Investigation into the use of SharePoint by UK Higher Education Institutions: literature review

Eduserv have published the literature review on the usage of SharePoint by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) written by myself and Julie McLeod. The review is available from here (PDF)

Here is an extract from the conclusions of the review:

Given the widespread use of SharePoint in HEIs there has been surprisingly little debate about its effectiveness or otherwise in this sector. This contrasts with vibrant debates within HE about Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), and providers such as Blackboard and Moodle. (See for example the various sessions about VLE’s and the future of VLE’s in the September 2009 Alt-C conference).

The closest things to a forum for discussing SharePoint in HEI are the SharePoint User Groups provided by some JISC Regional Support Centres for both FE and HE institutions. However, not every region has one and they have mainly concentrated on further education rather than HE. They meet infrequently and there has been little in the way of outputs from them.

Many HEIs have given details of their implementations on their websites. Some have provided case studies or allowed vendors to provide case studies. Some, for example the University of Coventry and the University of Oxford, have provided information about their future plans for SharePoint. But no evaluations of specific SharePoint implementations have been found.

The lack of widespread debate on SharePoint, in comparison to the debate on VLE’s in general and on particular VLE providers, may stem from the fact that:

  • SharePoint’s functionality spans many different stakeholder groups within HE (webmasters, internal communications teams, knowledge managers, records managers, faculty administrators, learning technologists etc.). There are few, if any, forums that gather together this range of interested parties. In contrast, VLE’s are specific to the learning technology community and are fully debated and discussed by that community.
  • SharePoint 2007 is a proprietary system. The closest equivalents to SharePoint 2007 are Enterprise Content Management systems (ECM). However, SharePoint 2007 has had far more uptake in HE than any other ECM system. There are key features of SharePoint 2007 that differentiate it from other ECM systems. Unlike other ECM systems SharePoint is already available to many HEIs as part of their Microsoft Campus. Unlike other ECM systems SharePoint is a platform that is capable of being extended by custom development or by (often) custom integration with other third party products from the vast ecosystem that surrounds SharePoint 2007.
  • The rise of SharePoint has been relatively recent. SharePoint 2007 is vastly more powerful than its predecessor SharePoint 2003, and hence the last two years have seen a vastly increased take up of the product.
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