PIPaL: JISC BCE at Loughborough

3.4 Analysis of Current Situation

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We conducted one-to-one interviews with stakeholders from the external facing departments being profiled for this study.  The diagram below provides a stylised interpretation of the activities of these units based on the interview feedback:

The interference is that each unit operates in a “silo” of its own and little or no information is shared between them.  In practice this is not the case, and several of the units have recently been collaborating on a pilot exploring the use of the Raiser’s Edge system on a large scale beyond the Development and Alumni Relations (DARO) office.  An initial outcome of this was the recognition that the current version of this software does not provide sufficient granularity of access control to be appropriate as an institutional Relationship Management system.  It does appear, however to be useful to extend its use under controlled conditions – e.g. from DARO to the Vice Chancellor’s Office.

A number of IT systems were in use typically for highly specialised purposes, e.g. the RACE-2 system used to cost research proposals, and myIP to manage the University’s portfolio of Intellectual Property, patents etc.  The Enterprise Office used an externally hosted relationship management system (RIBSYS) shared with other organizations under the auspices of emda, the East Midlands Development Agency.

Loughborough was unusual in having chosen to implement its own Student Information System, whereas most institutions had bought and tailored an off-the-shelf commercial package.  This presented both opportunities and challenges.  By contrast Loughborough had used off-the-shelf software for most other key corporate systems, including the popular open source Moodle software for its “Learn” Virtual Learning Environment[1] and the Google Apps cloud computing suite for communication and collaboration.

The HEFCE funded Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (EngCETL[2]) has developed a range of tools for use by Academics in managing their relationship with their students from a pedagogical perspective.

These facilities range from attendance monitoring to assistance with managing personal tutees and industrial placements.  Key pieces of this toolkit are Web-PA, an on-line peer assessment system which allows students to assess their own performance and also that of their team in a groupwork context, and Co-Tutor, a fully fledged Student and Staff Relationship Management System.

Of course we also found numerous examples of data held on spreadsheets, Access databases and other mechanisms that fall short of formal IT systems – which was only to be expected.  Of the systems described above, Co-Tutor and Web-PA are of particular interest as unique products built from scratch to the requirements of Loughborough Academics.  RIBSYS is also significant as an example of a Shared Service used by multiple organizations.

The following diagram, from the JISC Self-Analysis Framework[3], illustrates the maturity model proposed for Relationship Management by JISC.  In JISC terms at present Loughborough is starting to make true Tactical use of the technology, and considering how best to move to a Strategic position.  It was recognised by our stakeholders that this might require more than one software system, e.g. one geared towards the needs of the Student Lifecycle, and another geared towards Business and Community Engagement.

It is to be expected that there is some redundancy and duplication of information as a result of the old disjointed approach to gathering and maintaining corporate data.  Source, quality and consistency of data is critical to success.  “Ownership” of data on partners, contact information and activities may be an extremely sensitive topic.


[1] http://www.moodle.org

[2] http://www.engcetl.ac.uk

[3] http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/gradschool/crm/where-are-you-now.phtml

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Written by Martin Hamilton

September 4, 2010 at 8:32 am

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