The Field Studies Council (“the FSC”) asked Adapta to review the options for their ICT infrastructure (connectivity) upgrade project. The purpose of the review was to provide independent and impartial advice to the FSC, to ensure that the business case for investment in enhanced network connectivity and infrastructure was robust and that suitable options had been considered and were appropriate for the size and needs of the organisation.
Over 140,000 people, from school children through to retired adults, experience the FSC each year through its network of learning locations and 17 Field Centres. These field centres include sites as varied as London’s Royal Parks, the mountains of Snowdonia and the Scottish Highlands or the coastlines of west Wales and Devon. The centres vary in size, with some having as few as 4 staff and the larger ones having up to approximately 50 staff. All of the centres are however used extensively by teachers and learners and regularly accommodate visits of up to 120-140 people at a time.
The FSC highlighted the increasing dependence of teachers and learners on having reliable access to the Internet in order to effectively use technology in their fieldwork as well as the growing importance of e-learning (e.g. in the form of visitors and tutors using sophisticated GIS technology, multimedia and interactive learning resources such as Apple TV, controlled assessments, mapping systems such as Google Earth). The FSC’s vision was to "be recognised as leading the field" and to "exceed learner expectations in the quality of service provided".
Many of these technologies are dependent on there being a reliable Internet connection available to use, but the facilities that were available fell short of the FSC’s requirements and were likely to hold back the FSC’s ability to exceed learner expectations and deliver a high quality experience of using ICT in fieldwork teaching.
Our approach to carrying out the review involved gathering data from both internal and external sources. We reviewed relevant background documentation about the existing network infrastructure, site locations, facilities, usage patterns and connectivity. Drawing on our knowledge and experience of good practice in the sector, we carried out research, through written surveys and follow-up phone calls, to establish how other organisations with similar requirements structured their ICT networks. We obtained input from key individuals (e.g. ICT staff, tutors, representatives of the field centres) to understand more about the current issues and the future requirements that may affect what is required of the ICT infrastructure. We also obtained relevant information from other sources to validate findings and recommendations where applicable.
Our deliverable was a concise report providing a statement of the current position and a clear, recommended way forward for the FSC’s ICT infrastructure.