Downing College in the University of Cambridge was founded in 1800, set amidst 20 acres of magnificent grounds in the heart of the city. Downing College is a community of committed scholar and students, current and future leaders in their fields consisting of 420 undergraduates, 330 graduates and 130 staff.
While Downing College is surrounded by tradition and the past, they looked to Business Cloud Integration to help bring their processes and student experience up to date.
Using SharePoint Online, PowerApps and Flow we replaced over 25 paper-based student forms with mobile enabled, automated processes. The solution allows students, fellows, tutors and college administrative staff to easily monitor, manage and process student life digitally.
The initial requirement from Downing was to replace their paper-based student forms in SharePoint Online. Working together we quickly realised the complexity of the task, with multiple Office365 tenancies, external users and students’ data to protect we needed a fast, flexible and secure solution architecture.
Students need to communicate and work with the administrative staff of the college to process funding, accommodation, travel arrangements, memberships, course administration and events. The result is many complex and multi participant processes currently using paper-based forms.
The key challenge was to create a solution that would be easy to use and govern, was fully automated and would be adopted by all students and staff.
With help and guidance from Business Cloud Integration the following was designed and then deployed using our own Casper365 Office 365 and SharePoint automation platform.
Architecture & Design – the collaboration between multiple tenancies and users’ types needed an overall strategy to implement. External users needed to participate in the flow processes and with 250+ new students being added every year the solution needed to scale. Student details need to be secured and so an API was developed to link between dynamic student data and a locked down vault in SharePoint Online that only allows App / API access.
PowerApps – used to submit, track and progress student requests. Students, tutors and admin staff can use the app on any mobile device, tablet and PC alike providing the modern app experience with built in security and functionality.
SharePoint Online – using a combination of site collections in SharePoint Online with tight governance strategies, data is stored and accessible to the Administration teams once the students have added via the Apps. Additionally, with SharePoint SPFX webparts were developed to manage the allocation of student claims to various funds. SharePoint accesses student data only as needed and securely via the custom API.
Microsoft Flow – the automation engine to process complex approvals through multiple layers of administration staff, tutors, directors of studies and department heads. Flow did present a challenge for external user input and so an SPFX webpart was developed in conjunction with the Common Data Services to manage External Flow users.
Administrative time has been massively reduced and the students are using the modern technology they expect from a high-profile University of Cambridge College.
The solution is secure, modern and highly collaborative. The next phase of work will be to implement PowerBI to report on student activity and provide dashboards.