Why digital transformation is about much more than technology

Colleges need to ensure they get maximum benefit from the technology they invest in

To drive a truly successful digital transformation, it’s vital that change aligns with the institution’s individual goals.

That’s why The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) engaged the expertise of a Capita consultant in its digital transformation journey.

The college carried out a full business process review to get a clear understanding of what it wanted to achieve and how the UNIT-e management information system could support this.

Reducing workload

As trainers of the next generation of agriculture and food professionals in Northern Ireland, the college offers a wide range of courses, from veterinary nursing and food technology to horticulture and equine management.

Over 1,700 further and higher education students study at the college’s three campuses and it also delivers technical and business skills training to more than 8,000 people employed in the Northern Ireland agri-food industry.

Capita’s business process review is a kind of satnav for colleges, helping them to see how UNIT-e can drive forward business improvements. CAFRE wanted to reduce staff workloads and enhance the experience of prospective students applying for courses. The review helped the college achieve this.

Capita’s business process review is a kind of satnav for colleges, helping them to see how UNIT-e can drive forward business improvements.

CAFRE has moved away from a time-consuming, largely paper-based method of communicating with prospective students and now sends tailored messages via email and text straight to their mobile devices. The move has already paid for itself with the money saved no longer printing and posting letters, and the college has seen an increase in interview attendance too. A revamp of the CAFRE website means applicants can upload all supporting information directly into UNIT-e too, saving time for staff and speeding up the whole process.

Need for flexibility

To continue attracting students, colleges need to be able to respond to their changing needs and technology can help with this too.

CAFRE wanted to offer a more flexible applications process for farmers and employers booking industry training courses, for example. Farming is often weather-dependent and unpredictable, and it can be difficult for employers to guarantee students’ attendance on courses booked months in advance. Previously, farmers did not have any easy option to change the time of their courses and as a consequence, hours of training were being missed and funding unused.

Sometimes an employer or farm agent wanted to make a group booking, but the college’s previous online application function would not let them do that – they had to phone in and individually book each learner onto the course. These details then had to be manually rekeyed into the MIS.

With a new group booking function, employers, contractors or farm agents can make multiple bookings quickly and easily.

Now, all students can access their course details online at any time and choose the courses that best suit them. And with a new group booking function, employers, contractors or farm agents can make multiple bookings quickly and easily.

CAFRE has also introduced an online payment facility that allows trainees to pay their fees at the same time as applying for the course. To date over £175,000 in course fees has been collected since the system went live.

Positive impact

The college has received some great feedback from farmers about how easy and quick it is for them to find, book and pay for courses online and attendance has increased as a result. Staff now do more in less time and with quality data going into the system, we’ve got more insight into our students’ needs to help us plan for the future.

A college’s objectives must always be at the heart of successful digital transformation. That way, you’re continually inspired to find better ways of working.

To find out more about how CAFRE is using UNIT-e, read the full case study here.