University of Jyväskylä, Finland

A long, long time ago in a University far, far North...

University of Jyväskylä, Finland, with its 15,000 students and 2,600 staff members, has used Plone since 2004 for about 80 websites, small and large. Pageview count on the university's main website is 2,000,000  / month and there are now some 500,000 content objects in our public and intranet sites. Hundreds of content editors have worked with Plone sites, and there has been an organizational change on how to do web content management. An even greater impact has been gained from developing custom services on Plone, and integrating it with other university systems. 

As a large public institute with government funding, the open source nature of Plone has proven to be an invaluable asset for us. Plone has allowed us to gradually grow our sites and services to match the plethora of different needs of our faculties and users. The unbeatable security record, scalability and the inherent ease-of-use accompanied with what seems to be a never ending level of flexibility, has always allowed us to take the direction, or directions, we have needed.

In 2004 we began with a basic Plone site for staff training. At that time university and faculty websites were incoherent in structure and theme, and content was updated by a handful of IT specialists who knew how to edit raw HTML. In 2005 three faculties wanted to renew their sites, so that the content was easy to update using just a browser. As we already happened to have some experience with Plone, we decided to go with it. It was only half a year later that the faculties published their sites, and by the end of the year other faculties started to follow, voluntarily. Soon most of the public domain sites in were "plonified" and Plone became our CMS. Years later, there are hundreds of staff members who can edit Plone content.

But it didn't stop at websites

During the years, University of Jyväskylä has used thousands of electronic forms in Plone. From registering for a seminar, or giving feedback or submitting your information for recruitment - anything can be done with the form tools that are available in Plone. The data are easily viewable in the browser, in email or in Excel/Open Office. Using forms has saved uncountable work, pain and money.

There are a multitude of add-ons for Plone that complement its out-of-the-box features. Whether we needed a discussion board, social media integration, image mapping tool, help center, or analytics - the solution is almost always there already - just download and install.

We have also developed many add-ons of our own, based on the various needs of the users: portal views, personnel rosters, form integrations, themes, and so on. Plone sets no boundaries.

But it didn't stop at adding features or forms

Integration with other university systems became important, and in 2007 we added integration with TUTKA (a research and publication data system) and Korppi (a study data system). This meant automatically updated lists of publications and courses, less work for content editors and more accurate information. We also added integration with LDAP for easy logging in and enhanced security.

As an educational institute, delivering course material, whether written text, video or audio, became more and more important. We actually had already released our Zope-based video publishing platform Moniviestin in 2003; we upgraded it to Plone in 2007. We had other e-learning platforms in our university, but teachers demanded the same kind of ease-of-use as they got with Plone. So in 2008 we released the first version of Koppa - a Plone-based system for delivering course material. Koppa has tight integration with Korppi groups - the course material is visible only for students who are enrolled in the courses, and editable only for teachers who are, well, teachers in the same courses. No technical prowess is needed from students or teachers for adding material or viewing it. 

But it didn't stop at delivering material

One million euros / year in revenue go through the payment systems we have developed. There is of course an online store for buying books and university merchandise, but even more importantly, systems for paying for sports tickets, print quotas and parking. In addition to that, students at the Open Universitycan enroll in courses at Korppi, pay the tuition fee online, and start studying at Koppa, watching embedded Moniviestin-videos. Additionally there are forms by which you may enroll in a seminar and then pay online. The integration with Plone forms is a powerful and flexible way to initiate new payment services. 

It hasn't stopped since

As mentioned before, Plone delivers a huge amount of features by itself. The workflows, the fine-grained permission management, the intranet options - all are widely used in our university. We got very far just using Plone by itself and training staff on web content management. But we got an even greater impact by integrating and bending Plone to our needs. A few good developers are valuable, and luckily we have had (and still have!) those.

There was a "virtual university project" at the time Plone came to our university. We had the opportunity to seek out new ways of doing websites and e-learning. We bumped into a system called FLE, then Zope and finally Plone. Since then we have used Plone for our websites without looking into other systems. Now, 10 years later, we are still using Plone more than ever, and there seems to be no reason to have anything else.



Rikupekka Oksanen
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