The University of Huddersfield is a growing centre of research and excellence pushing the boundaries of knowledge. Rated as number one in the UK for their assessment and feedback, the university is proud of being in the top ten in England for student satisfaction.
Millions of pounds have been spent on the town centre campus development over the past five years, making sure students have access to some of the best facilities in the country. In 2012, the University was awarded the prestigious Times Higher Education Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award and in 2013, they were awarded two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
The innovative modern designed buildings are situated alongside a working canal. The University’s recently refurbished library sits alongside trendy cafes, a fitness studio, gymnasium, employment and wellbeing services which are all accessed straight from the Student Central building. Many universities have recognised the need to increase the number of learners, and aid student progression, by providing an exciting and high quality environment for the students. With this in mind, Wayne Winterbottom, IT support Manager for computing and library services sought to introduce a new service which would see the automation of a laptop loaning system for the students.
Wayne joined Huddersfield University in 2005, at the Oldham campus as Computer and Library Services Manager. Wayne then took the step to move to the town centre campus in 2011. Here saw a jump in his work load, as student numbers increased from 1,000 to 22,000 students all moving through the Library.
One of Wayne’s first tasks as IT Support Manager was to address comments from students for the lack of availability of computers. Wayne explains
“Because of the size of the library and because there is very little space to put more desk top computers in, we had to look and see what we could do. At the time, we had around 20 laptops loaned from behind the help desk counter and it was quite time excessive to manage. The Library front desk at the time was very busy, as they were also loaning out cameras and voice recorders, dealing with fines, and IT issues. Students were getting stuck in long queues which was putting them off borrowing items, in particular laptops. The staff were also not keen on the idea of manually loaning the laptops to the students as it took up so much of their time. So, one of the things we decided to do was to look at what options that were available on the market. At the Oldham campus, we used laptop charging trolleys which was one idea for Huddersfield, but after attending a UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association) event, I saw that there were new lockers available where you could issue laptops electronically.”
With only 20 laptops being manually loaned, Wayne and his team spoke to a few of his colleagues who had experience of the LapSafe® Diplomat™LMS being installed in other universities around the UK. Wayne continued
“I have a colleague who works at Bolton College, it’s like a huge network, as I have friends also at Lancaster University. These colleagues were all talking about the uptake of the LapSafe® Diplomat™LMS and how well they were being received by staff and students alike and how quickly they were having to expand the system. I had also heard that Manchester University had a 200-user system. I listened to my colleagues first and foremost, and then I went and attended the UCISA event, I saw the lockers bays demonstrated by Jamie and thought they were good. We decided to go ahead and order four towers. We hadn’t visited other campuses at this stage, but I trusted the people I had worked with for many years and their advice, they were positive and happy and they didn’t need to tell me any different as they were not selling it to me.
The lockers were installed in October 2013, the installation guys were friendly, professional and helpful, they talk you through the procedure and the unit was up and running quickly. The units were set-up and programmed within in a couple of hours and I think a lot of that is all down to the preparation of the LapSafe® team before they arrived. They sorted all our bar codes information before arriving so they had the system all pre-programmed; there seems to be a lot of hard work that goes into making it such a smooth transition on the day”.
The university decided to go ahead and do a soft launch on January 14 and chose not to do any advertising. Instead, they decided to turn them on and let the students find them themselves and watched what happened. Within a week all the laptops were loaned out! No advertising, or training was required, the students just found them and worked out very easily how to operate them. They were an instant success! Wayne and his team looked at the statistics available and discovered that in the first month there had been around 600 loans. Wayne added
“We meet with the Student Union Executives and the Vice President, three times a year and we have had a lot of good feedback about the unit and they mentioned that the students were requesting more and asked how we could get them. We have customer service excellence here at the university so we needed to prove that we talk to the customers who are the students and we make sure we provide what they need”.
Following these meetings, a funding plan of how the university was going to increase their laptop loan units was put together and Wayne decided to purchase another two Diplomat™LMS towers, which were installed in October of this year.
“The usage of the system has just been huge and every time we add new towers they are emptied straightaway! We have gone from complaints from the students for not having enough PC’s to you need more laptops! It is very successful, and if we had the money we would be extending it as much as we possibly could. There is now a plan to try and get two towers a year.
One of our biggest worries, was that the laptop AC adaptors would go missing or that they would get damaged or lost? However, we have found a way to padlock the chargers in a bag to the laptop. This means when the laptop is loaned, the padlock, power supply and the laptop are all put in the bag to keep safe, so it is very rare that the chargers go missing. The LMS system we use (Horizon by SirsiDynix) logs who has borrowed the laptops and will report and email the person and say you didn’t bring back the laptop and it is returned. In two years, we have only had four damaged laptops and they were incidental and accidents in the home. The disclaimer on the Diplomat™LMS screen that the students agree when they borrow the laptop means they are aware that the cost of the repair is their responsibility if there is an accident.
One of the good things with the new service is the improvement on customer satisfaction, students are now getting more time to talk about real issues with the library staff at the front desk rather than just queuing to get a laptop. The desk queues are smaller and they feel they are getting better attention.
From my own point of view the automation system is allowing me to see how many laptops are being borrowed who by and when. This helps when we are trying to attract funding and being able to automatically check the statistics helps our case for getting more funding to extend the size of the system. It is its own proof that the self-service laptop loaning system is a massive improvement and worth every penny. My advice to other colleges, and universities wanting to go down this route would be ‘go for it’. if you don’t have any colleagues that you trust and that already have them installed, then I would defiantly ask your LapSafe® Account Manager to put you in contact with one close by for you to look at. Even though we didn’t go out initially, the second time we went out to two different places and we looked at how they were being used. We were also able to talk to the students to see what their perception of it was. The students thought it was easy to use, they loved it and wanted more to be available. It was clear that it was a good system that they enjoyed using. I found it helpful to just sit there for a few minutes and watch students using the system, you could clearly see how easy it was to use. It is an investment and quite a substantial investment and it is helpful if you can see exactly what you are investing in and what other people think of it. The LapSafe Diplomat LMS has certainly improved the customer experience here at Huddersfield and long may it continue”.
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