Bates College is a private liberal arts institution in Lewiston, Maine. With 1,700 undergraduates, the college offers a rigorous and highly personalized education through deep and sustained interactions among students, faculty, and community.
The Digital Media Exchange at Bates provides a loaner pool of media and academic technology resources for both student and faculty use. The equipment has always been in high demand and the checkout desk sees a lot of activity every day.
Since introducing connect2 checkout software to support resource lending, the service has professionalized its operations and image, raised ROI for equipment and cut costs by 60%. Both students and staff are delighted with the connect2 system. Colin Kelley, Senior Academic Technology Consultant, is pleased to talk about the success of implementing connect2 at Bates.
Connect2 at Bates College
Connect2 is used by all Bates College students to reserve equipment and facilities for different kinds of media production. Staff can view all reservations in the centralized online system and use a barcode scanner to check items in and out to students. Connect2 tracks and notifies both users and staff when items are due back and keeps a record of all borrowing activity.
“Connect2 has improved student satisfaction by 100%. They are truly thrilled with the service. Students use their usual username and password with single sign-on to access the online catalog, see what they need and easily book it,” explains Colin. “It’s an experience similar to using familiar websites such as Amazon.”
Students can borrow a variety of equipment, from basic camcorders to more complex DSLRs and cinema cameras. They also use connect2 to reserve and use the department’s labs, print shops and 3D printers. With these resources they produce a wide gamut of digital media both in support of the curriculum and for personal projects.
“With connect2, students can see all the resources available to them before even setting foot in our facility. They frequently scroll through our catalog before booking items. Having equipment specifications and details all in one place has also been very popular. For example, a student considering using a specific DSLR can click on the image of the camera and get all the specifications without leaving connect2.
“So connect2 takes the pressure off when students are standing there at the desk looking to check out gear. They would already have reserved items online and so are better organized. And if they still need to talk through their requirements with staff, they are now able to ask much more professional, informed questions.
Above: Homepage of the connect2 online system at Bates College for Digital Media Exchange resource bookings
“That online component in connect2 makes a big difference before they begin borrowing and using the equipment. It means that students are walking out of the store with the items they really need – they are much less likely to checkout unsuitable equipment for their assignments.”
Before connect2, the Digital Media Exchange team relied on a basic Filemaker Pro system which often let them down. “There were double, triple booking problems; some reservations would go missing. It was easy for equipment to be lost and impossible to pull numbers on inventory or foot traffic. We really needed to move forward and become more modern in our approach.”
Colin heard about connect2 from another college who was already using the software.
“I contacted Lorensbergs and was put in touch with an account manager. He provided a demo and was very quick and helpful in answering all our questions, providing lots of useful information on how connect2 works.
“We debated whether to have connect2 hosted in the cloud, or installed on premises and decided to go for the hosted option. We ordered connect2 and it came out of the box looking good and ready to go! The Lorensbergs’ engineers helped us get the software ready for student use and the training was very useful too.”
Increasing ROI and efficiency
Connect2 has been improving resource utilization at Bates:
“Students’ improved accessibility and awareness of resources has increased equipment usage by roughly 40%.
“It’s enabled us to be far more efficient. Previously we had two different service counters, with one providing support for photography and another video, but as connect2 has made it so much easier to manage equipment and space, we’ve merged them into a single one-stop service desk.”
Colin’s team really like using the checkout dashboard in connect2:
“I stopped at the desk one of the first mornings after implementing connect2, and my student workers team had everything organized – all equipment due for checkout that day was already prepared in advance and put to one side. We wouldn’t be able to do that without connect2. It’s incredible compared to how they were working before.
“Through connect2 efficiencies we’ve saved 20 full time staff hours per week in managing the equipment loans and room bookings. Additionally, because connect2 is easily used by our student workforce without my constant supervision, we’ve shifted our open hours to better reflect our student schedules. For the first time in 20 years, we’ve opened the counter at night – to much applause from students and faculty.”
Another positive improvement for Colin has been the ability to manage the inevitable moment a piece of equipment comes back damaged or missing a component.
“Using the connect2 online portal, student workers can quickly change the status of gear – so there’s no risk of broken items being loaned back out once students have returned them. Previously there was no way to prevent that from happening.”
In connect2, staff can mark items as ‘broken’ which prevents an item being checked back out or reserved until it’s fixed. Staff are alerted to any future reservations for items that have been returned broken and can cancel them with users automatically notified. There’s also a comprehensive repair log for processing these items.
“The repair log has become one of my key tools for equipment maintenance and upkeep,” says Colin.
