City College, Coventry is a crucial resource providing potentially life-changing opportunities for a diverse population of young people and adults in a City where GCSE results are below national average. In 2009 the College moved to a newly built campus in the heart one of the most deprived area of the City and since then has been on an improvement journey.
The IT department, led by IT Services Manager Kevin Vashi, are keenly aware of their key role in supporting high quality teaching and learning. As part of their drive to improve efficiency through the deployment of appropriate technology, the IT department moved the College’s telephone system, in December 2012, from Cisco to Microsoft Lync.
‘We looked at different systems, but Lync appealed to us,’ says Kevin Vashi. ‘We were using Office Communicator already. We talked to other users and trialed Lync earlier in the year and decided that was what we wanted. There would be cost benefits, and easier collaboration with other colleges.’
The immediate gain, though, would be in the improved experience for the College’s 600 staff users.
‘The ability to see when people are available without wasting time, and to listen to voicemail from anywhere.’
A little further down the line would come video conferencing and desktop sharing – already well used by the IT team for support.
It was important not to rush, however. Moving to Lync from a legacy telephone system can be something of a culture shock for users.
‘A full blown push confuses people, and it’s best to do it in stages. The change of culture and technology takes some getting used to.’
Nevertheless, he estimates that eight of ten users at City College now like the system, with the rest gradually catching up as they experience what Lync can do for them.
The installation itself was relatively easy, explains Kevin.
‘The main issue was the porting of numbers. The system itself was self-explanatory. The software is quite easy, the functionality is quite fantastic, it works well and ties in with Office 2010 and SharePoint.’
Kevin emphasises the importance of integration and a unified experience for staff.
‘With Lync, because we had Communicator already, it was a soft transition. People grasped it quite quickly. If we’d moved to something different, there’d be a lot of hours spent putting things right.’
Kevin is very clear about the crucial role that his eleven-person team plays in the College’s drive for continuous improvement.
‘Our motto is “Everything we do is about the user experience”. That’s the key to our success. We drive to get our systems integrated so that the staff can perform at a level which makes learning a fantastic experience for students.’
All of that, of course, has to be done within a budget, and against a background of high expectations from students.
‘Technology changes all the time. It’s quite hard to keep up, and we have to make the case to senior management on both cost and functionality.’
Meanwhile, the drive for cost effectiveness continues, and while the operational benefits of Lync are being enjoyed by all the college is working through associated contingent contracts to further increase the cost benefits.