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19 February 2015

Making the most of studying, in 2015-style

Sunday evening, on the train back to Nijmegen – the Dutch city where you live in house shares and enjoy the student life. While the train traverses the countryside, your thoughts stray to the week which lies ahead. To the various lectures in the programme, and of course during the week you may grab a few beers with your fellow students. You’ll be able to work off those beers while playing indoor football with the university team. And all that on the same campus.

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It sounds like a good prospect, yet something’s wrong. A lot of thought has been given to where the facilities are located. All the things you need are present. Yet why does it seem like time has stood still on the campus? Why does it take so much time to find the right place to study? It’s not because of money, because you do after all pay a lot of money for your education. Actually making it possible for you to study is the core business of a university or college, isn’t it?

To be productive as a student you need to be able to learn flexibly. Of course it doesn’t help if everyone is still working with paper registration lists on which to indicate when you want to use a project space, a quiet working area or another scarce resource. The dynamic in today’s student life means such communication channels have been overtaken and no longer meet student needs.

Most importantly they do not match the expectations of the future student, about his or her learning environment. ‘Old-fashioned’ facilities and other resource frustrations thus constitute a threat to the core duty of a college or university. No matter how minor, these frustrations influence the quality perception of the programme and the campus, both directly and indirectly. If you weigh this up against the annual expenditure on innovation and IT, then it’s just a mystery as why paper registration lists can still exist.

That’s why universities and colleges are looking for tools which will help making the availability of study facilities more visible. For example by making it possible to book a quiet room online. Or to be able to claim a workstation on-site using a touchscreen. All you need for easy identification is a student card. You can then book the desired space directly. Naturally all the applications are multilingual, and availability can be read online or through an app. For instance, you might scan a QR code with the app to book a workstation, to report a fault or to share your (dis)satisfaction about the facilities on offer. And all that within three seconds.

Moreover the actual usage of the working environment can be measured and controlled by linking sensor technology with an IWMS. This means information about the available areas is always correct and up-to-date. This is important for the reliability of the service provided. But it remains necessary for those ultimately responsible for property and facilities to investigate whether the innovations being deployed are actually being used. Do these modernisations actually lead to success, or must we return to the ‘paper’ era?

As far as Planon is concerned it’s pretty straight forward. We welcome students to the UC era, or Unified Communications era. Sounds modern and innovative to us, don’t you think?

Bram Aarntzen
Former Business Consultant Planon Netherlands