University of Limerick
Simplifying the deceptively complex process of student work placement allocation
- Client: University of Limerick
- Client Since: 2015
- Main Services we provide:
- Custom Software Development
- Key Projects:
- Development of Online Student Placement System
Niamh O' Sullivan, School Placement Coordinator
University of Limerick
The University of Limerick provide a Professional Masters in Education, with Student Work Placement central to the course syllabus. The placements represent a significant part of a student’s training. Students are assigned individual tutors to monitor progress throughout. In 2014, ActionPoint successfully responded to a tender to design and build an online student placement system for the University of Limerick. The Teacher Placement Interface proposal, entitled “TUS” (Teacher, University, and School), would help to ease the administrative burden of managing the student placement process.
Students at the University of Limerick go out on placement for between 3-5 months in their first and second years of study. The administration makes every effort to match students with their preferred locations. However, the allocation of placement is carried out according to certain criteria, with several variables at play. Where possible, students are disallowed from teaching in their locality, as well as the school at which they sat their leaving certificates. Added to that, the University tries not to send students to the same location twice, matching them with a new tutor each time.
To process all variables and allocate placements, administration had been using Excel spreadsheets. This manual, time-consuming and frustrating process put severe pressure on staff and was open to human error. As each round of allocations required painstaking analysis to avoid any mishaps, the University of Limerick were very keen to automate this deceptively complex process.
During the initial discovery phase, ActionPoint’s team spent time with the client to better understand the variables at play. The solution decided upon was based on four separate interfaces flowing into a system overview. Each stakeholder (student, tutor, university administration and the school offering placements) had their own separate logins with varied permissions. This had to be tightly controlled to ensure the smooth running of the system. Throughout the development process, ActionPoint engaged with the client to clearly define which screens and functionality could be accessed by each stakeholder.
Once each stakeholder input the relevant data, an automated alignment process would take place. The new system would consider all variables and recommend a suitable placement for each student. Although the system was entirely automated, University admin retained the ability to override recommendations. Once an alignment between school, tutor and student had been confirmed, a confirmation email was sent to all parties. This was based on a customisable email template which ActionPoint created for the client. Finally, all placement information was stored securely to allow for ongoing student reporting.
ActionPoint delivered a comprehensive system which enabled the client to process all student placements from a centralised source. The administrative burden of placing students on work placement has been greatly reduced. The new system is cleaner, more intuitive and much more time efficient. A complex process, which required the management of multiple staff, has become almost entirely self-sufficient.
One of the biggest challenges of this project was to provide a system that merged complex rules and business logic with an approachable user interface. As there would be multiple stakeholders and users involved, with varying degrees of technical knowledge, ease-of-use was key. Thankfully, as explained by Niamh O’Sullivan, School Placement Coordinator of University of Limerick, the new system checked all boxes.
“The system has greatly improved aspects of every part of our placement process. Overall our data is cleaner and easier to manage. Our process is more efficient because of the system. We have not had any issues rolling it out to our multiple stakeholders, even those with very limited technical abilities.”