Loughborough Shortlisted for Times Higher Award

I'm delighted to be able to report that IT Services at Loughborough University has been shortlisted for the 2011 Times Higher Leadership and Management Awards "Outstanding ICT Initiative" category. This is in recognition of our collaboration with Google to deliver a state of the art communication and collaboration suite for Loughborough students using Google Apps.  We'll know on June 16th whether we are the chosen ones :-)

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank current and former colleagues for all their hard work on Google Apps at Loughborough - in particular Chris Beggs, Garry Booth, Mike Cardwell, Nikki Doyle, Graeme Fowler, Kathryn Latham, Hina Mistry, Vishal Nathu, Lee Preston, Lynne Render and Ricardo Twumasi.

For the curious, I've appended a copy of our submission to the Times Higher Awards...  [Much of the text may be familiar if you have already read our Google at Loughborough Case Study!]

Google at Loughborough

Loughborough University and Google have worked together closely during the 2009-2010 academic year to build a groundbreaking new “cloud” based productivity suite for students, in keeping with the University’s reputation for excellence in Student Experience.

Project Goal

Deliver an improved user experience at lower cost with greater operating efficiency

  • Place students at the heart of the process via focus group consultation 
  • Pilot Google Apps with a cohort of “tech savvy” users before full release 
  • Automated migration of users’ email, retaining user names, passwords and email addresses 
Key achievements
  • Hassle free transition with only around 100 Service Desk cases for 17,000 users 
  • Engagement with Google to develop ground breaking alumni service 
  • £250,000 saving on server hardware, cooling and power through moving to a cloud based service instead of refreshing an old in-house email system
  • Enabling new services – notably 95% uptake of Google Calendar and 70% uptake of Google Docs for collaborative working
  • Retention of the student’s digital identity on graduation, which would have been impossible to resource in-house (already used by over 5,000 former students)
  • Broader and deeper engagement between IT and the student body 
Google Docs at Loughborough usage stats

According to Chief Operating Officer Will Spinks, the partnership with Google encapsulates the mission to operate with maximum efficiency. “The introduction of the full Google Apps for Education suite has underlined that we can indeed offer an expanded and improved service for our students at a reduced cost. The two need not be mutually exclusive,” says Mr Spinks.

“The feedback from the Google pilot was amazingly positive, and it was clear that Google Apps would be a huge success with students. We pressed the University to give us Google as quickly as possible!” — Robert Hulme, Student Union President, 2009-2010

“We have to work hard to maintain our leading position in this area and so we always look to be at the forefront when providing new facilities and services for our students,” says Vice Chancellor Professor Shirley Pearce.

One of the key outcomes of this work is a whole new service for Loughborough alumni. Ron Gray, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, observes that:

“Our alumni are key members of the community at Loughborough University and we were delighted at the ability to effect a seamless transition from student to alumnus through the use of Gmail. The benefits for graduating students to keep their university email address after they have left Loughborough strongly supports the University’s oft used statement that ‘Loughborough is for Life’.”

Loughborough students have their Google Apps account converted upon graduation into an alumni account. This means that students now retain their data on leaving the institution – including email, contacts, calendars and documents. An alumni email address is automatically created on initial registration, so that students are always able to quote their alumni address in correspondence, job applications and so on. Transition to alumni status takes place transparently through a single API call when the student’s registration lapses. The alumni Google account has been an unparalleled success, with over 5,000 users since its inception.

About Loughborough University

Founded in 1909, Loughborough University is one of the UK’s leading universities, with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with business and industry and unrivalled sporting achievement. Today the university consists of 17,000 students, 3,000 staff and over 75,000 alumni and is renowned for providing an excellent student experience, having topped the “Times Higher Education UK league tables for student experience” every year since 2006.

About Google Apps for Education

Google Apps for Education is a free suite of hosted communication and collaboration applications designed for schools and universities. Google Apps includes Gmail (webmail services), Google Calendar (shared calendaring), Google Docs (online document, spreadsheet, presentation, and form creation and sharing) Google Video (secure and private video sharing – 10GB free) and Google Sites (team website creation with videos, images, gadgets and documents integration), as well as administrative tools, customer support, and access to APIs to integrate Google Apps with existing IT systems.

Background to Google Apps at Loughborough

When Loughborough’s email system came up for renewal in 2009, a student focus group was formed to explore the various options. The old system provided only email, but there was substantial demand for a richer platform for the student body to communicate and collaborate.

It quickly became clear that very significant expenditure would be required in order to provide a more fully featured system with enough storage to satisfy today’s “digital natives.” This would have been a very hard sell to senior management even before the global economic downturn, government spending cuts, and carbon savings targets.

Having reviewed several options, the student focus group voted unanimously in favour of taking Google Apps forward, and a pilot was launched with 300 second year students in Autumn 2009. Feedback from the pilot was gathered in real-time using Google Docs, enabling the pilot group to view and respond to each other’s comments.

Phil Richards, Director of IT, notes that “In any organisation, there can sometimes be inertia against doing things in a different way. In this case, we were pleased that the pace of our move to to Google was driven by our goal of providing an outstanding service to our student ‘customers’. Strong involvement of students, right at the centre of this project, was the key to moving this work forward quickly and successfully.”

Following the successful conclusion of the pilot, the remaining students were migrated over to the Google Apps platform in December 2009 using Google’s automated tools.

This is an area where there is much interest in the sector, and in February 2011 Loughborough University organized “guug11” - the first Google Apps for Education UK User Group meeting. 130 delegates from 70 institutions attended to learn more about the Google technology and what it could do for them. More information about the event can be found at http://guug11.lboro.ac.uk.

Martin Hamilton kicking off the guug11 event
Head of Internet Services Martin Hamilton concludes that “We’ve been working closely with Google on a range of initiatives. Google are like no other large company I can think of, and I view our relationship very much as a partnership.” 

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