Customer Stories

Ontario Tech University

How OnBoard Helps This University Live and Breathe Its Mission of “Tech With a Conscience”

Higher Education Case Study
Industry: Higher Education

Headquarters: Ontario

Board Size: 21 Members

Board Management Goals

  • A faster way to create board materials
  • Simple to understand user experience
  • More effective material distribution

Results

  • Creating Board materials is now a streamlined, no longer involving cumbersome PDFs
  • Email has been eliminated as the primary distribution method
  • Members receive their Board books in a timely manner
  • Board members have an archive of historical documents and other materials instantly available to them

The Challenges

Founded in 2002, Ontario Tech University has built a solid record of achievement in areas such as computer science, health sciences, social sciences, and engineering. What sets it apart is a vision of “tech with a conscience” – a marriage of technology and social science that considers the social implications of technology and its use.

In recent years, many organizations within the University examined how they could apply the vision to their practices and processes. This included the Board of Governors, a 21-member body responsible for governing and managing the affairs of the University. Becky Dinwoodie, Assistant University Secretary, recalls, the time was right for a technology overhaul.

“It was our Board chair who said, ‘We were created as a technology University, so we need to do this in all aspects of the institution, including our Board,” Becky recalls. “We got the green light to explore how we could improve our systems and board material delivery.”

Until that time, the Board had been using a web-based collaborative platform to organize meetings and act as a document repository. 

Because this other platform was not built as a board portal, it fell short in several areas:

  • Creating board materials was a time-consuming process involving large files and cumbersome PDFs.
  • Board members had to remember multiple login credentials and passwords to access their board materials, which resulted in many having to call in and request a reset.
  • Board materials were distributed by email, which could not handle large PDFs well.

“[Using the previous platform] was painful and stressful,” Becky says. “Our goal is always to give the Governors as much time as possible to review the board materials, but it was difficult because, at times, there were very large amounts of material to go through. For our larger meetings, we sometimes had upward of 300 pages of documentation and material to provide.”

Soon after, OnBoard was brought in and helped resolve these challenges.

What's fantastic is that I can start downloading or uploading documents as I receive them.

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The Solution for Streamlining Board Book Preparation

Board members were responding as well. Annual assessments came back with feedback on board material delivery timeliness, with some Governors requesting more than five days to go through the 300-600-page board books.

Using OnBoard’s Agenda Builder functionality, Becky can now easily begin building the board book as soon as the chair has finalized the agenda. She doesn’t have to wait for all contributions and documents to come in, either.

“What’s fantastic is that I can start downloading or uploading documents as I receive them,” Becky says. “I don’t have to worry about reordering them or anything like that. It’s a huge time saver and stress reliever.”

Becky also noted that some documents would be sent to her password-protected, which prevented her from merging them into one giant PDF. This resulted in further delays. Because making changes was difficult in the previous platform, Becky also found herself having to wait until the very last minute to create and deliver the board materials. OnBoard, though, made it easy to incorporate last-minute edits and changes without having to incur delays.

“We would wait until we had everything to compile the board package,” Becky recalls. “With OnBoard, if 98% of the materials are ready to go, we can post the board book at any time and add documents later. It’s so much simpler, and Board members get their material earlier than they did before.”

"If we had a massive PDF, we had to split it up and try to estimate how big of a document we could safely send. But a lot of times, we wouldn't get a bounce back saying it was too large for one of our members' email server."

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The Solution for a More Secure and Reliable Method of Distribution

While using OnBoard clearly made a difference in the creation of Board materials, it has also helped with their distribution. Previously, Becky had to send large, cumbersome PDFs to Board members using email. Email might have been convenient given its ubiquity, but it presented problems and challenges, too.

“With email, there were no password issues, but it wasn’t as secure as a board portal,” says Becky. “If we had a massive PDF, we had to split it up and try to estimate how big of a document we could safely send. But a lot of times, we wouldn’t get a bounce back saying it was too large for one of our members’ email server.”

With OnBoard, all Board materials are stored in the platform. There are no issues over file size, file format, or compatibility. And because OnBoard offers the gold standard in cloud security – Microsoft Azure – as well as a host of other security features, Becky and the Board members feel peace of mind knowing sensitive information stays protected.

With an increased focus on 'tech with a conscience,' we're trying to live and breathe our mission. OnBoard helps us do that because now have a more engaged Board.

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The Results

As a testament to OnBoard’s impact on the Board’s productivity, the same annual assessment that Board members used to request more time to review their board materials is now distributed using OnBoard. Becky estimates that 75-80% of those assessments were returned in past years. Today, that number is closer to 95%.

Implementing OnBoard has helped Becky and Ontario Tech University fulfill the mission it began in 2002 in several ways:

  • Creating Board materials is now a streamlined and more straightforward process no longer involving cumbersome PDFs.
  • Email has been eliminated as the primary distribution method, reducing security risks and ensuring members receive their Board books in a timely manner.
  • Board members are more self-sufficient and no longer have to call Becky with inquiries because they have an archive of historical documents and other materials instantly available to them.
Soon after arriving at Ontario Tech University, the institution’s President, Dr. Steven Murphy, articulated his vision of the institution as a center for “tech with a conscience.” Using OnBoard enables the Board to follow through on this mission as it executes its governance responsibilities.
 
“With an increased focus on ‘tech with a conscience,’ we’re trying to live and breathe our mission,” says Becky. “OnBoard helps us do that because now have a more engaged Board.”
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