An open communications process between Alberta Education and its fairly independent school districts helped move the Alberta Education Electronic Educational Information Exchange (EEIE) project forward.

“One of the things that we did, one of the real key success factors, was maintaining good customer service and good communications with our stakeholders in the field. That’s really what made it go,” says Harry Hendshaw, assistant director of IT planning, Alberta Education.

With the initial student registry, Alberta Education went through an extensive in-service process, visiting every school district and most of the high schools in the province, and ran an ongoing series of workshops dealing with the ongoing changes to the student record systems the extranet system.

Since Alberta Education had to provide school district staff with technical updates–the types of data formats and document formats they could accept and process, for instance, the ministry and school boards set up a School Technology Advisory Council that meets regularly with ministry and school district staff and works through technical issues. Alberta Education also provides a help-line so people who run into difficulties or have questions can talk to someone and work through the process.

“Besides the in-service work and training, we had a lot of people from school boards on working committees and steering committees, and that was important as well,” says Hendshaw.

And, since it was important to the success of the project to get as many schools online as possible, Alberta Education provided one-time funding to enable schools to acquire at least one computer with Internet access.

Hendshaw suggests any company or organization that undertakes a similar project should keep the channels of communication wide open. It’s sage advice from somebody who has been there and done it.