigger figure.

    It all started with the college’s move, in 2009, to a brand new £64 million building. In the run up to the move, Director of Learning Technologies, Jayne Holt, and her team were determined to see that the student and staff online environment would be as exciting and efficient as the new physical surroundings.

    “We didn’t just want to transfer the old systems and practices,” says Jayne. So the first step, ahead of the move, was to find a more dynamic and interactive replacement for the existing static open-source management system. The aim was to provide every student with a live individual learning plan, and a real-time flow of personally targeted data about their timetable, attendance, punctuality and achievements. There’d be effective staff-student communication, and hugely improved monitoring of student progress. Meetings would be informed by real time information, and communication and collaboration across the whole college would be transformed.

    But how to achieve all that? The answer, as so often, SharePoint.

    As Jayne explains, “We looked at a variety of systems, commercial and open source, but it was clear that SharePoint would enable us to achieve everything we wanted. The key feature is the ability of SharePoint to present specific information to a defined group audience or to an individual. That’s what matters. It’s not necessarily about technology. It’s about people.”

    It was a bold vision, but two years on, it’s largely been achieved, due to effective and enthusiastic college leadership, with adoption across the whole institution by curriculum, business support areas and students. Supporting all of this is the technical capability of SharePoint 2007.

    The impact of the new system, on learning, collaboration, communication and management systems, has been huge. Meanwhile, it’s worth singling out here the effects on the college budget. Some specific areas to look at;

    Student surveys

    Student voice, collected by regular surveys, is an important driver of planning. Three such surveys are carried out each year. As Jayne Holt says, though,

    “It’s not so much capturing the data, it’s the sophisticated analysis that makes it useful. We used to have it done by an external provider, but now, with the survey presented to students through SharePoint, we don’t need the provider. And because it’s easier for students to do it the level of response has gone up.”

    Saving, from the cost of outsourcing – £20,000 per year.

    Managing Staff CPD

    Staff development at Walsall College goes on all day, every day. Before SharePoint was used, it was a time-consuming and frustrating paper-based business of negotiating staff and course tutor availability, individual needs and the timetable of continued personal development (CPD) offerings. “Just to arrange one session for a time when everyone could attend might take hours,” says Jayne.

    Now, with SharePoint, staff can see what sessions are available, whether there are spaces, and then book their own attendance.

    Saving, on efficiency and time – £20,000 per year.

    Paperless meetings

    Meetings, instead of being serviced by packs of paper, are now informed by real time online information, graphically presented.

    Saving paper is conservatively estimated at £2,000 per year, however it’s clear that the real benefit here is measured in terms of efficiency and the availability of accurate, up to date information, open to analysis and comparison.

    Attendance and Retention

    Tutors are highly approving of the ease of use of the new system and of its interactivity, giving them easier access to students and more control over their learning.

    At the same time, monitoring and tracking of students – groups and individuals – has been made hugely easier and more efficient.

    All this is reflected in improved attendance and reduced drop-out from courses. Across the College, attendance is up by 4% to 93%, and retention up by 3% to 93% with achievement at 85%

    Resulting efficiency savings in monitoring and tracking are conservatively estimated at £5000 a year

    Total of these figures –  savings of £47,000 a year

    Our experience with other cost saving stories suggests that this is likely to be a safe, conservative estimate. Increased efficiency permeates into the far corners of an institution, speeding things, up, making life easier, saving time in all sorts of ways. So our headline figure of £50,000 a year saved with ICT at Walsall College is still likely to be an underestimate. And as the SharePoint learning system matures, improves and importantly migrates to SharePoint 2010, the story can only get better.

  • FE blog

    Lync Server 2010 Event, Cardinal Place, 4th March 2011


    How Microsoft Lync evolves the education experience, improve staff & student learning/collaboration while driving down costs

    I am delighted to invite you and your colleagues to join us at Microsoft London (Cardinal Place) for a Lync education event on the 4th March 2011.

    Modern education establishments require a modern communications solution. One that enables staff, students, external bodies to connect effortlessly with each other, regardless of location, the device they're using or the type of content they want to share.
    Lync Server 2010 is that solution. Its unified feature set brings colleagues together, promoting collaboration, flexible working and responsiveness. A familiar Microsoft interface and compatibility with popular Microsoft software makes it simple to adopt. All in all, working with Lync Server could enable you to reduce total cost of ownership by 39 per cent, relative to other solutions*.
    To demonstrate how Lync Server can help your organisation improve communications, productivity and profitability, we invite you to share the experiences of those that have already invested in the next generation of Unified Communications technology.

    Event Overview


    09.30 - 10.00 Welcome and Registration

    10.00 - 10.15 Why Microsoft Lync in an Education environment?

    10.15 - 11.00 Introduction to Microsoft Lync – What’s it all about?

    · Microsoft’s Vision and strategy for Lync (previously Office Communications Server)

    · Let's have a quick look at some technical and business benefits of Lync

    · Evolution of Lync from the past to the present to the future...

    11.00 - 12.00 A day in the life of “Lync Learning” – our Lync enabled educational establishment

    · How does Lync work with my existing technology investments? How does it make them better?

    · Presence & IM (Instant Messaging) – How can I use this to improve online collaboration between students as well as students and staff?

    · Audio/video calls – What difference can this make to on-premise, home and distance learning?

    · I’d like to immerse my students in a really collaborative online classroom environment – How can Lync help me with that?

    12:00 - 12:40 Lunch, networking time with Microsoft and partner experts

    12.40 - 13.20 Lync as Enterprise ready PBX / Telephony solution and more

    · Enterprise Voice capabilities – Can I use Lync to provide complete voice solution for my institution?

    · Expected cost savings & benefits – How much can I expect to save by moving to a software based voice solution and replacing my ageing PBX?

    · Do I need to deploy Lync on premise or is there a Cloud solution?

    13.20 - 14.00 Customer case studies across Schools, FE and HE

    14.00 - 14.30 Expert Q&A (Microsoft and partners)

    A limited number of seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Secure your seat today by registering here

    Invite Code: 5C36CE

    Phone Number: 0870 166 6680 ref - 5516

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