4-page Case Study
Posted: 6/26/2012
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University of West London University of West London: Using the Cloud to Start a Life-Long Connection

The University of West London (UWL) needed to meet its students’ expectation for modern, high-quality IT services, that equipped them with the industry-standard tools to help them study and collaborate (not only with the university but with each other and also with prospective employers). Investment in IT infrastructure had not kept pace with user demand particularly over the past few years. Rather than attempt to improve what it had, UWL decided to play “leap frog” and provide its students with the best possible environment for learning. A task force at UWL examined the options for a more modern messaging and collaboration environment and a product that was sufficiently flexible to provide a gateway to all the information students need. As a result, the University chose to adopt Microsoft® Office 365 for education. Not only has UWL gained a collaboration environment of greater sophistication than any it has had before, but it has also gained a tool for engaging with students that goes far beyond what it had initially anticipated.


Server. Its faculty, staff, and students relied on Microsoft Outlook® for an email client, Microsoft Word for word processing, as well as other applications in the Microsoft Office suite. Additionally, the university relied on a number of other applications that it integrated with these core Microsoft applications on an ad hoc basis. But the University’s IT team was having to spend so much time maintaining this environment that it was preventing the team from get-ting ahead on projects that were of higher value both to students and administrators.

Furthermore, the environment that had been in place was designed to support students and faculty on-site only. Neither faculty nor students could access the infrastructure from home or from a mobile device. Looking around at the degree to which the world was becoming more mobile and demanding access to systems and services at any time, from anywhere, and from any device, the University knew it needed to make changes in a number of dimensions in order to remake the University’s IT infrastructure into one that would truly support and enhance the overall education experience that they wanted to deliver.


UWL created a task force comprised of students, faculty, IT staff, and administrators. Together this team created a requirements document that outlined the features and functions that a more modern IT infrastructure would need—to support students, to facilitate learning, to enable better collaboration between staff, students and faculty, faculty and administration, and more. Then, the team sought out solutions that could meet those requirements.

* At the end of the day, students come to UWL to prepare themselves to get jobs. If we are to help them, we need to ensure that they are proficient and accustomed to using the tools they’re going to be using in the workplace, and that means Microsoft. *

Paul Hopkins
Interim IT Director, University of West London

After weeks of review, the task force created a short list of contenders: Google Docs and Gmail versus Microsoft Office 365 for education. While there was support among members of the task force for both cloud-based options, the University made the decision based on the needs of the students themselves.

“At the end of the day,” says Paul Hopkins, the former Interim Director of IT at UWL, “Students come to UWL to prepare them-selves to get jobs. If we are to help them, we need to ensure that they are proficient and accustomed to using the tools they’re going to be using in the workplace, and that means Microsoft.”

An integrated, cloud-based solution

Microsoft Office 365 for education combines the familiar Microsoft Office desktop suite with online versions of next-generation Microsoft communications and collaboration services, including:

  • Microsoft Exchange® Online for email, shared calendars, and shared address books.
  • Microsoft Lync® Online for instant messaging and online video conferencing.
  • Microsoft Office Web Apps for online access to Microsoft Office files.
  • Microsoft SharePoint® Online for collaboration, resource sharing and generating an integrated and personalized portal.

These applications run in data centers owned and operated by Microsoft, and Microsoft maintains the servers and the software on a day-to-day basis. This frees IT personnel at UWL to devote their time and attention to activities that are more strategically valuable than maintaining the email infrastructure. And, because Microsoft keeps the Office 365 for education software up–to–date on the back end, users are always working with the latest software releases—without the local IT team having to oversee server migrations and upgrades.

Building out a new collaboration environment

Mauli Arora, a Project Manager in the IT department at UWL who has considerable experience working with Microsoft SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online, undertook management of the project to bring Office 365 for education into the University. “She undertook this project with passion and zeal,” says Mr. Hopkins, “and she created prototype solutions that she demonstrated to dozens of groups on campus to create an atmosphere of excitement about this.”

