Realizing ROI with an Enterprise-Level Placement Administration Solution

A Commitment to Improving Placement Administration

After dealing with inconsistencies, problems with manual forms and issues with the use of spreadsheets and proprietary placement tools, the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne Australia‘s second-oldest university, collaborated around their need for a student placement administration tool.  With an increasing need for consistent reporting to provide to government departments, and with an eye towards selecting a university-wide solution, the team received approval to proceed with a tender for a placement management solution.

David Chidgey, Senior Project Officer, Business Systems, Student and Scholarly Services for the university was working at the time in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences (MDHS). When the decision was made to go to tender, he was appointed to the tender evaluation panel as the MDHS representative. After vetting and evaluating three different placement solutions, the committee selected Sonia for its flexibility and its ability to operate as a university-wide solution that could meet the specific needs of placement programs across various disciplines. David was tasked with managing the pilot and roll-out of Sonia within the MDHS.

Customizing Sonia for Programs Across the University

The pilot was conducted with selected placement cohorts within the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, and later rolled out to various schools and departments within that faculty. Much was learned during the pilot and roll-out processes, in terms of process and training requirements, the range of options for customizing Sonia, and the unique placement-related requirements of each department and program.

David met with placement administrators in each school and discussed specifics around how they manage and administer their placement activities. His team then designed and presented the best use of the tool for their specific needs. The school of Education later rolled out Sonia for their placement administration, and various Placement administrators, students and site contacts all benefit from their use of the Sonia portal and mobile app, with its real-time communication features and centralization of information. The university has also extended the use of the tool and realized significant time savings by using Sonia (and the student preferences logged within Sonia) to match students with graduate-level research projects and mentors.

Process Improvements and Scalability Deliver ROI

With Sonia, certain compliance headaches, such as students not meeting eligibility requirements in a timely manner, are a thing of the past. Some placement programs involve contact with children and therefore require police background checks and specific immunizations, things students often overlooked until they arrived at their placement sites.

Having one centrally located tool has helped us tremendously in terms of providing a consistent approach to placements across the university, leading to time and cost savings and an improved experience for stakeholders.

A solution was derived whereby the university was enabled to perform background checks on students (with each student’s consent). Using Sonia and identity verification, along with a check box for informed consent, the university streamlined, expedited and improved this process. While these checks once took four to six weeks via the police station it now takes less than a day. The issue of students arriving at placement sites ineligible to work was eliminated, and the cost to students of getting a police check was reduced. Students are now realizing up to a tenfold savings on the cost of their background checks.

David was appointed to an enterprise-wide role to support Sonia implementations with other faculties that expressed interest in using the tool for placement administration. It is expected that the use of Sonia will continue to expand across the university.
David’s team, along with faculties across the university, continue to plan for the application of Sonia’s capabilities to placement-related needs. Using a team-based approach and best practices to realize time and cost savings and improve stakeholder experiences, they continue to boost and improve placement programs across the organization.  other schools are preparing for their implementations.