With campuses in Barnstaple and Tiverton PETROC a college of further and higher education is committed to driving forward educational success by offering an exceptional range of study programmes, courses and qualifications.
With just over 3000 students, PETROC has innovative and up-to-date facilities, making it one of the most advanced college establishments in the country. Due to this success, PETROC has recently been rated as the ‘Best College in The Country 2018’. (Ranked No. 1 in NICDEX League Table, published by FE Week https://feweek.co.uk/2018/11/23/petroc-comes-top-in-fe-week-s-college-league-table-for-2018/
With 20+ years’ experience working at PETROC, Neil Tanton, IT Services Manager explains that one of the reasons the college stays at the top of their game is the constant drive to move forward with the best IT available for their students.
The PETROC IT department works really hard to keep the college up to date and we run a successful strategy called ‘Bring, Buy or Borrow’. This means that students can either bring their own device to use at the college, buy one from us via our third-party scheme, or we offer to loan devices to students who do not have one themselves or want to borrow one for a short period of time. We have mixed environments around the college, some with laptops or desk tops and this summer we transitioned into Google Classroom too. Previously we had 600 laptops available for classroom and flexible learning use, but we decided to shrink that down and swapped old large laptops to Chromebooks. We gave 250 Chromebooks to our fulltime teachers for them to use and then purchased another 600 Chromebooks and deployed them into the LapSafe® Mini Mentor™ units.
PETROC have traditionally used LapSafe® units for storing and charging their laptops with Neil purchasing the first Mini Mentor™ back in 2006, which is still going strong and being used today. Neil continues “The robustness of the Mentor™ unit is the reason why they have stood the test of time, they are well constructed with good security. We looked at other makes and models of trolleys and you needed to add the power supplies into the trolleys yourself, whereas the Mentor™ has its own ultra-smart power management system and are the only trolley which have upgradable modules inside”.
The changes made by PETROC in the summer 2018 included purchasing eight new LapSafe® trolleys and upgrading 10 of their existing trolleys by changing the modules inside. Neil explains “We went from being able to charge 10 laptops in each of our old trolleys to being able to charge 15 Chromebooks, which is great for a reusability aspect for the college. They are robust enough to have done 5-10 years with laptops and then to be upgraded and now to be issuing Chromebooks. The LapSafe Service Team came in and upgraded them really easily, we now have around 20 Mentor™ trolleys around our campuses”.
With the increase of colleges requiring more flexible learning spaces PETROC installed dedicated learning spaces for self-organised learning which uses mainly online material. The flexibility of using these trolleys at PETROC means that both staff and students have access to Chromebooks for a period of time. Neil concludes “We had investigated the use of a static LapSafe Self-Service Diplomat units for our Tech Hub area. However, at the moment we have decided to go for setting the system up in the trolleys ourselves. This way we have the best of both giving us the flexibility of moving them around the college as required. We have adapted some of the older mentors slightly by fixing a 4-digit code padlock, with the pin number given to staff so they can book a trolley online for a class. Within the staffed Tech Hub area students are also given the chance to self-issue a Chromebook for a two-hour loan period or use the tech desk PC. The robustness of the Mentor™ has meant we are able to keep IT current and upcycle all our trolley units rather than throw them away and waste money. The flexibility of being able to change the insides of the units from laptops to Chromebook has been very beneficial, and the ultra-smart power management system charging inside has been perfect, we know that there are only being charged when they need to be which gives longevity to the batteries. The service side has been really good, I know I can chat to Mike in sales or I can chat to James in support, they are always very helpful and quick to get back to me if I need anything. Money is tight in FE and keeping IT up to date is a real challenge, how we are delivering IT and having the flexible and accessibility learning spaces has been the way forward for us”.