Case study Education

Enhancing the student experience

We deployed Microsoft Lync at Durham University to better connect students and enhance their day to day lives.

Adding Microsoft Lync to their suite of IT resources to improve communication and collaboration has transformed the student experience at Durham University Business School.

In an increasingly competitive world, Learning Institutions must demonstrate a progressive approach to raising teaching standards and improving the learning experience, whilst attempting to reduce costs and environmental impact.

For Durham University Business School the Microsoft Lync implementation has achieved just that and more. Lync (now known as Skype for Business), combined with RoundTable, has encouraged both academics and students to push the boundaries of these technologies, and in doing so, they have uncovered innovative ways to enhance the quality of their educational journey, examples of which are detailed below.

Using Lync for Problem Solving

Durham University Business School hosts revision learning sessions for students, some of whom are not physically on campus. The sessions involve up to 50 remotely located students, all of whom are able to use Lync to access the sessions held in the University’s meeting rooms. The exercises are presented using Microsoft PowerPoint with audio from the leading academic presenter. Students are able to send instant messages and queries directly to the presenter who is able to respond instantly. The sessions can also be recorded and watched later for those students who were unable to attend the original session by uploading them to the University’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Feedback from the students has been very positive describing the system as easy to use. It’s a web based application so there is no need to have Lync installed locally and as the students join the sessions as ‘guests’ there are no complicated licensing issues to overcome.

Recreating the Boardroom Experience

Durham University Business School students need to learn and practice the necessary skills to act as effective contributors in a boardroom environment. In these exercises, it’s important to feedback to an individual how well they assert their influence over a meeting in a constructive, non-confrontational way while demonstrating an ability to maintain good relationships with colleagues. Using Lync and RoundTable tutors are able to create a realistic boardroom experience and record the meeting.

RoundTable is voice sensitive and the system AV records the contribution made by each individual. The recording can then be analysed by the tutor before being played back to the group with their comments on how each member performed, identifying what was done well and what techniques needed further development.

This means of recording is unobtrusive, provides excellent coverage not only of the speaker but also the 360 degree view of the students is ideal for the purpose – Senior Teaching Fellow

Selecting A Personal Coach

At Durham University Business School MBA students are able to select their own independent personal coach. Previously these coaches attended the University to present their coaching package to the students who then picked their preferred coach. Now this time-consuming experience has been replaced by a series of video presentations by each coach, captured using remote access to the University’s Lync system. These videos can be accessed by the students at a time convenient to them in order to select their preferred coach. In addition to saving time, this has also reduced travel costs and expenses and helped to minimise environmental impact by eliminating the need to travel.

In Summary

Technology can create considerable benefits in an educational institution, particularly when used to address needs identified and owned by the academic community. Here, IT specialists worked in partnership with the academic staff who had recognised ways to enhance the learning experience for students whilst reducing costs and environmental impact for the University.

The University benefitted from reduced travel costs and environmental impact.

Enabling Technologies

Durham University Business School implemented Microsoft Lync Unified Messaging enterprise platform. Lync allows multi-party HD video conferencing, instant messaging, audio/video communication, online meetings and work sharing and collaboration. In the examples presented, Lync is also used with Polycom CX5000 HD Unified Conference station also referred to as RoundTable. This device allows 360 panoramic view of any meeting and integrates voice, audio and content in a single unified setting.

The Microsoft Lync webinars are very beneficial, especially for students who are on the part-time phase and are only on campus for a brief amount of time
BSc Accounting Course Director

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