Being able to effectively and efficiently collaborate with colleagues is something that every organization struggles with. Whether it be the process in which collaboration occurs or the tool that facilitates the process, the vastness of the collaboration solution landscape (as seen below) highlights the extensive diversity of needs.
Members of the higher education space are no strangers to the challenges of collaboration. In any given university or college, the search for a useful and practical collaboration tool generally involves multiple invested parties, all of whom work in very different ways. Mix that with limited budget, a wash of personal preferences, the palpable disdain of having to learn a new system, and the inability to adapt fast enough to keep up with an ever-changing landscape of solutions and we’ve arrived at an overwhelming feeling of irritation and defeat.
But fear not, my friends! My fellow Open Atrium aficionado, Karen Borchert, recently hosted a webinar about how Open Atrium 2 (OA2) can tackle these challenges at our recent Social Collaboration in Higher Education Webinar. Below are my top five takeaways for those of you searching for a collaboration solution in your higher education organization.
1. Low Cost & Future Extensibility
As an open source distribution, OA2 is an excellent option for those constrained by a tight budget. Not only is the codebase free, but anyone can try it on for size before concrete decisions need to be made for an entire university or college. Spin up a version for your department or an upcoming event and see how it really works before you commit to it for your institution.
Once you’ve decided Open Atrium is the right fit for you, there are no pesky licensing fees that are typically encountered with proprietary solutions. Any money that is spent on configuring or customizing your installation of OA2 provides features and functionality that increase the value of the platform to your user base as opposed to continuing to pay for software (which you’ve already paid for). Not to mention that future extensions of your platform are based on your institution’s specific needs, as opposed to pre-set packages of features that may or may not be relevant to your users.
2. Configuration & Customization Per Relevant Party
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of working in higher education, it is likely that you’ve run into the following scenario: while the university has one unified brand, every department, school, organization, and group underneath that unified brand has an inherently unique personality and/or processes that could not possibly be shared by another department and must be expressed regardless of the impact they have on others. (Oh, the difficulties of making so many masters happy!)
The wonderful thing about OA2 is that those pieces of individuality can be implemented from both a functionality and design perspective without having to cut off the proverbial arm of your platform. Does one department have a layout and color palette that varies significantly from the rest? No problem! There are ways to change layouts, positioning of widgets, colors, etc. without needing to involve anyone on your technical team. Does “X” department have a different workflow than “Y” department? Configure them appropriately and apply them to their respective spaces. Done! Long gone are the days of hyper-generic platforms that, by trying to please everyone, please no one at all.
3. Integration with Existing Systems
Whether you’re looking to replace an existing collaboration system or implement one for the very first time, if your organization has functioned for any period of time, there are going to be legacy systems. In fact, these legacy systems might do their particular job incredibly well and you may not want to rid of them at all.
OA2 is built as a pluggable framework that allows for you to integrate with these external systems. Instead of completely reinventing the wheel, build OA2 as your base and build integrations for relevant software in order to create one cohesive system for users. If you’re curious as to how this works on the back-end, check out our Extending OA2’s Capabilities webinar.
4. Optimized for Mobile
In today’s world, users expect to be able to access their content across a variety of devices and viewports. This becomes particularly exacerbated when you are trying to interact with digitally savvy users - aka, your average college student (student-teacher portal anyone?). Keeping responsive design in mind when considering content strategy for higher education is absolutely critical.
Lucky you, OA2 is optimized for mobile and responsive ready out of the box. Built with the lightweight, customizable Bootstrap theme, 31 responsive layouts, and several responsive image styles, OA2 is capable of providing a seamless experience for your users regardless of their device.
5. Data Security & Identity Management
Considering the fact that a social collaboration portal for any higher education institution is likely to have tens of thousands of users with various levels of data privacy, it’s easy to see why a system with granular access control is essential. OA2 provides robust user management that can be automated, utilizing protocols such as LDAP or Active Directory to streamline the process of granting permissions and keeping the user database appropriately updated. In addition, users can be grouped together or managed down to the individual level when it comes to granting access controls and capabilities on the platform. That means the right content gets to the right people and is done so in an efficient manner.
Want to learn more about Open Atrium? Take a listen to the full Higher Education & Social Collaboration webinar or check out the Open Atrium website. In addition, the Open Atrium Documentation site has additional details about a variety of functionality.
Curious to learn more about the collaboration space as a whole? Check out our collaboration space blog series on the Phase2 blog reel.