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Birmingham Metropolitan College – Smoothwall Monitor Case Study

3 minute read
By Smoothwall

What’s the background?

Birmingham Metropolitan College (BMet) is a Further and Higher Education institution consisting of 10 campuses. The college was created in 2009 as an amalgamation of Matthew Boulton College and Sutton Coldfield College. Located in Birmingham, BMet has 6500 students aged 16-18 and 20,000 students aged 18+.

BMet offers a wide range of courses for school leavers and adults including A Levels and vocational qualifications, full-time Access to Higher Education courses, part-time adult professional development, as well as full and part-time degree level study.

What was the challenge?

BMet’s Designated Safeguarding Lead, Kim Vaughan, explained why the college was looking for a new proacive monitoring solution, “the old system would send alerts based solely on the use of keywords/phrases and didn’t monitor behaviour overtime, therefore the alerts weren’t specific enough. It quickly became unmanageable as we’d get thousands of alerts every week that weren’t relevant ”

Commenting on their search for a new solution, Kim said, “we looked at three monitoring solutions in total and Smoothwall Monitor – Managed Service stood out as the only one to provide an effective monitoring service. Compared with the other solutions, it was apparent that Smoothwall Monitor was the only one to look at the context of an incident meaning we would only be alerted to something of genuine concern.”

How Smoothwall Proactive Monitor helped

Kim explained the college’s experience of Smoothwall Monitor, “This solution is very specific as it looks for a pattern of activity and not just words or phrases. It’s also saved me significant time each week because I don’t have to filter through thousands of alerts trying to identify ones of actual concern.”

Explaining how an alert is dealt with, Kim commented, “having the online portal is useful because when I receive an alert, I’m able to see the student’s previous activity. Having visibility to this allows me to assess the situation in full and ensure I see the student within an appropriate time frame, for example, if it was a high-level alert with concerning previous activity, I’d see them as soon as possible. We can then provide the appropriate support and signpost the individual to any external support services.”

Commenting on the alerts, Kim said, “Smoothwall Proactive Monitor has alerted and helped us identify a range of safeguarding incidents, from students typing inappropriate language to searching for harmful content online.”

Kim explained how the college uses the Smoothwall Monitor alerts when talking to students, “we also use the monitoring solution as a teaching tool to educate the students on what is and isn’t appropriate to do online. The majority of pupils think that typing something on a computer is anonymous, so the email alerts are a good tool for us to use to highlight this issue. I also use the classification when speaking with the students because it emphasises the seriousness of the issue.”

“One recent incident occurred when a young female left her computer logged on during break and a group of students repeatedly typed foul language into this computer. In this instance, I was able to reinforce how important is it to be online safety and cybersecurity savvy, skills which are vital in today’s society.”

Going on to explain the impact Smoothwall Proactive Monitor has had on the pupils, Kim comments, “young people will open up more and ask questions online that they wouldn’t necessarily ask another person. Having Smoothwall Proactive Monitor in place means we can provide individuals with support that they’re not confident in asking for directly.”

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