Information Services

Centre for Open Learning Strategic Way Forward

The Information Services team collaborated with the Centre for Open Learning to provide options for future systems and architecture to support their unique course booking and administration requirements

Entrance to Pattersons Landing Building

The Centre for Open Learning (COL) is home to Short Courses, English Language Education, International Foundation Programme, Summer School, Winter School and Access programmes at the University of Edinburgh. Given the COL’s distinct course offerings and unique nature of the student body, the Centre makes use of University systems where possible, but also relies on local and third-party products such as OLLIE, CESAR and CLASS to facilitate course bookings and arrange home-stays. The COL also encourages other University programmes, such as the Confucius Institute, to leverage their systems for their unique booking requirements.

As some of their off-the-shelf solutions began to reach end of life the COL collaborated with the Information Services (IS) team to better understand the need for each system and draw clear logic and reasoning around investments in local systems. The project consisted of scoping and business analysis to determine requirements and create an options appraisal for course booking and administration.

The project began in early 2020 and as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a shift to remote work, the project team continued to work together successfully. In the analysis phase, the Centre identified subject matter experts that worked in liaison with Information Services to define current and aspirational processes and requirements of the COL system. Based on the analysis, the project delivered design concepts for a functional architecture of how all the components interact and a system architecture detailing the potential interfaces with existing University systems. The final options appraisal detailed considerations, estimated costs and implementation timescales for each of the potential solution environments identified (Marketplace based, Internal development or CRM related).

As a whole, the project produced a robust set of requirements that specifies what is needed for the COL system. The business system analysis provided clarity on potential issues and decision points that COL can prioritise and use for local solutions that offer capabilities beyond the University system scope.

This has demonstrated that working in partnership with IS to help identify what we need and bringing them in at the point of conception has been incredibly valuable and something we’re not doing enough of. We’ve done the building blocks piece together, which sets the tone for future conversations. We know who to speak to and have a robust set of information IS colleagues can draw on for context moving forward,

Nicola DavidsonDirector of Professional Services, Centre for Open Learning

The project also helped to increase visibility across the University about the COL’s systems and capabilities thereby addressing institutional inefficiency.

“We’re slowly moving away from the concept of a silo mentality and looking for a more collaborative approach so we’re not reinventing the wheel every time someone wants to do something. We’ve already had two inquiries from other areas of the University about the work that’s been done in this project,” said Andrew Stewart, IS Project Manager.