This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.
With the top enterprise-grade tools such as Exchange, Lync and the familiar Office suite at students' disposal, (via the Student Advantage), universities have an excellent value proposition, offering students the opportunity to skill themselves in the highest grade of employability tools on the market.
In a growing competitive market where students have higher expectations of the technology they consume, IT is at the forefront of strategic long-term vision for universities and must be relevant and accessible to students. This blog is going to focus on how universities can provide students with a more collaborative work environment, through Yammer.
Flexibility to study anywhere
We all know that despite how good the coffee is on campus, not all students study in the traditional university setting; aka the library, but often favour working in coffee shops, studying from home or anywhere which gets the creative juices flowing or is convenient. When faced with collaborative projects such as group assignments, it's not always convenient to find a time for the group to meet up, with part time jobs being juggled and extra-curricular activities. This makes it really desirable for students to have the right tools to be able to collaborate remotely in a way that suits everyone.
How have students collaborated until now?
Students tend to create groups on Facebook as a method for sharing updates and collaborating remotely, which to be honest has drawbacks in the education context, having done it myself on many occasions:
Firstly and primarily, it's hard to concentrate when you get constant distracting updates. Secondly, Facebook has no logical structure of storing files that have been shared, so you have to scroll down conversation threads to find everyone's contribution which can be frustrating, and then piecing together people's work is time consuming. Finally, most students see Facebook as a personal place of respite so it can be frustrating having uni work associated there, and undesirable having to befriend people from your group who will see into your private life.
I want to introduce you all to Yammer. If you're not already familiar, Yammer is an Enterprise Social tool that empowers students to work together in the cloud in a familiar social environment. The appeal to students is that it adopts familiar user experiences such as 'Like', #'s and @'s, and it can be accessed online via PC, tablet or smartphone, making it easy to access for students at any time!
We've seen schools using Yammer extremely efficiently. It essentially enables students and staff to share ideas, ask questions and collaborate on work together in a secure environment which stifles out the trivial social chat you'd find on Facebook. A brilliant and simple feature is the 'Notes' and 'Files' tab which enables students in Yammer groups to share their files in an organised manner that is clear to see and manage.
Work better in groups
The benefits could be huge! If a university were to have a Yammer network, every student in the university would be linked together in the cloud (much like a Global Address List) with the opportunity to connect and form closed or public groups, and then base entire collaborative projects on Yammer. You can imagine how useful this would be for module sets: a public group could be created for module classes, for example 'HR Management', and all students from that set could add themselves to the group and ask each other questions and share ideas. Of course students could also form smaller closed groups to work together on group assignments.
Finally, as employers are increasingly looking for students with employability it skills, it may interest universities to know that over 85% of the Fortune 500 companies are using Yammer, as well as 400,000 organisations around the globe, so if students can say that they are comfortable using Yammer, that's a favourable IT competency on their cv.
How can you get Yammer?
Click here to learn more about how you can sign up for Yammer.