Ms. Arora’s demonstrations—which can be viewed on YouTube—succeeded in generating considerable enthusiasm. In particular, she devoted considerable time to showing the kinds of interactions that SharePoint Online would enable—including personal pages on which students could present themselves and their portfolio of work, connect with classmates, collaborate on projects, and much more.

Beyond the personal page, which she refers to as “the Facebook of UWL,” Ms. Arora’s demonstrations went on to show how students and faculty would be able to use SharePoint Online to share class materials and presentations, as well as how they could use this collaboration environment to work on group projects, from anywhere they happened to be. With Office 365 for education, students and faculty can interact at any time, from anywhere, and from any device—which is exactly the interaction model that students and faculty wanted.


Office 365 for education does provide full immersion into the software products that they will use most commonly in the workplace, even as it provides full immersion into the online community at UWL.

* All the companies whose products we use… understand that this is where the future is going and they want to be sure that their tools can support institutions using Office 365 for education. *

Paul Hopkins
Interim IT Director, UWL

For faculty, Office 365 for education enables a wide range of new ways to interact with students and colleagues. Faculty members can distribute class materials through SharePoint Online—and those materials could range from documents to videos to code samples to fully compiled software packages. Students and faculty even gain the ability to interact using Lync-based video conferencing, which provides an entirely new way for individuals and groups to interact at the University.

For the IT organization at UWL, Office 365 for education offers a significant and tangible return—time. Because Microsoft maintains the software and the servers supporting Office 365 for education, the IT team at UWL can focus on other activities that they might have been unable to get to as quickly because of the time necessary to maintain the old email infrastructure.

Connecting existing applications to the cloud

UWL is working closely with a number of organizations to bring other applications into the online environment created by Office 365 for education. Oxford Computer group helped UWL move its existing student and faculty mailboxes into the cloud. Fulcrum Worldwide is helping the University connect other critical applications—course scheduling tools, its Capita student record-keeping system, and other applications—into this infrastructure so that students and faculty can connect with all the tools they need in one place.

“All the companies whose products we use want to be involved,” says Mr. Hopkins. “They all understand that this is where the future is going and they want to be sure that their tools can support institutions using Office 365 for education.”

“What you have to understand is that at a certain point the University is a supply chain, and you have to think of it with that in mind. We spend a lot of time thinking about how best to support the students while they’re here, but we also have to think about how to bring students in and how to ensure that they stay closely connected with the University once they’ve graduated.”

The combination of CRM and Office 365 for education provides an extraordinarily powerful way to do that, he goes on to say. “In the future, the instant a prospective student contacts the University to make an inquiry about courses, we’ll set up an Office 365 account for them at UWL, and that will be captured in the CRM system. We can send them information via email, we can IM them, have video chats in Lync. They can meet students and faculty online and get a very good feeling for the community—even before they’ve enrolled. We can use it as a conversion tool, effectively.

“Once they graduate, they can maintain that Office 365 account through the University for life. We can continue to supply them with information about the activities of the University, help them find their second job, their third job, and so on. This isn’t just about collaboration while they’re studying—it’s about creating a life-long connection between the students and the University.”

Microsoft Office 365 for Education

Microsoft Office 365 for education brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for educational institutions.

Office 365 for education helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement guaranteeing 99 percent reliability. Office 365 for education features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365 for education, go to: http://education.office365.com

For More Information

For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:www.microsoft.com

For more information about University of West London products and services, visit the website at:www.uwl.ac.uk  

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 15000 employees

Organization Profile

UWL has approximately 14,000 undergraduate and graduate students, as well as 1,000 faculty and staff members. It offers degrees in subjects ranging from business to music technology, from law to the culinary arts and from engineering to midwifery.

Business Situation

The University wanted both to modernize its existing student email system and to create a collaboration infrastructure that would enable students and staff to interact more effectively through a personalized gateway to the information they need.


UWL carefully considered its options and chose to adopt Microsoft Office 365 for education.


  • Prepares students for the workplace
  • Improved accessibility and availability
  • Enables IT to add value elsewhere
  • Facilitates a life-long connection
  • Improves communication and collaboration

Software and Services
Microsoft Office 365

Vertical Industries
Higher Education

United Kingdom