Staff at a large Further Education College discover the advantages of Microsoft Surface for administration and management.
Angela Bingham, Admissions and Customer Service Manager is responsible for ensuring that the process from application to enrolment runs smoothly for the 2,500 full-time students at West Suffolk College. Angela regularly attends numerous College meetings – and that’s before you take into account the many one-to-one conversations that are part and parcel of the job. Each of these encounters involves both providing and receiving information, and each of them, too, generates actions which she will carry out herself or pass to someone else. Up to a couple of months ago, she kept track of all that armed with a notebook and pen. Now, she uses a Surface RT tablet and the difference, she says, ‘has been fantastic.’
Her Surface device came to her as part of a drive by Technical Support Manager Scott Gerber to improve the use of portable technology by administrators and managers. As Scott says,
‘We have an appetite to increase mobility and the ability to access information from anywhere.’
While, as you’d expect, more than one kind of tablet is in use, it’s become clear that in this environment, Surface with Windows 8 RT has very clear advantages.
‘You have the Windows 8 RT environment, with Office, and a Microsoft account will provide a range of native applications without the need for a third party app,’ says Scott. ‘That was an enticing aspect for us. Our data managers needed to go into meetings able to display spreadsheets’.
Scott’s own Surface tablet, he says, goes everywhere with him.
‘There are some clever apps out there,’ he says. ‘I use “Qool”, from the Windows Store, a very clever visual ‘’to do” list.’
By now, most users are realising just how powerful a tablet becomes when it’s part of the institution’s Microsoft ‘eco-system’. In particular, Scott and his colleagues have discovered a whole new dimension in a Microsoft feature that’s often underestimated.
‘The real kicker,’ says Scott. ‘Came with OneNote’.
‘Scott uses his Surface’ device, and OneNote in meetings, and enthuses about the flexibility to type, write, insert material, use colour, move things around.
‘OneNote is very clever and just brings the touch environment to life. It’s just opened up doors for us.’
Which brings us back to Angela Bingham, because she, too, finds that Windows 8, OneNote and Surface RT together add up to a real game changer.
‘I had the option of having an iPad or Surface RT,’ she says. ‘And because a lot of my work is management and data, from my point of view the iPad wasn’t suitable. All my documents are in Word, Excel or PowerPoint.
The Surface tablet, though, has been fantastic. I take it to meetings, where I use OneNote, and I can access SharePoint documents as well as my documents on SkyDrive.’
Angela uses ‘To Do’ lists on OneNote, linked from Outlook.
‘I pull them all up and everything’s there. It’s incredibly easy to organize and prioritise your work, without missing vital points’
After a meeting, or a one-to-one conversation she will email reminders of decisions or agreed actions to all attendees.
For Angela, the optional ‘Type Cover’ keyboard adds considerably to the appeal of the whole Surface RT package.
‘The type cover is incredibly easy to use and I will often use it in preference to my desktop,’ says Angela. ‘I like being able to type and also touch the screen, flicking from one to another. I like being able to split the screen, and the tiles are fantastic, I love the way you can organise them to suit your needs.’
Angela’s enthusiasm is infectious to the point where she’s convincing everyone around her that ‘Surface’ is the tablet for them.
‘I’m not a techie,’ She says. ‘I was a notebook and pen person. With the Surface RT you need only limited training and then you’re ready to go.’