Collaboration delivers solution for online admissions interviews

The University typically receives over 22,000 applications for around 3,300 undergraduate places every year and interviews around 10,000 candidates, over multiple sessions in December. These interviews normally take place in-person with candidates invited to visit Oxford, and only a small number conducted online for those not able to travel. In light of the impact of the pandemic, all of the December 2020 interviews had to move to an online format, resulting in a need for over 20,000 meetings to be created in Nexus365 Teams at fairly short notice.

What was the solution?

With the prospect of colleges and departments having to manually set up large numbers of meetings, at a time when they were already extremely busy with the regular admissions process, colleagues in the University’s Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach office and IT Services teams came together to explore the possibility of creating a solution to automate the creation and management of the interview meetings. A project was quickly established, under the Business Continuity Planning Framework of the University’s coronavirus response, and IT Services started work on the rapid development and deployment of a custom ‘Interview Management Application’ on the University’s existing MS Dynamics platform. Working with colleagues from Admissions, colleges and departments, the application was fast-tracked through to go-live in just six weeks, meaning that over 21,000 Teams meetings were scheduled, and invitations issued to tutors and candidates, in good time for the interviews to commence, on time, in early December. 

A successful outcome

Over 100 colleagues, in 35 colleges and departments, used the application to upload their detailed interview timetables, automatically schedule Teams meetings and send invitations from their nominated admissions email address, and manage any subsequent changes required to individual meetings. Moving at pace and recognising the time pressures faced by stakeholders, user engagement, testing, training and support was mainly handled via a dedicated MS Teams site. Project updates and information were published here, and users were able to easily share feedback and questions with the user community and project team. As a result, no issues were reported to the Service Desk throughout its entire operation.

In total, 21,442 interview meetings took place successfully. A robust solution from IT Services, delivered at rapid pace but without compromising ease-of-use and security, and demonstrating again the value of collaborating with colleagues across the University. 

Thanks so much for your work with this. The tool you created has been absolutely invaluable - I'm not sure how late we'd have been working without it!

College Admissions Officer