The Progression of Cloud Computing
in Further Education Colleges
Student and Other Stakeholder Relationship
Management in the Cloud
Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects
4.1 Student and Other Stakeholder Relationship Management in the Cloud
Needs and Opportunities
All Colleges have a need to manage their communications and relationships with students
throughout their learning journey. This includes initial engagement in marketing to prospective
students and recruiting them. Thereafter, it includes regular communication at many points in the
learner journey and keeping a record of that engagement. This includes student engagement and
achievement with learning programmes, their satisfaction and their destination. Once they have
left the College there is an on-going need to engage students as alumni.
Communication and relationship management extends beyond students to parents and to
Communications and relationship activities, recording and reporting are often delivered on a
range of disconnected websites, management information systems and customer relationship
management systems. The range of devices through which students can access and communicate
key information regarding their learning journey is also limited.
Cloud computing provides an opportunity to integrate the range of communications and
relationship management systems and to communicate with students and other stakeholders on
devices of their choice.
Three projects were commissioned in the Relationship Management Area. These projects represent
a range of different approaches and perspectives.
Brockenhurst College’s project is a collaborative project run by the Wessex Federation. A
home-grown system, ‘Emily’ has played a critical role for nearly a decade now in driving forward
the effectiveness of the
College to recruit,
support and retain their
have now re-platformed
in the cloud, using
Microsoft Azure, to
continue to support their
learners in new,
project has been driven
by the need for a single
system to track and
support learners on their
journey onwards from
first engaging with the College. This is now a much larger, more integrated and more medium
term project than initially proposed. It is based on
the development of a new cloud-based College website which will be integrated with
Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the cloud. It will enable the delivery of personalised services to
learners, employers and other stakeholders as well as capturing data on learners from the point of
enquiry onwards. The website is planned to be live from November 2013 with the CRM
component of the project following in February 2014. Gloucestershire College is already
successfully hosting Moodle in the cloud and using student email in the cloud through Microsoft
City College Coventry’s project aims to support students and communicate critical information to
them. This uses cloud mobile technology to deliver an HTML5 mobile app. This includes key
campus & student union information, VLE & eILP access, e-library and QR scanning. The
approach enables this information to be made available on a range of mobile devices – iPhone,
Android etc without the need to develop platform specific apps. This includes use of a cloud
Platform and access to the app through a number of app stores.
All projects focus on information provision to learners. Brockenhurst College and
Gloucestershire College offer personalised service benefits to learners and other stakeholders.
Both Brockenhurst and Gloucestershire are longer term projects which are evolving to
include the different stakeholder sets – learners, staff, parents, employers.
Both are dependent on systems integration for example Brockenhurst with EBS and
Gloucestershire with Unite-e.
Both are bespoke web based developments and have been developed in Microsoft
Brockenhurst / Wessex
Savings identified at £20K per
Service is key driver
Replication in other
Other Colleges in the shared service
partnership could use the software
once the Brockenhurst College
specific elements are removed
The website is tailored to
the College but the
strategic approach is
Brockenhurst/Wessex Education Shared Services: The delivery model used is Microsoft Azure,
which enables the development of the software and its database to take place in the cloud
(Infrastructure as a Platform) and the application to be hosted by Microsoft in the cloud
(Infrastructure as a Service). Microsoft Azure enables the use of a wide range of Microsoft
Software in the cloud, which in turn enables Wessex Education Shared Services to build upon the
well-developed Microsoft expertise of the team at Brockenhurst. There is a staff view of the
information on the system. This includes all key information on students, their attendance and
grades. All of this is linked to EBS which is synced as a feed to SQL server data in the cloud. The
following diagram illustrates the system integration involved in this project:
The student and parent portals enable them to view timetables and a range of other real-time
information. Parents can see how their son/daughter is progressing, their attendance and where
and when their exams are and the results. Putting this in the cloud has enabled the necessary
scaling, particularly to provide a resilient service on exam results day where demand for access
peaks considerably and abnormally.
Gloucestershire College: This is an integrated system comprising a cloud-based website hosted
by Rackspace and Microsoft Dynamics CRM hosted by Microsoft. The system also includes links
with College-hosted systems – UNIT-e, MIS, the Payment Gateway, Curriculum Planner (an
in-house developed application) and the College intranet which is run on SharePoint. This is
shown in the following diagram:
City College Coventry: The delivery model used is for cloud hosting of key College information
services which can be accessed by students on a range of mobile devices through apps which are
available from the apps stores of providers such as Apple.
The following screenshots indicate how the content of the app is displayed:
Brockenhurst/Wessex Education Shared Services have built on the good relationships developed
between Microsoft and Brockenhurst College to achieve a good working relationship with the
Microsoft Azure Team.
