In this case study, Lorensbergs talks to Gabriel Brackman, IT Manager, School of Communication at University of Miami. The University’s aim is to realize new efficiencies and a more professional approach to their equipment lending services. We explore the move away from their custom built equipment room software to the connect2 reservation and checkout system as they prepare for the return of students for the fall semester.
Over the past decade, the University was finding that their equipment room software was looking increasingly dated due to lack of development. It was also proving inefficient, with items displaying as unavailable when they were in the store. These errors caused a lot of problems for staff. Unfortunately, each time they occurred, it was necessary to wait for the vendor’s support technician to make corrections in the system.
For some time, faculty and staff had been requesting a more capable and manageable system, one that would present services in a modern light, and would remain up to date with more intuitive functionalities at an affordable price.
Gabriel started researching possible alternatives and discovered connect2 was already in place in a number of university checkout stores both in the U.S. and U.K.
“While I was searching for a suitable system, connect2 really stood out and looked user friendly,” explains Gabriel.
As an established system specifically developed over time for the academic environment, connect2 offered a number of advantages over the incumbent system. It would integrate with Active Directory so avoid the need to create new student accounts individually and have different passwords to other University resources. It would also provide automated reminders and other communications around equipment lending, with the ability to enforce penalties for late returns through a fines system. This would help reduce overdue and lost items.
Gabriel requested a demo of the software though the connect2 website: “I liked what I saw. The connect2 features were exactly what our faculty were looking for. It looked very much like an e-commerce site that students would be familiar with, where you can add items to a basket, order them and check them out. It was optimized for mobile and had a clean interface compared to our old system. It also came within budget bringing a long search to an end.
“We had some further demos with the equipment room team, and covered any technical aspects with the connect2 application engineer. Once connect2 had passed compliance with our IT department’s security measures we were able to purchase it.
“We’re excited about launching connect2 for student use. With its regular release schedule, we know that the software will stay modern and have new features to share. It’s important that we present a professional service and connect2 will enable us to do this.”
University of Miami's equipment room service homepage - the customized connect2 system enables students to view and reserve items in advance.
Getting ready for launch
The Lorensbergs’ team are working closely with the University throughout the pre-launch phase and the new system is shaping up well. “Support so far has been great, with any snags quickly resolved,” confirms Gabriel.
Moving across from the old system to connect2 is a straightforward process. The equipment room staff are using the import tool to upload collections of equipment, which is a big help with 5,000 items to process. It’s giving them the opportunity to review and clean up categories of equipment.
“The Lorensbergs’ engineer has provided advice on how other university customers have organized their resources and making it simpler to find items,” explains Gabriel.
The University’s inventory includes video production equipment for journalism and film classes, as well as photography equipment for those studying advertising and public relations. The system will enable access to resources for each student based on the classes registered for.
“This is a big difference as we didn’t have an easy way to set this up previously. With connect2 we can easily link lists of students to a class and then the automated borrowing permissions ensure only they can reserve the items relevant to that class. Many of the items are expensive and connect2 will be able to track and manage them accurately.
“The ‘frequently booked with’ feature in connect2 will also make it possible to encourage students to book the right items, such as the correct tripod for each camera.
“We also have a lot of iPads, webcams and other generic categories of equipment that are available to all, with around 500 students who can borrow items each year. These are being managed through connect2 as well.”
Great new features and functionality
The equipment room staff are looking ahead to the students returning at the start of the next semester. They are particularly excited about the checkout dashboard in connect2.
“The equipment room staff love the dashboard feature. They’ll be able to clearly see how each day is going to go. Previously it was really difficult to work out how many checkouts or check-ins were due each day and staff had to run a custom query each time. Now they can see right away how busy they are going to be, and when the greatest checkout or check-in volumes are scheduled for.
“The graphical representations will be really useful, to show this information hour by hour, with all the checkout details listed underneath. Managing the equipment room will get a whole lot easier.
“And they will be spending less time sending out emails manually to students to track down late items. The automated communications will really help with this and will also remind students when they are due to pick items up that they’ve booked ahead. This has really attracted us to connect2, the fact that we can use the automation to build in rules around when students receive communications from us.”
The future with connect2
Gabriel is very positive about the changes that connect2 is bringing to the School.
“Connect2 is enabling us to rebrand our equipment room website. We’ll be leaving our old clunky software behind and it will be easier for students to reserve resources. It will be a better process for our staff to checkout equipment and administer all the processes around it. And it will ensure we stay professional in the way we present our services, with regular updates keeping us ahead of the times. This is a really valuable part of what connect2 provides.”
With thanks to Gabriel Brackman and the equipment room team at University of Miami’s School of Communication.