Hertford College, Oxford: web-based student management system
Hertford College is a constituent of The University of Oxford. They required some consultancy and development work on their SharePoint intranet as well as a new data management system to sit at the heart of the organisation.
A new, branded intranet gives students, fellows and staff controlled access to key data and helps connect departments.
Connecting all the college’s systems makes it easy to manage and update data, saving time and improving data quality.
A new accessible, user-friendly student room allocation system makes the process easy for staff to manage and simple for students to use.
The Hertford College team had a number of challenges they were looking to solve.
- Internal communications: Hertford College had access to Microsoft SharePoint, but didn’t have an intranet. They wanted to unlock its full potential, and needed help and support to achieve this.
- Data management: they needed a central system to oversee student and staff data. Their current workflow was difficult to manage and very manual.
- Inefficient processes: allocating rooms to students around the college was a very manual task. The Hertford College team wanted a more efficient way of managing the process.
Hertford College required a platform that students, staff and other stakeholders could use with varying levels of access to different areas of the site. They also needed a centralised calendar that could incorporate the schedules of many departments, and a folder system to document important meeting notes and other key information.
Data management system
Hertford College needed a system to help them manage staff and student data. They wanted a central area from which to manage students’ information, because their current workflow was difficult to manage. New data and changes to data on the University’s central system (SITS) could arrive at Hertford via the CUD database system, but updates to Hertford College’s various other systems for managing payments (Uniware) and invoices (Great Plains) had to be made manually. This could lead to mistakes due to human error, resulting in inaccurate data across systems. They often found that data was out of sync between systems, making it difficult to know what information was correct.
Student room allocation system
Students are allocated various tiers depending on their particular circumstances. Students would then view a number of potential rooms prior to the “Room Ballot” which involved an appointment to visit the Accommodation Office to choose a room from those still available. This can cause disruption to other students and takes time. They required a system to help streamline the process and take it online – particularly important with COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures in place.
We began with a consultation process. This allowed us to identify key criteria and goals as well as share early plans and designs. Our development team then created a solution that gives Hertford College an intranet that suits their exact needs. This included:
- Controlled access: with various stakeholders requiring different functionality, and confidential information being stored, it was important to ensure every user had the appropriate access permissions. The new SharePoint intranet is flexible, providing various levels of access depending on the individual user. This allows streamlined use, with no surplus functionality for users, and systems that comply with GDPR.
- Branding: we used Hertford College’s existing brand guidelines to create an engaging design that provides an element of consistency and is instantly familiar.
- A central calendar: this helps to integrate many departments, with only relevant information being made available to each specific user. Colours help to clearly differentiate areas.
- Training: this was provided to administrators so they can operate and manage the system and its users on a day-to-day basis. But it also means they can complete more complex tasks, such as creating user-friendly forms for processes like booking meeting rooms and catering services. We provided them with guidelines for managing the intranet should they need a refresher, and they can also contact our support team if they need help with more specific questions.
- Committee meeting document storage: a folder system allows users to store meeting notes, with certain areas only accessible by relevant people to protect confidential information. A simple structure allows administrators to organise sections in a logical manner.
HUB project – Data management system
Working closely with the team at Hertford, we designed and built the “HUB” – an online database system which is now their central data source containing all information relating to students and staff members, with links to the college’s other internal systems.
- We created a bespoke, user-friendly interface which staff at Hertford can use to view and check student data that has been sent directly from the Central University system, SITS. Staff can also add and edit additional student data themselves. This then automatically updates the other systems used throughout the college, saving time and helping to improve data quality.
- All relevant stakeholder data is now available in the HUB system, refreshed daily and easily accessible. Filters allow users to find specific groups and data can be exported, if required, for reporting.
- With data changing regularly – when students leave or change courses, for example – the system lets staff view information changes so that they can check them manually, adding another layer of data accuracy and security.
Student room allocation system
To streamline the room allocation process for students each academic year, our team developed an application that integrates with the SharePoint intranet. It includes:
- A database that houses all the different rooms, their specific information and which ones are available. It includes images of the rooms, which students can view quickly and easily on the intranet.
- Instead of visiting the office in person, students can communicate their room choices via email to the room allocation management team. The rooms can be immediately marked off as taken on the system. The student interface displays room availability, so students in lower tiers are aware of which rooms are available from an early stage, and staff are less likely to make manual admin errors.
- Staff can easily manage the system from an admin interface, where information can be edited and updated immediately, and a general overview is available for a quick breakdown of information.
Each system has proved revolutionary. The HUB project in particular has helped to enhance operational efficiency by improving access to information and improving data quality.
The new intranet is a digital space for all stakeholders to find key information. Up-to-date information, such as important meeting notes and scheduled meetings, can be accessed by key personnel at any time. This allows information to be circulated quickly.
The HUB system has given Hertford College the biggest operational improvement. Staff no longer have to worry about data not matching up across systems, because the HUB not only ensures it is synchronised, but automatically implements any changes. It also saves time, as staff no longer have to update several systems manually with new data from the central University. It is automatically uploaded to the HUB and circulated around the college’s systems.
Student room allocation system
By taking the room allocation system online, students no longer have to physically go to see rooms. It can be done from the comfort of their own home, which is particularly important with COVID-19 restrictions in place. However, the main benefit is for the accommodation management team at Hertford College, with manager Jordan Davies commenting: “Updating the status on the admin side of the database is making things really easy for me”. The application allows them to keep room availability statuses up-to-date, and it also provides a good foundation for developing additional functionality to digitalise more of the process in the future.
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