A web portal implemented by Greenwich University in 2006 has enabled the organisation to continuously improve its administrative processes and teaching resources, by creating a central source of information.
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Using the portal, which integrates applications, the university can give staff and students access to administrative and academic services via a single log-in.
In 2006 the university introduced a portal from education IT specialist Ellucian, known as Luminis. The portal, which integrates bespoke applications as well as those from third parties, has become the core of the university’s web development as the single point of access to web-based services.
Clifton Kandler, web services manager at Greenwich University, said that, prior to 2006, the university had web-based services which were not integrated: “Since 2006 we have created a lot of integrated applications so users do not have to keep logging in.”
“Before that users had one set of login details but you had to physically log in separately for different applications,” he adds.
The portal was initially launched as a service for its 24,000 students but a year later a staff version was launched for its 3,000 staff.
Students and staff can use the portal to access systems such as e-mail, library services and student records.
The university is constantly adding functionality to the portal, which took about 12 months to implement.
For example it used the portal to reduce the time it takes to process student tutorial appointments, from three weeks to a matter of seconds through automation software. The business school, which has 6,000 students, replaced a paper-based process and consolidated three systems into one, reducing the time taken for a student to select a tutorial slot to receiving confirmation to seconds from weeks.
Kandler said the tutorial appointment processing is an example with extreme results, but that the university is open to building apps in the portal wherever improvements can be made.
A month ago the University launched a version for people that have accepted places at the university but not yet arrived and has recently launched an online course evaluation service, which replaces a paper based process.
With more and more information about students on the system security is critical. The university implemented Microsoft Active Directory to ensure users only access systems they are entitled to.
Kandler explained the challenge of protecting data while ensuring users can access the systems they need quickly: “Security can sometimes lock things down to an extreme degree and systems can almost become unusable, but we have to meet our regulatory requirements.”
Increased competition and the need to cut costs are driving universities to replace archaic processes in the back-office with software that automates key processes. In the back office there is an opportunity to make substantial savings and make institutions more effective at attracting, processing and retaining students.
Universities are also investing in the latest technologies in the front office to enable students to connect to everything they need. They face a balancing act as they become increasingly expected to improve the experiences of more demanding students while making budgets go further, and IT is a critical tool in finding this balance.
As course fees are introduced, students will be more conscious of what they get for their money. Students are more tech-savvy than ever, so the IT infrastructure at universities will be critical. Students may be more concerned about the number of Wi-Fi hubs rather than pubs these days.