The University’s strategic plans have a lot of things along the lines of “Imagine the {person} of 2012”, I suspect with the notion of dragging departments kicking and screaming into the 21st century whether they want to come or not. Here’s the one from the Strategic Plan Overview (actually quite a good read) on what the student of 2012 should be like:

I already know the people in my apartment. The University connected us through Facebook and a few of us went out for the night before we even enrolled.

I had my timetable, accommodation, Students’ Union Guide and University Handbook all emailed to me – I even enrolled online.

I knew the competition for places was tough because of the University of Lincoln’s reputation. The facilities are fantastic, award-winning buildings right in the heart of the city.

People here think outside the box. We’ve already had lectures in some cool places. All the buildings seem to have really sociable spaces, comfy chairs, places to meet and interact. It is a 24-7 place, totally wi-fi and networked.

Our lecturer has been doing joint research at a partner university in India. She is at the forefront of her subject and she’s teaching me!

Next week we have got workplace practitioners coming to talk to us and I have even had the careers people asking me about my ‘mobile portfolio of skills’ and how I might develop them. I have got an idea for a business so I am going to talk to the people at Sparkhouse, the University’s enterprise incubator.

All this in the first few weeks.

Cool, awesome, great… you’ve invented the student of 2010 two years late!

Well, sort of. A few things will genuinely take many years to build up to, such as establishing partnership links and building the University’s reputation even further. Others, like the omnipresent wifi and revamping spaces with beanbags and such (Learning Landscapes, and the Building blog which hasn’t been updated in months), will take time and investment to achieve. A few, however, should be in place already (or not far off). Wifi everywhere, 24-7 services, online enrolment (or at least better detail management).

Still, let me put forward an idea for what I’d like to see in readiness for “The Student of 2010”, ready for those arriving in September. It’s part what we’ve done already, part what we’re doing right now, and part in the pipeline. Obviously it’s written from the point of view of ICT, which seems to be a key driving force in the strategic plan anyway.

The week before I arrived in Lincoln I got an email from the University, with information about my first week, the University and SU handbooks and a link to the University’s quick start website. I logged straight in and was taken through a few simple steps, setting up my computer account and confirming my details before I’d even set foot in the city. Next, I got to take a look at my plans for Freshers’ Week – they’d given me a calendar with things like enrolment and my welcome lecture already filled in, and then asked me about my taste in music before suggesting some great gigs and events in the evenings, in places I didn’t even know existed! I chose a few I liked the look of and it dropped them straight into my calendar for me.

At the end of the form, they suggested I download their free app for my iPhone. Built in timetable, events list, phone book, even a map with directions not just to the right building but even to the door of the room – all connected to my personal account. It knows where all the best bars in the city are, where the nearest cash point is, and even how much it costs for a kebab at my local takeaway! I also got a printed copy of my week planner (complete with my evening entertainment) and a ‘quick card’ which it told me to print out and hold on to for when I arrived.

When I got there, everybody at Lincoln was really friendly. All the staff and student helpers were wearing bright t-shirts and big name badges; people from accommodation services to help me move in, ICT support walking around to help me connect to the free internet and secure my computer, people from my faculty to say hello, the works. When I asked an accommodation guy for directions to my room, all he had to do was scan my quick card with a barcode reader and he knew exactly who I was, and exactly where I was staying.

All the problems I experienced were dealt with really quickly. I posted a few on the University’s support community and got answers in minutes, even from staff at close to midnight! I had to ring the helpdesk to fix a small mistake on my unit choices, but they took my ID number and promised to get back to me when they’d updated it. It was only an hour or so before I got a text message from them, since they knew my phone number from when I filled in the quick start!

So far everything seems really joined up.

And the amazing part? All the technology and expertise we need to do this by this September is already here. Bring on the future.

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