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Researchers at LSBU help demonstrate that knowledge is power

a line of mixed sex students

How information management systems designed at London South Bank University help plan, develop and deliver HE in Macedonia

Prof Dilip Patel and Prof Shushma Patel are part of a group of LSBU academics who have been collaborating internationally in the field of Information Systems and Management since 1998, and enjoy an excellent reputation. Under the EU's Tempus programme, projects valued at €1.8million have been awarded to a consortium led by the group. In 2010, the consortium asked LSBU to lead a new Tempus project, 'Innovation and Knowledge Management towards e-Student Information System' (iKnow).

The project drew heavily on expertise the group had acquired through its previous work developing the (General Reusable Business Object Model) GRBOM. The aim was to apply the consortium's research to information management, record keeping and enrolment at Macedonian universities.

Flexibility and development

LSBU research undertaken by Dilip and Shushma might provide businesses with much-needed help. The pair have developed a system known as GRBOM which enables large, complex systems to evolve to become open and enterprise-centric.

Designing and developing information systems for large organisations is a complex task. Identifying and gathering the right information from the right people at the right time may sound straightforward but sprawling structures and different information requirements make it a significant challenge.

The system allows for flexibility and development within a business. It recognises that each organisation is unique and there is often friction between those who develop information management systems and end users. The research also showed that cultural aspects of the organisation needed to be understood. A dynamic business object architecture was developed to provide a conceptual understanding of the business.

Time-consuming processes

Before implementing iKnow, universities found the enrolment process time-consuming and inefficient. New students had to attend the university for an average of two days to enroll, providing paper-based records and having their university booklet stamped by a number of different departments as they selected their course and modules.

Returning students needed to go through the same procedure twice a year, taking a total of one extra day. In addition, the process required 1,058 days of university time (558 administration days and 500 academic days).

Huge potential savings

LSBU's research and expertise represented huge potential savings. An integrated system of record-keeping and enrolment was implemented in eight of Macedonia's ten HE institutions as part of the project and the results were truly impressive.

In the first full year of using the system, over 237,000 student days were saved, with a cost association of €2.2 million. It also saved over 1,000 days of university time, saving over €40,000.

Integrated information

In addition, iKnow provides students with a much more flexible way of confirming their study choices, making it easier to choose between different courses and modules. The universities benefit from an efficient real-time planning resource and an integrated financial recording and payment system. Plus, they were able to communicate directly with students, parents and other key stakeholders through email, Facebook and Twitter.

The reporting functions also promise further efficiencies to come, as iKnow delivers critical HEI management information on staff performance, making promotions easier and areas for improvement more apparent.

Significant impact

The impact of the iKnow system on HE in Macedonia has been significant. The Macedonian Ministry of Education has confirmed that it is the first comprehensive and sophisticated electronic student management and enrolment system adopted in the country that has led to changes in legislation to recognise electronic records as official documents.

The information now available to the Macedonian Government is already proving to be invaluable. The data sets and information that iKnow delivers is already supporting government understanding and informing future policy, a source of considerable satisfaction for the research team who helped make it a reality.

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