Case Study // Smart web technology makes life easier for School

Author -  Labyrinth Solutions

Pinehurst School, a thriving independent school based in Albany recently became the first school in New Zealand to benefit from the close collaboration of two of their technology providers, Labyrinth Solutions from New Zealand and CDA from Australia.

Labyrinth initially became involved in replacing the school’s existing website with one that had a purpose built and easy to use content management system (CMS). Although the website’s role was purely for marketing, i.e. showing the public face of the school, the Contegro CMS was so flexible and easy to use, that the team at Pinehurst decided to investigate whether its use could be extended to their intranet!

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The school already had CDA’s student management system (Synergetic) in place, and although a very good system in providing defined tasks, it did not provide an overall intranet solution. Andre Wardenaar, Pinehurst’s IT Manager, felt that developing a school wide intranet, available not just to the school administrators, but also to parents, teachers, even the pupils themselves would lead to significant information sharing and efficiency improvements in many of the school’s administrative functions. The problem to be solved was to keep everything as simple as possible to get the buy in and adoption by all constituents. This intranet required a portal and a CMS to run on. Contegro was the obvious choice!

Contegro provided the “glue” for Synergetic and for future 3rd party applications to work together to provide Pinehurst with an extensive Intranet solution now, and for many years to come.

With Synergetic’s features tailored to the Education Market, and Contegro’s ability to easily create and manage content along with a range of website features, Pinehurst now have an extensive Intranet solution. This encompasses a single sign-on between both applications, accessing the school’s management system and more generalised information areas all in one place. Each user could see information for their eyes only. For example, parents could view their accounts and their child’s absenteeism reports located in Synergetic, whilst viewing general notices, events calendars, tuck shop menus etc. within the Contegro based intranet.

So, what benefits has this collaboration brought Pinehurst and why are they recommending others to make use of what they now have?

Alison Glover, Pinehurst’s Administrator is the person that works the most on the combined solution, and her list of key benefits include:

  • Initially when we thought both systems had to be kept separate, each user would have had to log on to 2 separate systems, with no jumping between the two. However the single log on for each user makes life so much simpler (a key driver in the project from the start). Now you can navigate to the areas that concern you, safe in the knowledge that you are viewing only what you should, and that others cannot see your information.
  • Absenteeism management is now easier and all parties are kept fully aware of the situation – the school, the parent and the child. “Not that we have an absentee problem here at the school” says Alison, but just keeping accurate records and making sure the parents are fully informed is very useful. Parents can now log in and inform the school of their child’s absence. They can also look at the report and view any unexplained absences, should they ever occur.
  • The school fee accounts can now be paid directly online. The accounts information in Synergetic is carried through to the online payment area of the intranet so that fees can be settled directly online. The adoption of online payments has reduced the administration involved in processing cheques.
  • Event management – trips, theatrical and sporting events etc are now managed effectively online. Labyrinth’s online Events Calendar displays basic information on the public areas of the website, but only gives more detailed information, such as the organiser’s phone number, accommodation details and costs etc. to registered users within the intranet area who need that information. This online Events Calendar has encouraged people to visit the website portal far more frequently.
  • Daily Notices – previously these had to be typed up and put up on the notice board. Now they are posted online – a great time saver and again, these can be separated out so that only those who need to see them do see them!
  • Everything is visible from home – this helps with forward planning, for parents and teachers especially.
  • It has significantly cut down the number of calls having to be handled by the office – the information is now invariably online.

So where to from here?

Andre tells us the next thing in the pipeline is to create an online shop within the intranet to allow parents to purchase lost, damaged or simply outgrown items of uniform simply and easily.

“No doubt, between Alison and myself, we’ll also think of some new ideas for going forward,” he says with a smile on his face!  

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