Bishop Grosseteste University
More and more colleges and universities are discovering the value of an online ‘portal’ – an easily accessible front page offering a wide choice of ‘click-through’ links to everything the student needs in order to organise and do their work.
A student with a single sign-on can discover what they have to do today, work on the VLE, see whether library books are due, or emails waiting. And that’s probably just the start, because portals have a habit of growing as their users realise that there are even more possibilities than they originally envisaged.
For well over a century, Bishop Grosseteste (BGU) was a successful teacher training college whose students, nurtured in a highly innovative and professional environment, were much sought after by knowledgeable primary heads. Now a fully independent university, it offers a wide range of courses, many of them still focused on teaching and related profession.
Currently there are some 2,500 students, and plans are afoot to expand to 4,500 over the next five years. The intention, however, is to stay on the existing campus and to retain the distinctive Bishop Grosseteste identity and professional ethos.
Quick start for fast implementation
BGU Head of IT Richard Corn explains, “In the Autumn of 2013 we were looking at solutions for engaging students. We looked at a few options but when Collabco came to demonstrate myday to students and staff and it looked like a really good product. The fact that Office 365 was embedded in myday offered immediate cost savings and this coupled with the fact that it would provide mobile framework we were looking for made it the obvious choice.”
That first impression was immediately reinforced by the speed and efficiency of the installation.
“The main implementation took only twenty-eight days, up to the end of February 2014… After that we needed to tweak some details and work out who was going to be responsible for various aspects, and it went live in May.”
This ‘quick start’ feature of myday is because Collabco are well aware of what institutions are looking for in the first instance. It hooks straight into the student experience, providing a good blend of organisation and information. So within a month myday can give an institution 80% of what they are going to need.
Easy access to systems from one place
Now, a student who logs in to myday at Bishop Grosseteste University is instantly in a friendly and welcoming place. A banner says ‘Welcome to the BGU Student Portal’ and there on the page is a bright, bold and self-explanatory array of tiles ready for mouse click or touch, depending on the device. From there everything, such as timetable, library, due payments, the ‘Blackboard’ VLE, email, ‘OneDrive’ storage, announcements, a news feed, all are one click away with no need for further sign-in.
Richard Corn said, ‘It’s all about easy access to systems from a central page, a one-stop shop for everything, as much information as possible to do with life at BGU. “
On the screen, it quite deliberately looks deceptively simple, so much so that the casual observer feels bound to ask why an institution can’t build their own portal? The answer is that it makes little sense to divert a busy IT team to a task that’s always going to take longer than anyone thinks. As Richard Corn says, “Why commit staff time and equipment to that when you can go out to a supplier who’s already done it?”
Richard clearly sees the portal as a living thing, growing and changing in response to growth and change within the University. So, for example, The BGU portal has a tile for ‘OneDrive’. Richard Corn is keen promote this further so students make full use of the facility to store their work, and stop the use (and frequent loss) of memory sticks.
Another tile about to appear is ‘My Grades’, which will undoubtedly provide a learning focus and motivator for students. Already in existence, but being much further developed, is ‘Library’. Here, Collabco are currently working to achieve full single sign-on integration with the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center, Inc) system which will give students a full-feature online library service.
Wise and well-tried innovation
It wouldn’t have made sense to present students with a finished product. So, BGU and Collabco involved students in the development of their portal right from the initial demonstration stage through three months of testing. As a result, there is now virtually no negative feedback from student users.
The fact that students can now log in to their portal on any of their devices, anywhere where there’s web access (or via a ‘MyDay’ app on iPhone, Android or Windows phone) is a huge plus point. It means that students can clarify where they need to be, and see any issues and tasks they have to deal with before they even start their working day. Then they can continue to check the portal as and when they wish, on whatever device is most convenient. The effect is to help clear away the kind of confusions, misunderstandings and failures of personal organisation (wrong place, wrong time, no print credit, big library book fine, missed meeting) which so often stand in the way of efficient learning.
That BGU’s student portal has quickly become successful and popular is very significant, because portal implementations, whether home-grown or developed with a supplier or third party consultant, can sometimes be long-drawn out and difficult.
“Collabco were easy to work with,” concluded Richard. “They were flexible during the implementation and their ongoing support is great. We have a really good relationship with them and are looking forward to the big upgrade of myday that is due in early 2015 as this will enhance the product even further.”
Grosseteste built its reputation on wise and well-tried innovation. This latest story, featuring student voice, a visionary IT department and an experienced development Partner in Collabco, sits well within that fine tradition.
Would you like to learn more about how myday can innovate your digital campus?