A cloud-based Student Information System

With a heritage dating back to 1898 and its first lecturer, Ronald Ross, as the first British recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is a unique organisation.  LSTM is a major research partner for leading philanthropic funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wolfson Foundation, and is at the vanguard for the elimination of malaria and other tropical diseases.

Less well known is that LSTM is also a teaching organisation, helping to increase the disease fighting capacity of countries around the world. It was not until 2013 that LSTM was designated as an independent UK higher education institution (HEI), having previously been an [offshoot] of the University of Liverpool.

17500+

active users

“We knew we needed a Salesforce partner who could hit the ground running, master our existing solution and crucially, show us CRM best practice and how to get the most from Salesforce.”
- Eric Healing, IT Director

A Brave New World

When on campus the students’ choice of modules was managed by the internal administration team with a manual system of shared spreadsheets and email – a time consuming and cumbersome process. This then had to filter down to the manual creation of other spreadsheets to allow the administration of assessments and student marks, and the subsequent communication with internal and external assessment markers. Any new system had to improve upon and then, once the student’s mark was known, had to produce correctly formatted and branded classifications and transcript outputs.

Having started the programme, the student’s choice of modules was managed by the internal administration team with a manual system of shared spreadsheets and email – a time-consuming and cumbersome process. This then had to filter down to the manual creation of other spreadsheets to allow the administration of assessments and student marks, and the subsequent communication with internal and external assessment markers. Any new system had to improve upon these manual processes whilst maintaining their robustness.  Upon completion of the programme, the system was required to produce correctly formatted and branded certificates and transcript outputs.

Single Source of Truth

To provide maximum flexibility LSTM choose to develop a custom-built SIS, based on Salesforce.com, the market leading cloud-based CRM platform. The first phase of which provided for the online application for the School’s MSc programmes, Professional Diplomas and short courses.

 

The SIS project team built up a checklist of requirements and prioritised the need for a more coherent application experience, better tailored to requirement of the programme applied for and with bespoke communications to the applicant.

 

This greatly reduced the previous administrative burden of paper applications, but the LSTM executive team fully realised this was only a first step into the brave new world of cloud solutions, and so began a search for a Salesforce consultancy partner that could help the School reach its ambitions.

 

In keeping with the Salesforce mantra and Color’s ethos the great majority of the above functionality was provided using ‘clicks, not code’. That is, using the wizard like tools within the Salesforce, such as Visual Workflow and Process Builder, so solutions can be more easily maintained, modified and understood by non-technical staff.

Results & Future Plans

Color Consultancy was chosen to manage the existing LSTM SIS solution and extend its capabilities in several key ways:

  • Simpler application forms for short courses were provided, with email communications tailored to the type of programme;
  • All application forms were improved so that partial form completions were not lost and tighter validation prevented duplicate applications;
  • The internal application approval process was also refined so that staff productivity was improved;
  • Integration with the new LSTM website allowed the applicant’s course choice to persist through to the application portal, improving their experience;
  • Functionality was introduced to allow would-be applicants to enquire regarding a specific course direct from the website, with enquiry, contact and communication records managed and stored in the SIS;
  • A custom app was created to allow administrative staff to talk students through the module choices allowable, and then to create the requisite per student assessment records

  • An assessment app was also created to allow the capture of marks and to facilitate LSTM’s processes around resits, mitigating circumstances and extensions;
  • Conga Composer was used to provide Word and PDF output to collate and present Module and Programme Specifications for the LSTM quality process;
  • Conga Composer was also used so that at a click of a button a student’s certificate and transcript were outputted, with the required branding and format;
  • A trending dashboard was built, with an automated weekly update, so that LSTM could better assess and monitor student recruitment;
  • A custom audit facility to allow on-demand reporting for HESA & similar regulatory submissions.

In keeping with the Salesforce mantra and Color’s ethos the great majority of the above functionality was provided using ‘clicks, not code’. That is, using the wizard like tools within Salesforce, such as Visual Workflow and Process Builder, so solutions can be more easily maintained, modified and understood by non-technical staff.

Value Metrics of the Color SIS (hrs pw)

  • Legacy solution
  • Color SIS

“The project was built on the vision that the SIS would be 'the single source of truth' underpinning the student journey. It was crucial to us that our Salesforce partner understood and shared this vision and would support us in achieving it”.
- Dr Sue Assinder, Director of Education