Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada, Dalhousie University recently embarked on a transformative journey to enhance its student accommodation service. Home to over 21,000 students, Dalhousie’s Student Accessibility Centre, led by Manager Jen Davis, plays a crucial role in providing accommodations to roughly 2,000 students each year, across multiple campuses (including its satellite campuses).
Students with disabilities in Canada have protections under human rights legislation, which Dalhousie is obligated to comply with. To support its accessibility initiatives and obligations, Dalhousie utilises Accommodate to do just that. With a robust, customisable, and secure solution Accommodate has been a game-changer for Dalhousie.
Implementing Accommodate Across Campus
To improve its accommodation services, Dalhousie University implemented Symplicity Accommodate in August 2022. Before implementing Accommodate, the university faced challenges related to manual accommodation processes, including crafting individual email notifications, saving documents, and coordinating room bookings. The time-consuming nature of these tasks led to delays and administrative inefficiencies.
"When I first started, we used another product that sent out notifications and acted as a database. It was helpful, but we weren't satisfied with it. Then, it crashed and couldn't be revived. We ended up doing more in-house work, managing data manually," Davis said. These manual processes included crafting emails individually for accommodation notifications, proved time-consuming and cumbersome, especially during the busy weeks when students returned to campus.
Davis and her team at Dalhousie University found Accommodate to be transformative for their accommodation processes. Accommodate not only streamlined the notification process, but also improved overall efficiency. "What took weeks to complete, we are now able to cut our time by a third. Being able to have Accommodate has been revolutionary,” Davis exclaimed. “Initially, I think that part of us were in a little disbelief, that it would be so fast because there are a number of steps in the process to submit, to approve a semester request, etc. However, it really has been mind-blowing how quickly it works.”
Moreover, Accommodate provided a secure and centralised location for managing student data, decisions, and documentation, which was greatly appreciated by the university staff. Davis added, "The security of the system in terms of our student data, having it in one location for decisions, for notes, if we want, for student documentation, has been fantastic."
Accommodate Stands Out
Accommodate's ability to streamline and simplify administrative tasks was a game-changer for the university. Accommodate has provided the university with a secure, organised, and highly customisable platform for accommodation management. "There are so many things that are smart and intuitive in Accommodate that I love,” Davis explained. “I love how everything syncs. It attaches email correspondence to student records, enhancing security and organization.”
Moreover, Accommodate's customisation capabilities impressed Davis. "We can customise templates and emails. That level of customisation was missing in our previous systems, or when we did it ourselves, it lacked the time-saving mechanisms," she noted.
In addition, Accommodate’s reporting features have been instrumental to Davis’ office. "We use reporting quite a bit, primarily for tracking accommodation requests and presenting data to senior leadership. It's a crucial tool in demonstrating the growing need for accommodations within the institution," she shared. Accommodate's reporting capabilities enable Dalhousie University to monitor trends and make informed decisions about resource allocation. This includes creating a transition program (called “Able After Dal”) to support students with disabilities as they transition from university to the workforce. Collaborating with the career department, they aim to provide targeted career support and resources tailored to these students' unique needs, utilising the data they gather in Accommodate.
"We use reporting quite a bit, primarily for tracking accommodation requests and presenting data to senior leadership. It's a crucial tool in demonstrating the growing need for accommodations within the institution."
Manager, Student Accessibility Centre, Dalhousie University
Collaboration and support from Symplicity have played a significant role in the university's success with Accommodate. Davis emphasized the value of its partnership with Symplicity. This includes swift responses on inquiries, monthly to bi-weekly meetings, willingness to troubleshoot and answer questions, and truly being a collaborative partner.
“Our client managers have been incredibly supportive and helpful throughout our implementation process... Initially we met with them every two weeks for almost a year and they were fantastic. If we’re struggling with something, our client manager walks us through the whole process, and even identifies other ways to improve our system that we haven’t even thought of,” Davis exclaimed. “The support is incredible and just the willingness to stick with us and help us find solutions has just been an exceptional experience. Without Symplicity, we would not be here without them. The ongoing positive support truly makes the difference for us.”
Dalhousie University's experience with Accommodate demonstrates the significant positive impact that modern accommodation management systems can have on universities. Accommodate not only streamlines administrative processes, but also encourages more students to access the accommodations they need, fostering an inclusive and supportive learning environment. Accommodate's reporting capabilities enable the university to track and report on the growing demand for accommodations, helping to advocate for increased resources and support. Collaborative efforts with Symplicity have played a pivotal role in their success. Jen Davis and her team at Dalhousie University look forward to continued improvements in their accessibility services with Accommodate.
"The support is incredible and just the willingness to stick with us and help us find solutions has just been an exceptional experience. Without Symplicity, we would not be here without them. The ongoing positive support truly makes the difference for us.
Manager, Student Accessibility Centre, Dalhousie University