Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Athabasca University Copyright Contract Tracking System
Year Submitted 2013
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Cindy Ives Associate Vice President Learning Resources
Rachael Conroy Copyright Officer
Mickey Graham Director Supply Chain Management
Mel MacGreggor Project Manager
Name of Institution Athabasca University
Office Address 1 University Drive
Athabasca, Alberta T9S 3A3
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Telephone: 1-800-788-9041
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Brian Stewart
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) VP IT and CIO
Office Address 1 University Drive
Athabasca, Alberta T9S 3A3
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Telephone: 780 675-6112
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Abstract

The direct carbon impact of the reduction is relatively small and taken as an outcome will not appreciably lower the university's carbon footprint. The achievement is in replacing a high carbon process with a low one, while increasing efficiency and lowering cost. In this later case the project has been more significantly successful; The copyright office has managed to reduce its staff complement by 50 percent from six full time equivalents to three. The move to digital does not account for the entire reduction as the staffing was increased due to changes in the copyright act requiring AU to undergo a rigorous review of its copyright holdings. Nonetheless the reduction of staff is significant and permanent and will provide a financial payback to the university of its invested resources with two years. The total cost of the project was approximately $230,000 including external and internal cost. The ongoing maintenance is around $20,000 annually. The annual savings are estimated to be in the range of $140,000.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.
Transferability

Athabasca University (AU) is Canada’s Open University. As a distance education institution, the environmental footprint of the University is less than 20 percent of a brick-and-mortar institution [1]. However, the University  is aware and shares the global concerns related to carbon emissions and their affects on climate change. In its endeavour to make a difference it has taken an active role along with some other North American institutions to further reduce its carbon impact.

This paper discusses one sustainability initiative that AU has recently completed. Athabasca University’s Contract Tracking System (AUCTS) Project has been developed and implemented to not only move Athabasca University (AU) forward in its objective of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but also to gain efficiencies in operations and improve decision making and resource utilisation.

The project discussed in this paper helped reduce copyright management related carbon emissions through the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and moved AU closer to compliance with the American Colleges andUniversities Presidents’ Commitment to Climate Change (ACUPCC) [2].

Athabasca University’s Contract Tracking System (AUCTS) Project was developed and implemented to not only move Athabasca University (AU) forward in its objective of reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, but also to gain efficiencies in operations and improve decision making and resource utilisation.

The project was also aimed at gaining significant financial and operational efficiencies making it a comprehensive “sustainable project” with three objectives that addressed the university’s strategic environmental, financial and operational goals. The project also coordinated the efforts of a distributed workforce towards achieving better decision making with a low carbon footprint.

Quality Impact

A range of benefits were anticipated from the creation of the new system, separated into qualitative and quantitative benefits. It should be noted that at the formation of the project, although quantitative benefits were proposed, targets for these were not set. These were to be considered as part of a project post-audit approximately six months after the implementation of the copyright database. • The creation of an organised infrastructure for institutional use of copyright permissions and trademark documents would result in a considerably increased research contribution to the academic community. • Significantly reduced risk of litigation due to an ability to track University trademarks and use of third party materials for which formal permissions were necessary. • Increased quality in copyright and trademark workflows due to an elimination of many forms of duplicate work, and digitizing much material that was paper-based. • Allowed staff to access the copyright database online from distributed locations. • Achieved compatibility with existing University systems. Outcomes: Qualitative benefits achieved include the creation of an organized infrastructure for institutional use of copyright and trademark, which has significantly increased research contribution to the academic community, providing aggregate data for analytical research into the institutions of copyright materials. The institutional risk of litigation due to copyright violation has been substantially reduced with automated alerts and improved access to contract details. Information flow has been increased as the AUCTS is integrated into the others systems of the university, most importantly the Ellucian Student Information system

Productivity Impact

• Improved the ability to expedite the publication of course materials by reducing the time required to gain access to copyright permissions. • Overall improved speed in workflow resulting in a reduction in staff hours spent on documentation and workflows. • Increased efficiency in copyright and trademark workflows due to an elimination of many forms of duplicate work, and digitizing much material which is currently paper-based Outcomes: Quantitatively the anticipated benefits were captured with respect to the reduction in staff hours spent on manual workflows. Fortuitously these allowed a surge in copyright workload to be managed, without adding additional staff. An additional benefit is the elimination of duplicate work, where staff was replicating the same tasks due to the manual nature of the process. One anticipated result was the reduced turnaround of course creation, however, while copyright has increased throughput, other constraints in the course creation process have not enabled an overall time reduction. The carbon impacts of the process have been reduced through the elimination of paper handling. Although not completely paperless, and unlikely to be so, the reduction in annual volumes of paper based transactions has been significant. The copyright office manages approximately 400 contracts consisting of 25 pages per year. At any time there are 2,000 active agreements, with a retention policy of 10 years retrieval. Of the annual average of contract documents comprising of 5-10 thousand pages, with the subsequent copying and storage, approximately 85 percent of these are now managed digitally within the copyright office. However, the copyright office does not control the entire document life-cycle as faculties initiate contracts before engaging the copyright office. Extending the digital workflow into the early life-cycle stages is ongoing, with the adoption of an electronic submission form.

Innovation

The project sought to use the capabilities of a contract management system to improve efficiency, access and service quality. The scanning of previous material was critical in allowing the system to be established. While not technologically cutting edge the facility of well tested technology allied to good organisation of the scanning project and the cataloging of the contract inventory facilitated the development of the contract repository. In addition the adjustments made to the contract database reflected an understanding of the criteria necessary to provide the functionality for copyright management. A use the software had not be designed for.