Athabasca University (AU) is a publicly funded institution
of the Province of Alberta (Canada). In
1994, AU’s Centre for Innovative Management logged on with the world's first
fully interactive online Executive MBA program. Today, the AU MBA is Canada's largest Executive MBA program, and is hailed
as one of the most respected online Executive MBAs in the world.
AU’s Challenge: Enhance Collaboration Amongst Geographically-dispersed Students
The Centre for Innovative Management designs its graduate
management courses using IBM Lotus Notes. This enables students to access course information and materials,
conduct group discussions, complete teamwork projects, and submit coursework
electronically. Students, faculty, and
staff are all connected, creating a dynamic, interactive learning environment
while giving students the support and service they need. At the same time, students are able to
communicate with their peers in real-time via IBM Lotus Sametime.
“The core of our learning environment is asynchronous in
which Executive MBA students are completing the program from many time zones
and different times of day and night,” says David Poshtar, Senior Systems
Analyst—System Administration for Athabasca University. “IM’s inherent presence
awareness enables students to see when their classmates are also online. This helps us build community—students can
see each other, which increases their sense of shared experience.”
AU’s classes are broken into small groups that change with
each course, necessitating the manual creation of new buddy lists for each
student as they move through the program.
“We documented the procedure for creating relevant student
groups,” says Mr Poshtar, “but still our Help Desk was faced with a number of
calls for assistance with finding and adding student colleagues. We needed a way to automate the process so
that every student would derive maximum value from Sametime.”
Instant Solution: Instant Buddy List Administrator
Instant Buddy List Administrator provides
centrally-controlled, server-side management of IBM Lotus Sametime contacts,
groups, and group memberships. Its
server-side management console simplifies and automates high-frequency tasks
such as adding, modifying, and deleting members of Sametime groups; creating and publishing public groups;
copying buddy lists from masters; renaming users after a name change; and
removing certain users from all buddy list memberships.
How it Works
Mr Poshtar’s team integrated Instant Buddy List
Administrator into their course deployment process.
With help from Instant Technologies, AU built a custom
component that automatically triggers a buddy list provisioning process: As students are enrolled in their courses,
Buddy List Administrator creates and publishes buddy lists of their peers in
those same courses.
“Buddy list provisioning is no longer something we require
every student to customize,” says Mr Poshtar. "When students join the program,
and when they move from course to course, we are able to update their student
groups automatically based on where they are in the program.”
The Results: Improved
Collaboration, Fewer Calls to the Help Desk
Prior to the deployment of Instant Buddy List Administrator,
students had to self-manage updates to their groups with each new course. Unfortunately, not everyone knew how to do
this or was even aware that it was possible (even though it was
At the start of each new
course, the Help Desk ended up assisting a significant number of students with
configuring their new Sametime groups.
“Our students’ use of the technology we provide is vital to
their success in the program,” says Mr Poshtar. “Thanks to Buddy List Administrator, technology utilization is now more
seamless for both our students and our Help Desk staff.”
Buddy List Administrator automatically provides students
with accurate Sametime groups from the moment they start a new course.
“Buddy List Administrator makes Sametime group memberships
transparent to our students,” continues Mr Postar. “No intervention is required from our
students as they move through the program. Their changing Sametime groups are all centrally managed on the back end
so that new or updated entries are automatic. Our bottom line—students spend their time focused on collaborating with
their peers and their professors, and on their learning, rather than
configuring their buddy lists.”