Exeter College provides tertiary education for around 10,000 to 12,000 students and was judged as outstanding by Ofsted in a pilot “no notice” inspection in 2012, and again in a full inspection in 2014. The college was also awarded the Times Educational Supplement ‘Outstanding Provider of the Year in 2012 and BTEC College of the Year in 2014. Exeter College was established in 1970 as the first tertiary college in the UK, providing all post-16 education and training for the city of Exeter, bringing together the former grammar schools’ sixth forms and Exeter Technical College.
With a board of around twenty governors including students, staff members and external members, it is essential that the college can deliver board papers to each member in a timely and consistent manner. Furthermore, the system it uses for this must allow for last minute updates by the administrative team prior to meetings and accommodate for some members working in differing time zones.
Barbara Sweeney, Clerk to the Corporation, Exeter College, comments: “There were two main drivers behind our engagement with BoardPacks. At a recent annual appraisal, several of our board members, from both the private and public sectors, advised that whilst papers were reaching them in a timely fashion, it could be difficult to access them when working nationally or internationally. This meant they were often unable to review them until they returned to Exeter.
“In addition, if the board member was not at home when we posted the papers out, they might be sent back to the sorting office, which again would cause delays in them being reviewed. “With twenty plus packs being printed for governors and senior management, the printing and postage costs were also a huge concern. We estimated printing and postage costs were around £5,000 – £6,000 each year and by sending these ahead of a meeting, we were risking some of the data, particularly the financials, being out of date by the time the meeting came around.”
“When looking for alternatives to paper-based documents, we considered electronic solutions, such as PDFs, however these did not give us and our board members the option to annotate notes, unless printed.”
“We also found that some of the other e-solution providers we looked at did not fully meet our data protection requirements. We were recommended BoardPacks by another college and quickly identified that eShare addressed this issue head on. BoardPacks is an easy to use board portal app for iPad. The application allows users to access all meeting information, documents and agendas securely. Documents and board packs become interactive, allowing board members to make notes whilst on the move. This flexibility allows staff and governors to focus on meaningful activities such as the provision of excellent teaching.
“We were able to use our own SharePoint server to implement the on-site solution. After just one hour’s training, I was able to set up the online papers and after initially trialling BoardPacks with the audit committee, alongside having a hard copy of the board packs, we found none of the members actually used their hard copy, and really took to using the solution on their iPads. We have been exceptionally pleased with the response we’ve had from users.”
Not only has the solution been easy to use, but since integrating BoardPacks’ solution between March and May, Exeter College is already seeing a number of other benefits too. “The solution has been universally welcomed and one of the biggest benefits is that we’re able to be more green – and make substantial savings on paper and printing costs. It’s also invaluable that we’re able to be more flexible when members are working away from home so they are still able to review and update the papers once they’ve been changed. We can now make last-minute changes, upload and advise members and once refreshed, they can instantly review the latest version.
“Fundamentally, the ability to annotate documents has been crucial, enabling more effective and efficient decision-making,” concludes Sweeney.