Exeter College is a large, thriving and growing tertiary college which places teaching, learning and student success as their top priority. They enjoy an excellent regional reputation. The College was judged as outstanding by Ofsted in a pilot “no notice” inspection in 2012, and again in a full inspection in 2014. They were awarded the Times Educational Supplement ‘Outstanding Provider of the Year in 2012 and BTEC College of the Year in 2014.
In 2016 the LRC team at Exeter College decided to introduce a self-issue laptop service that would be readily accessible to their students. Tammy East, Customer Experience Manager, and Trevor Leyland, Library Systems Coordinator for Information and Learning Services share their journey of introducing a self-service laptop system into the college.
Tammy explains, “We wanted to be able to offer students the use of a laptop while they were here at college and knew we needed to invest in a larger number of these. However, the problem with introducing a manual loan system for this purpose is that it’s quite cumbersome and time consuming in terms of preparation and distribution. Therefore, we needed to find a simple and efficient means of making a large number of these devices available to our staff and students”.
This type of innovation is important to Information and Learning Services at Exeter College. The LRC service has a Grade 1 CoLRiC rating and they are committed to offering students up-to-date technology and easy access to resources. Trevor adds. “It’s also very much about managing flexible learning spaces. In a study suite it’s only possible to install so many PCs whilst still providing sufficient access to desk space for alternative reading and studying purposes. With the use of laptops it’s possible to do both. We had observed and spoken to colleagues working in universities and had been informed that it had worked well for them. We then wondered how we could bring self-service laptop loans into a college environment”.
Having decided that self-service circulation would be the way forward, Exeter College reviewed what was on offer across the market and invited quotes and specifications from LapSafe® and other companies to look into their requirements. Trevor continues, “Physically the look of the Diplomat™ LMS was more attractive, and having the full functionality of being able to link it with our Heritage LMS in conjunction with the ‘Best charged device loaning feature’ is something the other companies couldn’t offer us at that time. The Diplomat™ LMS unit was a little more expensive than the competition but it offered a far better solution. Sometimes the quality of the product is more important than price.”
Tammy added, “For us it is very much about providing an exceptional learning resource service. If you look at library services in general, there is a lot of diversification outside the use of books and library space. With this in mind, self-service laptop loans reflect how we are currently looking into developing our services, so we were very keen to find the necessary funding in order to implement it”.
Exeter College is relatively spread out in terms of buildings, with seven LRCs (Learning Resource Centres) across the whole of the college. The Hele LRC was chosen to house the Diplomat™LMS due to its central location and being one of the busiest of the five based in the city centre. It also reaches across all levels.
To begin the sales process Trevor contacted LapSafe® and asked if It was possible to see a demonstration of the Diplomat™LMS at the college to establish whether it covered all the functionality they required. He was suitably impressed with both the product and the service he received, “Rob our Account Manager at LapSafe™ was very quick to answer any questions that arose and brought in a working demo model for us to examine; which was very helpful. The delivery process went well and we had no real issues. Once the LapSafe® installation teams had set everything up they gave our LRC staff full training on how to use the unit prior to leaving, and it’s been functioning perfectly ever since”.
“We’ve found that most students don’t really require training as they use it intuitively, although we’ve provided a video to facilitate the process. Generally it’s very easy to operate and they just pick it up. A number of students were gathering around while it was being fitted and wanted to start using it straight away. Since we purchased the Diplomat™ LMS, there have been a couple of upgrades that have worked perfectly and offered additional functionality”.
The snapshot of weekly issues in the chart from February 2017 when the Diplomat™LMS was first installed to the end of the academic year, demonstrates its popularity with students; especially given its location within a centre containing over sixty desktop PCs.
Trevor and Tammy conclude “We take the view that although the purchase and maintenance costs of our self-service stations, (including books and laptops), account for quite a lot of our budget, by employing these technologies it raises our profile, increases the use of our services and encourages independent study.
If the Diplomat™ LMS, which looks very relevant and up-to-date, encourages use of the LRC in order to try it out, they’ll also see the books and other materials that we have for them to borrow. The LRCs are a popular place to study, and if it’s a nice space that draws students in then it’s money well spent and we think it’s working well. We cannot assume that every student who attends college has access to technology, so it is meeting the needs of those students who may not be able to go home and have access to a quiet and well equipped space to study. We would definitely recommend the Diplomat LMS unit to other colleges. It integrates well with our system; the students love it and we get great support from the service team at LapSafe® if and when we need it”.
Exeter College have expressed an interest in expanding the service to other LRCs across the college and will be considering this in the future.