Academic institutions in the UK and the Republic of Ireland are being offered collaboration and knowledge management software under special licensing terms to help them to create a Web-based environment for the development of intranet, extranets and e-business applications, writes Karl Cushing.
The software, which has been packaged specifically for the academic community, is an entirely Web-based application and it delivers an integrated set of enterprise services to users' desktops. Its core functionality includes document and knowledge management, information retrieval, virtual team collaboration, business process automation and event notification.
The browser-based system helps to remove institutional and geographical barriers by providing students, teachers and administrative staff with a set of collaborative tools such as interactive whiteboards. Teaching and administrators benefit from having access to a single repository of information where ideas and knowledge can be exchanged in a secure user-friendly environment.
According to one user, Nigel Kirkman, project design manager at the University of Manchester, the system helps to address one of the key problems in such a knowledge based environment - that of paper overload. "The implementation of a robust document management system is highly overdue," he says.
An early application at the university involved using the software to provide electronic access to student records, where it reduced the time required by the staff of the registrar and secretary's departments to file, store, retrieve and collaborate on these documents. As well as being more efficient, this approach has saved significant amounts in terms of administration and stationery costs - a key consideration for cash-strapped academic institutions.
However, for Kirkman the system is not just about managing and storing its mass of documents more effectively. The system enables the university to harness the power of the Web to bring together every member of the academic community for greater communications and interaction, he says.
The software - a collaboration and knowledge management software product called Livelink Campus Collaboration from supplier Open Text - is being offered to the institutions by the Combined Higher Education Software Team (Chest), a Bath-based not-for-profit organisation that promotes itself as "the educational shop window for purchasers of software, data, information, training materials and other IT-related products". Chest negotiates and manages licence agreements for its members and aims to provide the best possible value in technology to higher education institutions.
Chest chose to supply the product to its members following an evaluation of existing Livelink implementations at the University of North London and the University of Manchester. It is offering its members the change of purchasing the product and its associated services under three different licensing options - for administrative staff, student access and student one-year terms.