Case Study

Growing State University Evolves Student-Teacher Collaboration with Unified Strategy

Lab testing and training services open new possibilities for personalized, virtual connections

“This university, like so many others, was forced to re-evaluate the way that they communicate and the options students have to connect with each other and their instructors.” – Sean McDonald, WWT Adoption Services Business Development Manager

Challenge

As the student population of a major university started to include more online and international students, virtual collaboration was becoming fundamental to the student-teacher relationship. And without an IT-led collaboration strategy, university department heads had taken it upon themselves to close the technology gap, purchasing collaboration tools outside of IT.

Some professors had set up virtual classrooms via Cisco Webex; others were using Microsoft Lync for online collaboration; and still others were delivering instruction through Citrix GoToMeeting. Soon, IT was receiving calls to support technology they didn’t know existed within the university’s environment.

Seeing the value of virtual student-teacher collaboration and faced with wrangling disparate technologies, the university enlisted our help.

Solution

To determine the best way for the university to realize its vision for unified collaboration, we held a general collaboration workshop with IT stakeholders. During the workshop, we learned they were planning to standardize on Cisco desktop phones, softphones, Unified Contact Center, Webex and TelePresence, while maintaining Microsoft Lync as their collaboration client.

Identifying that Cisco Jabber could meet their needs as well as, if not better than Lync, we proposed a bake-off between Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync in our Advanced Technology Center.

Our collaboration engineers set up test environments in which university IT employees were able to compare joining a TelePresence meeting via the two clients, as well as use Jabber to escalate IT support calls using tools like screen sharing and instant Webex. Ultimately they selected Jabber as their collaboration client.

With an all-Cisco collaboration solution in place, the university enlisted our adoption services practice to ensure end-users would take full advantage of their technology investments.

WWT set up a pilot group of 40 faculty members across departments. Participants had access to the full set of proposed Cisco applications and walked through accessing applications through different devices, joining Webex via Jabber and TelePresence, and setting up virtual office hours through personal Webex rooms.

Following the training, we gave members of the pilot group custom documentation, including an internal communication plan, to help them train and engage faculty and students on the new technology.

Conclusion

Response from the pilot group was overwhelming, with WWT receiving feedback that the training was exactly what they wanted. Participants of the pilot saw new ways of connecting to students, like holding virtual office hours via Webex personal rooms.

The university is in the process of rolling out the Cisco collaboration tools to 5,000 students and teachers. IT leadership is reporting strong technology adoption so far and predicts a significant reduction in collaboration-related calls to its service desk. The rollout is expected to be complete by 2017.