Gloucestershire College: The digital partner is Gill Fox James with the website development
carried out by Firehoop. The digital partner was selected through a tendering process.
City College Coventry: A key aspect of supplier relationships in this project is the need for the app
to be accepted by service providers, such as Apple, to be included in their app stores.
Project and Change Management
The Brockenhurst/Wessex Education Shared Services project used formal project management
tools and methodologies which included the Team Foundation service and Scrum. The project was
well managed and the development phases were all completed on time and to the full
specification. Testing through the summer period when internet usage was comparatively light
(while students and staff were away from College) proved very successful. However, once staff
and students were using internet resources to the full extent during September it became clear
that bandwidth could not be guaranteed to ensure that the user experience accessing cloud-based
resources was consistently good enough. The cloud-based system works very well. The Azure
platform is robust and reliable. Unfortunately any cloud-based strategy can only be as strong as
the weakest link; in this case the bandwidth on the connection has proved to be the weak link and
while an upgrade has been budgeted for and ordered, there is an extensive lead time to getting
this installed and running.
Gloucestershire College: The project is in its technical development stage with change
management processes to follow for staff use of the system. The project is managed for the College
by Gill Fox James according to the College’s specification. There is a small Systems Team which
includes a systems developer who handles data issues and an internal web developer.
City College Coventry: The project management activities included a full consultation with
students on the information which they would like included in the app.
Brockenhurst/Wessex Education Shared Services: Service Level Agreements (SLAs) include
agreements with Microsoft in respect of Azure and will increasingly involve SLAs between
Colleges and Wessex Education Shared Services Ltd for on going support and further
Gloucestershire College: the main SLA is with the Digital Partner, Gill Fox James, who arranges
SLAs with the web development and hosting
City College Coventry: SLAs include agreement for hosting and with app stores for app distribution.
Brockenhurst/Wesses Education Shared Services: The impact is through:
Supporting learners in new responsive and innovative ways.
Communicating effectively and efficiently with learners.
Improving individualised marketing and applicant tracking.
New ways of working and tracking learners.
Development experience gained by project team.
Student impact is to be evaluated at
end of project in October 2013 and
will be made available via an AoC
Gloucestershire College: Impact will
be evaluated in 2014. There has been
a huge buy-in and support for the
development of the project enabling
detailed planning to take place in a
very tight timescale. This has
included positive input from
stakeholder groups, senior
management and Governors.
City College Coventry: The key
outcome of the project is the
genuine enagement with the
student community and developing a
system which supports their needs.
This is largely through savings in
replacing College servers at £10k per
year. Final information will be
available in October 2013 on completion of evaluation. During the project no new server
infrastructure (physical or virtual) has been deployed on College premises. Traditionally at least
one new server would have been purchased for an implementation of this sort, more likely two
(data and applications delivered separately). The College can therefore estimate a cost avoidance
to date of c£10,000 on hardware. In addition, support services for the infrastructure, including
ensuring high availability during peak examination results period have been avoided. The College
can also estimate cost avoidance of c£10,000 on support team services.
Gloucestershire College: The College has invested in this ambitious project to enable a high level
of personalised service to learners and other stakeholders. It is based on the premise of
“service not savings” and “better not cheaper”
City College Coventry: To create a native mobile app on each platform would cost the College at
least 50 development days per platform; for three platforms this would at least £75k.
“Acess to College information portals for students is also available on Mobile platform which
should keep them up to date with College information and thereby increasing the College
Sustainability and expected longer term impact
Brockenhurst/Wessex Education Shared Services: The longer term impact will be in
benefits to a wider set of Colleges who, in choosing to use this application through Wessex
Education Shared Services, would benefit from the development that has taken place and cloud
infra-structure that is available.
Gloucestershire College: The longer term impact will be to track and support students through
their whole period of engagement with the College, from initial enquiry onwards. As the
implementation of the project progresses this will also apply to employer and other stakeholder
engagement. Hosting the website in the cloud along with the CRM will enable energy savings.
City College Coventry: The app is sustainable in the College given the cloud hosting and app
Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector
Brockenhurst/ Wessex Education Shared Services: The software can be used for other Colleges,
following removal of features which are specific to Brockenhurst College. Other Colleges have
expressed an interest in this
Gloucestershire College: The strategy adopted by the College to specify needs and work with a
digital partner to develop the project is replicable in any College. The website design is tailored to
Gloucestershire College’s specific context but the structure would be applicable in other Colleges.
City College Coventry: Whilst the app is specific to the College, the development process could be
replicated in other Colleges.
With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the
development of this report and consultant Chris West
The Association of Colleges 2013
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