Smart Use of BlackBerry Smartphones in Education
"As a business school, it's critical for our School Dean, program heads, and professors to be connected with the business community at all times," explains Jim Kiddoo, past Director of Information Systems and Technology
Infrastructure at the University of Alberta's School of Business. "And it's also important that we maintain strong relationships with other educational institutions, as well as alumni donors."
Nurturing these important relationships requires regular face-to-face meetings and a considerable amount of local, national and international travel.
To make sure these critical relationships are maintained, and to help ensure the continued productivity of faculty and staff while traveling, the School has deployed BlackBerry® smartphones to 50 staff members – approximately 20% of staff – including a diverse range of users from IT staff to program heads to the Dean of the School of Business.
"Because our mobile users travel frequently, one of the features of the BlackBerry solution they appreciate most is the synchronized calendar functionality," says Kiddoo. "And they find the battery life on the BlackBerry® 8800 series smartphones allows them to go several days without having to recharge, which helps them stay productive longer."
The School's IT staff has also enjoyed significant productivity gains with the BlackBerry® solution in place. On-call support staff now receive email messages when support request calls come in to the help desk, so they can respond from anywhere and shorten resolution time.
Kiddoo also teaches MIS courses at the School, and explains how the BlackBerry smartphone can help instructors save time, and provide a higher level of service to students.
"As an instructor, I find I can resolve lots of student concerns over email. The ability to receive and respond to emails from students cuts down on the number of face-to-face meetings, and helps the students progress with their work, instead of waiting a day or more to see me in person," he says. "This is especially helpful in the weeks leading up to exams, when many students need questions answered quickly."
Kiddoo also appreciates the fact that emails provide a log of the correspondence with students, which can be important when discussions focus on sensitive matters relating to student grades, or university policies.
From an IT management perspective, Kiddoo favours the BlackBerry smartphone over PDAs (personal digital assistants). "We've encountered problems with some other PDA devices. In our experience, the desktop-based synching seemed to be more prone to trouble, and the PDAs we've used aren't as intuitive as the BlackBerry smartphone, so they required more resources for training," says Kiddoo.
"In terms of security, the fact that we can remotely lock or wipe a BlackBerry smartphone if it is lost is an enormous benefit," Kiddoo says. "Recently, one of our users left a smartphone behind in an airport, and we simply locked the device. This is an excellent security feature."
"We continue to evaluate other mobile devices, to make sure we're delivering the best value for our taxpayers' dollar," says Kiddoo. "And each time, we've gone back to the BlackBerry smartphone as the ideal solution for our School's needs."
The School has a policy in place whereby BlackBerry smartphones are deployed based on a solid business case, which includes a description of the employee's mobile work requirements, and clearly shows the productivity advantages of being in touch while away from the desk.
"This business case approach helps us ensure that we remain fiscally responsible, by deploying smartphones whenever it makes good business sense," Kiddoo says, "and there's no doubt that the BlackBerry smartphones we've deployed to date are delivering tremendous value."
Editor's note: Jim Kiddoo has recently moved from his position as Director of Information Systems and Technology Infrastructure at the University of Alberta's School, to Chief Technology Officer at HeadCount Corporation.
Deploying BlackBerry Smartphones to MBA Students at the University of Maryland:
Corner Office Q&A with Scott Koerwer
Scott Koerwer is Associate Dean at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, where BlackBerry® smartphones are provided to every full-time MBA student. In this Q&A, Koerwer talks about the success of this visionary program.
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