Non-profit university UniMinuto works tirelessly to deliver accessible education for hundreds of thousands of Colombians trapped in generational poverty. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and completely halted the university’s in-person operations, Microsoft partner Softline stepped in to bridge the gap. Softline deployed its TotalVoice solution to overhaul UniMinuto’s old video and voice infrastructure and managed the adoption of Microsoft Teams. Within just 15 days, over 100,000 UniMinuto students were able to register, attend lectures, submit assignments, and meet entirely online. Now, Microsoft Teams and TotalVoice allow UniMinuto to continue as a bastion of education for under-resourced students from the jungles of the Amazon to Africa’s Ivory Coast.
UniMinuto (Universidad Minuto de Diós) was founded in 1970 by a Catholic priest who planned to help Colombians struggling with poverty receive higher education. Today, UniMinuto is a non-profit institution that works towards the social transformation of Colombia by expanding access to quality education to Colombia’s 50 million citizens. UniMinuto is well on its way to its goal, with 100,000 under-resourced students currently enrolled in over 220 sites around the country. Beyond Colombia, UniMinuto partners with Eudist Technological University Institution of Africa in Africa’s Ivory Coast to share its strategies to reduce generational poverty through education.
UniMinuto focuses on assisting the most remote and impoverished students in the country, who were also the most isolated when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Like many universities, UniMinuto didn’t have the technology or the infrastructure on hand to support fully remote learning. The university retained outdated video and voice systems, a registration system that relied on physical sites and paper documents, and no infrastructure to support audio/video capabilities in classes or meeting rooms.
UniMinuto approached Microsoft to find a solution that would be robust enough to support its vast and populous student body but simple enough to be implemented rapidly. Microsoft recommended working with Softline, a trusted partner, to deploy its TotalVoice solution. Softline’s TotalVoice solution complements Microsoft Teams by delivering phone systems and calling plans in emerging markets to ensure that customers receive the same access and integration as those in developed markets.
The first phase in Softline’s plan was to provide UniMinuto with a flexible, 100% cloud-based phone solution. Softline installed a Microsoft Teams phone system through direct routing configuration and enabled Direct Routing to provide a PSTN (public switched telephone network) connection to Microsoft Teams users so that they could make and receive external phone calls on any device using Teams. All teachers, administrators, and staff were able to receive calls to their regular telephone extension at home.
Next, Softline introduced Microsoft Teams as UniMinuto’s newest classroom. Using the Genesys Cloud Omnichannel Contact Center, UniMinuto was able to keep students updated directly through text messages, emails, and WhatsApp. The Genesys Contact Center provided students with simple instructions for getting set up in Microsoft Teams to resume their learning. With over half of UniMinuto’s students and teachers isolated in the Amazon jungle, Softline worked to bring access to the most remote regions of Colombia. Within 15 days, all of UniMinuto’s over 100,000 students nationwide had adopted Microsoft Teams and were back to discovering, discussing, and growing intellectually.
Softline installed Lenovo Hub devices in each classroom that included reliable video and audio hardware so professors could use the technology in their classrooms to teach directly into each student’s home with minimal staff onsite.
Softline’s final challenge was bringing UniMinuto’s completely offline registration process into the digital realm. Previously, registering students required them to come onsite and complete paper documents that would later be processed and filed by staff. To automate the process, Softline created Microsoft Forms integrated with Teams to allow students to register for classes seamlessly, which sped up average student registration time from five days to four minutes.
Softline also assisted UniMinuto’s partner school, the Eudist Institution in Ivory Coast, Africa, by replicating its deployed model at UniMinuto. In June of 2020, the students of the Eudist Institution had no access to their education because of technical instability, so the university lagged three months behind the curriculum. Softline and UniMinuto worked together to get the Eudist students and professors back to their studies in just two weeks.
Softline’s TotalVoice approach allowed UniMinuto to get back to its goal of increasing social progress in Colombia. Faculty, administration, and students were empowered to learn Microsoft technology firsthand, which furthers allows UniMinuto to ensure equity, access, and capacity for all. Now, UniMinuto’s fully remote or hybrid classroom environments continue to equip under-resourced students with critical thinking skills, creativity, independence, cognitive flexibility, and perseverance wherever they are.
"We transformed the way we interact with our students, Our classes did not stop for a single day, and during the quarantine, there was interaction, communication was facilitated, and those barriers that prevented us from being together were broken",
"With these types of tools, we began to break that paradigm that we could have, with a single tool to do many things, perhaps better than what free software did, Technological change occurs if culture changes",
Saul Reyes, Director of Technology and Information Systems at UniMinoto.