Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia provides students with the knowledge and skills for a range of media careers. The University uses connect2 equipment scheduling and checkout software to manage student access to resources. This supports a core part of their studies for classes in journalism, media and communication, animation, screen production and design.
Jonathan Lang, Manager in Digital Media Production and Animation, spoke to Lorensbergs about how connect2 helps staff manage equipment lending and how students use the software to access what they need.
The University has a large amount of still and video cameras, lighting and accessories to support its media-related courses. Many of the resources are valuable and there are lots of students requiring access, so it needs to be adequately supported with the right software.
The system previously in place lacked usability and had a dated look and feel. Students were expected to reserve items in advance of checkout, but the system gave an unsatisfactory experience and often caused frustration. Nobody liked the interface, which was old and clunky to use. It lacked images of the resources available which made it difficult for students to know if they were booking the right equipment. Staff also found the back end of the system to be poorly designed.
Moving ahead with a better system
Jonathan’s team searched widely for a replacement system and were pleased to discover connect2. It looked bright and modern and had been developed for the university environment.
“Connect2 looked a lot more modern than what we’d been using. It also worked with our IT infrastructure to provide Single Sign-On access. It’s useful that students can get into the secure system using their usual University login credentials.”
This seamless method of authentication dispenses with some hefty password admin and registration processes that alternative software systems use.
The team were given an in-depth demo of connect2 functionality and saw that it was ideal for their requirements. It would also support their students in making their own reservations:
“Connect2 has got an intuitive shopping cart experience so most students can pick up how to use it very quickly. They can easily book resources online and by mobile.
“We were supported through the set up process and the training was very good. I felt confident to use the connect2 system right away. Since the installation, the software has been developed further to simplify the settings making it even more straightforward to use.”
Above: The University's homepage of their connect2 equipment booking online system.
Supporting staff on the checkout desk
The scheduling and tracking functionality in the software makes a massive difference to how easily staff can run the equipment loan service:
“Connect2 has really benefited our staff in being able to keep everything organised. Without having connect2, it would be incredibly difficult to run the place. You wouldn’t know when or what’s coming in and going out. You wouldn’t have much idea without connect2. It’s the lifeblood of what we do.
“Staff are quickly up and running using the connect2 system. This is especially useful with the student interns joining the team each year. And it’s faster at the desk with connect2. Now it takes about half the time for items to be checked in and out.”
Benefits to students
There’s both better awareness and less stress for students when using departmental resources with connect2:
“A big benefit is that connect2 provides an online catalogue so students are aware of what’s available and when they can actually borrow it. Being able to make their own bookings also gives them some sense of security: if they plan an assignment for the weekend and they’ve booked the equipment they need, they know they are ready to go.
Connect2 has led to more students borrowing equipment, but there’s less staff time spent coordinating checkouts compared to the old system – resulting in a win-win situation for both students and staff.
“Borrowing volumes have increased significantly since introducing connect2. It’s much easier for students to reserve their items in the online system so now they’re making much better use of the resources available. It’s fair to say that borrowing has doubled since introducing the new software.”
With connect2, students are also more aware of when items are due back so have greater opportunity to return them on time. A series of automated reminders are set up to notify students what they need to bring back and when. “The fining system in connect2 is also a reasonably good deterrent to stop students from bringing items back late.”
Building greater confidence
As well as improving access to equipment, connect2 is helping to build students’ confidence when carrying out assignments using media equipment:
“Now, as equipment access is so much faster and simpler, teachers are getting students to use the gear more in class and can build their lesson plans around it. This means that when students come to use the equipment for their weekend assignments, they’re more confident and skilled at using it.
“Also, students are able to book ahead from one week to the next so are better prepared for each class. Connect2 encourages them to be more proactive in securing what they need each time, so they tend to be more organised.”
Greater ROI and supporting data
While borrowing behaviour is going up at Swinburne, the media production and animation departments are keeping pace by introducing more resources when needed. In fact, the usage analytics provided by connect2 is making it possible for them to be even better resourced:
“We use connect2 for inventory stock taking and also to get an idea of equipment utilisation. So we know what’s actually being used, and what makes sense to get more of.
“With the usage data from connect2, we’ve secured more funding to expand our inventory. It enables us to build a strong business case based on our exact requirements. Connect2 data has helped with the last two major purchases and we can be certain that we will have enough equipment to go round.”
Jonathan sums up by saying:
“Overall, connect2 is a very cohesive system and it’s our recommendation you choose it for equipment booking and checkout.”
With thanks to Jonathan Lang at Swinburne University of Technology.