Two years ago, I wrote about Lync case study on Marquette University in the US, who switched from a conventional PABX system to Microsoft's Lync system. At the time, the Director of IT Services at Marquette University described succinctly the benefit of choosing Lync, because in addition to a replacement telephone system, they also got full integration with their existing Microsoft systems, such as Outlook and SharePoint. In higher education, the addition of instant messaging within the university's network and instant collaboration capabilities (like video calling, shared screens and digital whiteboards) provide significant benefits to students and faculty as they develop new ways to deliver teaching and support students' learning.
The team responsible for that system have just published an updated case study on Marquette University, including their plans to upgrade to Lync 2013, the latest version released in the last month. The upgrade will give them high availability, improved video and persistent chat capabilities – meaning that they have improved availability of critical services, reduced cost and admin needs – at the same time as improving communications capabilities on and off the campus.
Cost saving with Lync
Dan Smith, the university's Senior Director of IT Services, estimates that the transition from a PBX system to Lync will save them more than $200,000 a year, as soon as they can retire their old PBXs. Already they are using Lync to provide instant messaging (IM), presence, desktop sharing, and conferencing capabilities to 2,200 staff members and 11,500 students and enterprise voice for all 2,500 faculty and staff. IT Services estimates that the university will save US$31 per line each year in maintenance costs; this will result in more than $90,000 per year in savings. As Dan said:
|For just the student administration building, our annual saving is $12,000 because we no longer have to maintain the PBX for those phones.|
Savings come too from other choices – like reducing the need for outsourced audio and video conferencing services, and using SIP trunking for its enterprise voice calls (which on it's own saves the university about $120,000 per year).
And cost savings from managing the phone system come with improved customer service, according to Dan:
|People on campus change offices frequently. Our problems with adds, moves, and changes have disappeared. When people move, their laptop goes with them.|
Streamlined audio and web conferencing services
The university was able to move to using Lync as the single conferencing service, rather than each department contracting out their audio and web conferencing services. And the integration with SharePoint and Exchange also means that it is easier to co-ordinate schedules for conference calls, and create shared document workspaces associated with meetings and conferences. And with Lync's web meeting services, there's broad support for a range of browsers for the attendees – an important consideration when you have thousands of students accessing the system remotely with their own devices.
Using Lync to improve the student experience
To encourage students to adopt Lync Server 2013, Marquette is promoting capabilities to improve their experience, such as federation with Skype and Google Chat. As Dan Smith puts it:
|Our foreign language department uses Skype to practice language skills with students around the world. Now they can have those conversations using the Lync 2013 client, so they are integrated with the rest of their communications.|
They can also offer students and faculty Lync Mobile (for Windows Phone and all other major phone platforms), meaning that they can stay connected from anywhere. They can even allow the facility for them to make calls through data networks rather than using their mobile plan (so that a student can join a lecture or tutorial remotely - eg using their home wifi connection – without call charges.
The IM side of Lync is also encouraging users to move away from email as a first contact route. Persistent chat has the potential to improve the delivery of education at Marquette. Setting up chat rooms for class discussion will enable the professors to monitor and add to student discussions. The discussions or explanations of course topics become readily accessible to all class members over the entire semester, providing much more value than simply responding to one student via email or in person during office hours.