Edge Hill University (EHU) is an important media centre and partner for the creative industries in North West England. With world class facilities and equipment, the University is renowned for programmes in film, television and animation, balancing academic teaching with hands on learning, and promoting originality in approaches to creative production. EHU was recently awarded Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, the highest rating achievable and one of only three such awards to Universities in the North West.
Media courses are run from the purpose built £17m Creative Edge building which opened in 2014. It houses a high specification TV studio and a large stock of specialised TV and film production equipment for the use of its media students. The way in which equipment loans are administered has recently been completely overhauled and relaunched, and includes the introduction of connect2 equipment booking software. The aim was to improve the student experience while reducing the administrative burden for staff.
This case study explores the success of this initiative, looking at how equipment lending was organised before the University adopted connect2, and how the system has been improved for both students and staff.
Equipment lending before connect2
Previously, equipment was stored and loaned to media students from the Library, with its frontline staff managing checkouts and returns. Each day, the library customer service team coordinated the collection and return of items using a combination of systems to manage the booking and lending process.
To book items, students first completed and submitted an online form with the details of their request. Staff received the requests by email, and spent time individually reviewing the details and looking up equipment availability in a timetabling system. Each booking was manually added to the system and the student then informed that their booking was complete. If the equipment was not available when requested, a discussion then took place to identify suitable alternative equipment or timeslot.
It was a lengthy process which necessitated students making reservation requests a full three days in advance of when the equipment was needed. Plus students would only know that an item was available and booked once a staff member had emailed them back, adding a sense of uncertainty when preparing for an assignment.
Responding to student feedback
First and foremost, the equipment loan store was to re-locate to the Creative Edge building to address the difficulties with the services’ current location. EHU also looked at streamlining the overall process of booking equipment. Students needed to be able to view items online, check real-time availability, and book for themselves as a single seamless task. While improving the student experience and helping to modernise the service, this would also dramatically reduce staff administration.
Other efficiencies could be gained if staff had a better overview of bookings for the day ahead and if they were able to dispense with paper copies of signed terms and conditions for each student making a checkout. Reporting on equipment usage is crucial, so the ability to track usage and provide key management data quickly and easily was also key.
Overall, it would be a great improvement to administer equipment lending from a single online system that enabled them to manage, track and report on activity in one place.
Relaunching the service
As part of media loan service improvements, EHU introduced connect2 to support student self-service bookings and improve staff workflows. Meanwhile, the loan desk was relocated as planned from the Library into Creative Edge. Together these changes satisfied student feedback, providing a modern, convenient service for students to use. Since then, the feedback has been 100% positive.
With connect2, staff and students have experienced improvements in the following areas:
- The advance booking time has been reduced from three days to half an hour because bookings are so much easier to manage - this has gone down really well with students and they are enjoying using the self-service advance booking facility in connect2
- When students visit the loan store, service is now much faster as staff have a single system to use. Connect2 makes it impossible to checkout an item if it would clash with another booking, so staff can be confident in performing quick checkouts and students no longer need to wait
- While staff admin has dropped dramatically, student usage of the equipment loan service has increased by 35%, providing improved ROI on equipment investment and as a service overall
- On the loan desk, the connect2 dashboard has proved invaluable for planning the day ahead, which is important given the 80 approx checkouts and returns on busier days. Staff can also more easily anticipate larger bookings in advance of pick up time, and bookings with 10+ items are prepared ahead for a smoother running service
- The University now uses the automatic system of reminders in connect2 that has reduced ‘no shows’ for bookings. The system also makes it easy to see which students fail to show up for bookings, enabling the store to engage them in more responsible borrowing behaviour
For the team at EHU, the overhaul of the service and the introduction of connect2 has been a complete success.
With thanks to Donald Moffat, Media Technology Development Manager at Edge Hill University for working with Lorensbergs on this case study.