Added benefits for film production and photography students
Bates College, offers a series of for-credit courses in filmmaking and photography. The introduction of connect2 has improved access and management of the high-end equipment required for these courses. This includes a range of more expensive DSLR cameras and audio equipment. Additionally, there are edit suites, a sound stage for photography and video and an animation studio.“We’re really proud of our facilities. It’s the result of a complete renovation in 2013,” explains Colin. “But prior to connect2, we had no way to limit access to our high-end gear, and it was very problematic. Basically, anyone with a Bates ID could check out any type of equipment. It also meant we were leery in investing in newer gear, for fear that inexperienced users could damage it or be unable to complete an assignment because they lacked the skills to use it.”
“Connect2, however, has changed everything. For specific groups of high-end gear, for example, our new Canon cinema cameras, we are able to create an access group inside connect2, and only add students to that access group that have attended a training session on how to use the camera."
Access groups within connect2 are also used at Bates to ensure specific classes can have access to limited resources.
“There are certain pieces of equipment that are popular, but due to cost, we have a limited quantity available. When a professor comes to us with a specific need, we can use connect2 access groups to ensure only students enrolled in a specific class can check out the gear. Once the class has finished, the equipment can be freed up for any student to borrow.”
More controlled access within connect2 also means the Bates Digital Media Exchange can better manage equipment purchases.
“Our advanced students and many faculty have long wanted us to invest in very specialized gear, like 360 imaging cameras and drones. However, our old system, with no limitations on borrowing, required us to buy multiples of any gear to ensure availability. With a lot of the more high-end equipment, this could get costly and fast. With connect2, we’re able to specify different and more restricted borrowing limits on certain types of gear, which means we can buy just one Canon cinema camera or Matterport 360 imaging camera and then use connect2 to ensure priority users have access.”
All of this has translated to a more well sourced and well used checkout service.
“As part of their planning process, faculty often meet with me in advance of assigning a student media project. Sitting alongside them, reviewing our catalog together, and being able to promise gear availability, really reinforces the service level we aim to provide. I’m glad it makes us look good – but I’m even more happy to see faculty and students realizing the potential of what they accomplish using our services. Connect2 is really key in making that connection.”
Reducing resource losses and increasing availability
“One of the major ways connect2 has made a difference on our bottom line is in the tracking of lost or damaged equipment.”
“The notifications sent out by connect2 reminding users to return gear has been enormously helpful. These emails include a complete list of borrowed equipment, which really helps users stay organized and return gear in a timely manner. It has really made a difference.”
“I had to double check this number, because it seemed so unbelievable, but since moving to connect2, we’ve reduced our repair and lost equipment costs by half, saving us nearly $2,000 a year. Part of this is making sure only qualified users have access to certain gear and part of this is because connect2’s email notification systems and internal record keeping help our users keep track of what they’ve borrowed. It helps keep all of us accountable.”
The benefits of using connect2 have also been felt by faculty members:
“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in faculty usage of resources since introducing connect2. And they’re pleased that their students are getting the equipment they need for their work. There’s no more problems with students coming in to get a camera that just isn’t available. Connect2 helps with availability as now all equipment comes back, so our service is much more reliable.
“Connect2 matches our need to provide a modern service and support learning.”
How connect2 data supports our work
“I use connect2 reporting every time I’m making a new equipment purchase, whether it be adding a totally new item or refreshing existing gear. Every time I’m looking at replacing equipment, I check in connect2 that it’s necessary.”
Analytical displays in connect2 provide instant insight into the usage history of each item or collection of equipment. Staff see how often items are being used at full capacity, lending confidence to decision-making and funding requests for increasing stock. It helps ensure equipment stores always maintain optimal stock levels.
“For example,” says Colin, “when I recently began planning to replace our fleet of aging audio recorders, I checked my connect2 stats and realized the units were far more popular than I had assumed, so I will be able to make a strong case for their refresh at similar quantity this summer. That large dollar amount will have hard data to support its value.
“Conversely, when I looked at a series of once popular camcorders, I saw they were hardly being checked out, with users favouring DSLRs, so I made the choice to retire those units, trading them in and using the value to add more DSLRs to our catalog.”
Data on when equipment is being checked in and out has also helped Colin and his team adjust staffing hours to better serve the community and the staffing budget.
“Using connect2 stats, we could demonstrate that we had no clients between the hours of 8am to 11am, so why were we paying students to work those hours (moreover, what students wants to work those hours)? It made sense to use those student worker hours during a time when lab usage was up,” explains Colin. “So we started operating in the later evenings. And sure enough, at the end of term, we once again used connect2 data to show that we’d made the right move: we were seeing far more users in the new evening hours than we’d ever seen in the morning. Another service win!”
Summing up, Colin says:
“Lorensbergs are on top of their service, there is always someone available, and they always respond promptly. Connect2 was absolutely the right choice. I really enjoy using it, our community enjoys using it, and it provides an online portal that better represents the service we aim to provide. It has truly professionalized the experience of using our services.”
With thanks to Colin Kelley and his team at Bates College.