Putting the user experience first: Digitisation prioritised by Ulster University

Frank  O'Donnell

Frank O'Donnell

Public Sector Lead

Read Time, 3 min.

With over 27,000 students, Ulster University is one of the largest universities on the island of Ireland, with overall student satisfaction consistently outperforming national benchmarks.

In late 2019, the University recognised the opportunity to respond and adapt to the changing requirements of staff and students by embracing a digital transformation journey, supported by Microsoft.

One of the challenges identified for both staff and students was the time spent on administration and reliance on paper. The goal of streamlining administration and reducing paper-based processes, coupled with a desire to enhance data and information security, saw Ulster University embark on a “Digitisation” journey, with Microsoft products and services such as Power Apps and Azure as enablers at the core of its strategy.

As part of its sustainability commitment, Ulster University made it a campus-wide goal to move towards a paper-lite environment and instead adopt a digital-first approach.

This was achieved using Microsoft Power Apps and underpinned by the Microsoft 365 security feature set.

With improved platforms, students can now submit and track requests and avoid cumbersome manual and paper-based processes, whilst enhancing the University’s approach towards sustainability, data quality, security, and delivery.

Mark Taglietti, Chief Digital, and Innovation Officer said,

“A core driver of Digitisation was to reduce our reliance on paper by 85% whilst improving data quality, staff and student outcomes, and achieving productivity and efficiency gains. A cornerstone our Digital Strategy is the delivery of robust, scalable, and resilient applications and infrastructure, with technology solutions that enable access to information at the right time, on the right device, in context, and in a secure way. Digitisation is a key enabler of this, as is the use of the Microsoft eco-system and Power Apps platform”

Sarah Hudson, from Student Administration, noted that from a data management point of view, the biggest difference can be seen in students having access to their own personal profiles and course information.

“The platform has been transformative. Processing paperwork such as a standard student amendment form would have previously taken up to five days, and now it takes just one hour. Seeing the impact that digital transformation has had on these simple tasks shows the incredible benefits of investing in these types of platforms.”

The tangible impact and value-add that this digital journey has had on the University demonstrates the power and benefit of investing in the development and transformation of digital platforms.

“This investment by the University into these types of platforms and infrastructure gives me back time to focus on the students” adds Dr Brian Payne, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, “I can set aside one hour in the morning to tackle administrative asks, and then focus my attention on the other critical tasks that come with being a university lecturer.”

Investing in a secure and digital platform is contributing to Ulster University’s commitment to sustainability by reducing reliance on paper, and greatly improving the experience of faculty staff, administrative staff, and enhancing student engagement. Thanks to the scalable nature of the platform, the University’s commitment to optimising the user experience through its digital transformation journey will continue.

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