Shortly all education customers will be able to add the enterprise version of Yammer free to their existing Office 365 Education [Want to know more about this, and what’s in Yammer enterprise]. But some education customers in Australia have already been using Yammer to support teaching and learning in their institution.
At Wodonga TAFE, they started using Yammer last year to provide an enhanced online learning environment, with better cross-institute sharing between staff, and with and between students. In addition to supporting remote students, and bringing them closer to the institute, even if they are studying online, Wodonga TAFE have also been able to win new business from government and private sector organisations. This is an important factor for TAFEs in almost every state across Australia, where Institutes are competing with private training providers who are getting into areas that have been previously reserved for TAFE Institutes.
As Michael Kershler, the ICT Director at Wodonga TAFE, put it:
|We have targeted and won contracts from government and the private sector based on our ability to embed technology in online learning. With Lync and Yammer, we are winning contracts from customers who would not traditionally have turned to a TAFE institution.|
Wodonga TAFE has 250 staff, 14 campuses, and delivers training to 18,000 students through 2,500,000 contact hours of training each year.
Connecting staff with each other, and with students
As well as wanting to attract new customers among regional businesses, government agencies and remote communities, the TAFE wanted to make training more compelling. According to Michael:
|To stimulate new learning techniques, we wanted everyone to share ideas informally, without cluttering each other’s email with irrelevant material. We had fantastic education capital, but it was stuck in silos of information in 14 different campuses. To create the best courses we needed to reduce internal barriers.|
Wodonga TAFE already delivered more than half of courses online, but to deliver a more interactive learning experience, trainers also wanted to bring remote students into the same teaching environments. “We wanted to make online learning more engaging, increase real-time participation, and equip everyone to respond quickly to student requests.”
Late last year, Wodonga TAFE became the first vocational TAFE in Victoria to roll out the enterprise social tool, Yammer. (Yammer recreates a social media platform within an organisation, so employees and students can create profiles and interest groups, start conversation threads, post news, pose questions and provide informal commentary.
They also wanted to give all staff instant messaging, voice calls, and desktop videoconferencing, so they used Lync 2013, and made Office 365Education available to all 18,000 students. And by connecting Lync and Skype, students and trainers can see each other’s availability, start IM conversations and click-to-call from either application.
TAFE staff working ‘out loud’
After combining Yammer, Lync and Office 365, Wodonga TAFE staff members started collaborating more effectively, creating more powerful courses and winning new customers. Yammer has helped create a new, highly co-operative networking culture across all TAFE Wodonga campuses.
We’ve had great success in breaking down organisational barriers. With Yammer, we’ve developed a ‘working out loud’ philosophy, which means trainers build new courses collaboratively, everyone knows what’s happening, and we all react fast.
Before, people were pushing information—often blindly—across organisation. Now, we are all pulling information towards us, which is more efficient and effective. Yammer brings the organisation together, both culturally and at a business level. Email is no longer our primary communication tool.
Improving distance learning
The Yammer-Lync combination also enables trainers to reach a wider student base, through simpler instant collaboration and communication:
Our remote learning is now so much more than just ‘online’. When they sign up, remote students are instantly engaged in our campus environment, and tutors bring students into classes, or coach them via live chats. Meanwhile, trainers have started learning innovation groups, where they create and share digital learning techniques.
Now we can extend the best quality education to students to isolated communities at no additional cost: this gives us a great competitive advantage.