Departments and colleges across Oxford University have already moved to SharePoint Online (SPO) and others are choosing to follow their lead. This is great news as, SharePoint on-premise will be closing in early 2023, so it’s important that everyone using it finds new homes for their content.
The Law Faculty moved to SharePoint Online in late 2021. We contacted Catherine Donaldson (Site Network Administrator (SNA)), who told us about the innovative ways SPO is being used to manage committees and other business at the Law Faculty.
Why did the Law Faculty decide to move to SPO?
We knew we had to move our content out of WebLearn which, like SharePoint on-premise, is being closed next year. In any case, it was starting to get difficult to track our 17 committees, so we took the opportunity to create a new, better environment for everyone.
We looked into options that were available and discovered that the online version of SharePoint seemed to fit our needs. The University had a custom built committee template which could be used for managing our committees using a common menu in a secure, easy-to-use way, where committee members could only see what they had permissions for.
We also discovered other benefits which we thought would be great for committee management such as:
- An easy to use document repository making it simple for users to find what they are looking for.
- An integrated system for showing upcoming meetings relevant to each user.
- The ability to create a common look and feel across all the linked committee sites, giving each member a consistent experience of using the sites and content.
How are you using SPO at the Law Faculty?
We requested a ‘hub site’ and linked to that, we created 17 separate committee sites, each with its own set of permissions for committee members and visitors. Having the committee sites connected via a hub site means that members can quickly and easily see all of the committees that they are members of or have authorisation to access papers for.
Individual committee logos are pulled through on to the hub homepage which helps recognition and visually enhances the hub page. The hub site also has an alphabetical list of all of the committees and it is super easy for members to navigate from one to another.
What are some of the features you’ve found the most useful?
It's possible to set permissions at quite a granular level if needed. All Law Faculty cardholders have permission to see the Hub site which has general information and links. Committee sites only display for people who are entitled to see the papers for that committee, so everybody gets a customised view with their own committees and meetings. In general this works well, but it does have pros and cons as some people may need to submit information to a committee without being a member. Therefore we keep a separate list of dates and key information.
The hub site menu can appear on all sites. For instance, when the committee sites were first set up each had a link to the Standing Orders and Regulations document and to the list of meetings. Having these on a central menu means I just update links once, in one place, and can easily add in new items such as ‘How to run remote meetings’ and have them appear on all committee sites.
During term time we display all upcoming meetings on the hub homepage. You can change the filter to show different dates. This is also customised so that faculty members only see their own meetings and click through to the relevant site. As the SNA, I can see everything though - it is quite interesting to see which documents are popular!
An added bonus of a SharePoint committee site hub is that it provides an area common to all committee sites for document storage.
How should others get started with SharePoint Online?
First of all, find out if your department or college already has a presence by checking the list of Departments and Colleges already on SharePoint Online. Then get in touch with your local Site Network Administrator (SNA), listed alongside each unit on that page, to discuss how your site might fit into the existing structure.
If your department or college is not already on SPO, discuss this with your SNA and put in a request.
There are many benefits to using SharePoint Online, and lots of options for how you might want to set your site up - I can’t help much with that, but the SPO guidance is really useful and should at least help you to get started.