Placement System Centralization for Greater Efficiency and Risk Mitigation

Emergency Incidents Highlight Need For Process Review

Following the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand, the team at the University of Otago needed to rapidly
identify, locate and communicate with students who were out on placement in the region. This was challenging as placement data was held by various people, in different formats at the department level on-site, rather than a secure, central database accessible from anywhere. The University also experienced an event where flooding destroyed paper records intended for permanent storage.

Sonia Identified As Best Fit Placement Software For System Centralization

In response to these incidents, a project team was established to centralize systems, source and implement a solution that would support risk management, and duty of care obligations, and create organizational efficiencies for placement program administration.

The cross-functional University based team created a strong business case that clearly demonstrated the benefits of placement software implementation. They undertook a thorough vendor assessment, ultimately selecting Sonia as the best fit placement software.

>>Join Sally for an on-demand webinar to learn more about how to make student placement more efficient & consistent university wide

Implementation Successfully Configured to Each Department’s Unique Needs

The project team, including IT Project Manager, Nick Oborne, and Subject Matter Expert, Sally Warlow, implemented Sonia across the University. Implementation started with the College of Education, School of Pharmacy and School of Physiotherapy. The team collaborated with department staff to ensure each implementation was configured to support their unique processes and requirements.

Additionally, the project team established training and an online hub to support new users as they successfully migrated to Sonia. This included instructional videos, FAQs and benefits information. They also worked with their change management team to deliver a strong awareness and communications program, ensuring that the eventual users of Sonia and their managers were engaged early and understood its key benefits.

Sitewide Deployment Creates Efficiencies and Improves Risk Management

Sonia is now deployed across all departments at the University of Otago, successfully supporting almost 30 different placement types. Day-to-day management of placement programs is now so much easier. Data is reliable, which supports reporting. Processes are streamlined and visibility to academic staff has increased. For example, teaching academics can log in and see reports about their students.

The greatest efficiency the University has seen with Sonia is related to student placement preferences. “The ability for students to choose their preference directly in Sonia and then University staff allocate from this, is so much faster than the manual way we used to do it, and we get greater student satisfaction with allocations,” said Sally.

Users and management across the University see the benefits of Sonia due to the efficiencies it creates and the strong risk management it offers. “The Sonia Dashboard is a great visual tool, showing output that people like to see, and supporting incident management needs,” Nick says.

The new efficiencies and process consistencies facilitated by Sonia have resulted in reduced administrative overheads for the University and makes daily life easier for placement officers, sites and students.

About University of Otago 
Founded in 1869, Otago is New Zealand’s first university. Today over 21,000 students from 100 different countries are enrolled. It hosts two of the most widely recognized longitudinal studies in the world: The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study; Christchurch Health and Development Study and has produced 63 Rhodes Scholars.

Nick Oborne – IT Project Manager 
Nick has been managing the end to end delivery of IT projects for over 10 years across a number of different industries. Nick joined the University of Otago in 2019 and was responsible for managing the project to ensure the objectives and benefits outlined in the Business Case were met, including the deployment of Sonia into any area of the University that undertook student placements.

Sally Warlow – Sonia Subject Matter Expert 

With a background in teaching, sales and business, Sally has worked in many industries. She started work at the University of Otago – College of Education in 2015. Sally then became the Placements Coordinator and began using Sonia almost simultaneously in 2018. In 2020, Sally became a member of the latest University Sonia deployment project. She has worked on the project in a Subject Matter Expert and Business Analyst capacity.