Teachers college works SMaRTer

When the Auckland College of Education found its student management system didn't meet all its needs, it build its own system called SMaRT.

When the Auckland College of Education found its student management system didn’t meet all its needs, it build its own system called SMaRT.

College information services general manager Anne Buzeika (pictured) says the college would have been the biggest user of the existing Artena student management software, but it wanted something it had more direct control over.

The college developed SMaRT with FileMaker Pro and standardised on Microsoft Office and Sophos antivirus software, which is available for Mac and PC (the college uses both), she says. The “iApps” bundled with Macs, such as iMovie and iPhoto, have been a particular hit with users.

“What we did with FileMaker was we had the advantage of knowing what we wanted, and we had the advantage of being able to script into it.”

Buzeika says the college would select FileMaker again if it had to start over. Version 7.0 was released this month with improved relational capabilities and support for larger file sizes, removing any concerns that it couldn’t meet the college’s demands, she says.

A particular strength is the integrated reporting engine which allows edits to be saved back into the database, she says.

“You have the ability to cater for what people want to see and how they want to see it. That is a highly effective way of doing things.”

FileMaker has proven popular with users too.

“We’ve yet to have a person who is introduced to FileMaker and plays around with it who wants to revert back to another database.”

The college decided to replace its aging LAN and PABX systems with Cisco’s AVVID integrated voice, video and data integrated system being chosen. It also connects the Auckland network with its Northland campus at Tai Tokerau.

The new network has already resulted in cost savings, including “huge” time savings for IT staff, Buzeika says.

Over Christmas, the college “topped off” the network with 50 wireless access points. The wireless network fits with the college’s strategy of having technology readily available for users, rather than expecting them to search it out. The focus is on laptops and wireless, rather than dedicated computer rooms.

“We are treating it as part of our everyday way of work. We’re not trying to do anything fancy with it. It’s part of life,” Buzeika says.

She says that there won’t be big changes in the IT systems at the college if a proposed merger with they University of Auckland proceeds.

The merger is only being discussed as a possibility and Buzeika says the college isn’t being distracted by the talks.

“What will happen if we go ahead with the merger is that this will basically be the ninth faculty,” she says.

“At the end of the day, it is a standalone campus. It hasn’t changed the plans that we’re working on at the moment.”

If the merger does go ahead, she says, the college’s infrastructure will stand it in good stead.

“We’d be the best equipped faculty.”

The college allows its users to choose between a Mac or a PC, and finds preferences evenly divided: 50/50. Because the college has standardised on cross-platform applications, Buzeika says she hasn’t found the need to settle on one OS.

“The fact that people can choose to work on a Macintosh or a Windows operating system to us is not a symbol of non-standardisation.”

The machines have similar specifications and operate at similar speeds, regardless of clock speed.

“With the PC with so many gigahertz and the Mac with so many gigahertz, you can’t compare them. But the relative speed is the same.”

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