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Athabasca University Improves Document and Records Management with Zia Consulting and Alfresco ECM


  • Positioned AU to migrate course material for over 700 courses
  • Improved the online management of course materials
  • Designed the Minor Correction, Minor Revision/Exam Revision, and Major Revision/New Course workflows
  • Implemented the Minor Correction workflow
  • Established Records Management foundation
  • Built taxonomy structures in Alfresco for improved governance
  • Created a system for managing document lifecycles
  • Built a scalable content environment for the entire university


As Canada’s leading open university, Athabasca University (AU), offers over 700 online, at a distance, or in a class room courses. With over 38,000 students and 1200 faculty and staff members, managing course content is no easy task.

AU’s technology infrastructure is built on an open source platform with Moodle as its Learning Management System (LMS) or online learning environment. While Moodle successfully handles course content, assignments and class interaction, it does not address the complete lifecycle of content from creation to editing to storing.

In 2007, AU implemented Alfresco Enterprise to help store and manage course content. The university quickly saw the benefits of Alfresco but realized they were not utilizing all of its robust functionality. By 2009, AU wanted to expand its use of Alfresco to include managed workflows for course content, records management and digitizing/storing of all classroom courses.

In order to do this, AU needed outside help migrating to the latest release of Alfresco, designing a taxonomy structure, building workflows and setting up the Alfresco platform to meet the university’s current and future needs around document and record management.


After speaking with Alfresco representatives at the Los Angeles Alfresco Meet-up, AU was introduced to Zia Consulting, a Platinum Partner. Zia recommended conducting a detailed road map assessment on the university’s technology infrastructure, business objectives, workflow requirements and record management needs. Over a period of six weeks, Zia consultants met with various groups within AU to understand current business processes and outline workflow models, as well as assess AU’s taxonomy structure for classifying documents.

The assessment broke down AU’s needs into three projects — upgrading and setting up Alfresco3.3; designing a records management strategy; and building workflows. Key to the assessment was helping AU understand how Alfresco tied back to established processes.

Zia worked with the technical team to set up a strong foundation for the Alfresco upgrade. Zia developed the architecture, conducted code reviews as well as determined the repository requirements. Zia ensured that the new Alfresco environment would integrate with Moodle and allow for seamless workflows.

AU implemented a folder and taxonomy structure within Alfresco to serve as the records management foundation for the university. This also ensures that records management policies are being applied to course materials. Quality control (QC) reporting is included to help AU staff see when documents are added to or moved within the Alfresco repository. Zia also prepared AU to migrate course material for over 700 courses into the Alfresco repository using the new taxonomy structure.

This detail preparation allows the University to easily implement Alfresco’s record management module over the next few years and set retention policies and governance around any content.

Working with the AU’s IT team, Zia developed and tested a Minor Corrections workflow for AU’s Center for Learning Design and Development (CLDD), which is involved in course development and revisions. This workflow is frequently used and establishes an online approval process to make corrections to active course materials. Through the testing process, the team was able to refine the workflow to meet both the CLDD and course creator’s expectations. The new workflow also provides an audit trail allowing the university to better manage its processes.

AU’s IT team shadowed Zia consultants on the development and testing of the workflow. This partnership allowed the IT team to learn firsthand how to develop effective workflows and roll them out. AU is now able to create additional complex workflows on its own.


  • Working with Zia Consulting, AU is now able to take advantage of all the functionality within Alfresco and leverage it across the entire University as central repository for creating, editing and managing content.
  • Using records management policies and workflows, documents are easily managed through their life cycle and seamlessly integrated with the university’s LMS.
  • The new document and records management system is used by over 1000 users and is highly scalable to easily handle current and future needs.
  • The AU IT team has the tools to successfully maintain Alfresco and implement the remaining workflows and records management module.

What’s Next

AU’s IT team now has the tools to successfully maintain Alfresco and implement the remaining workflows and records management module.

Over the next 18 months, the university will look to implement additional workflows around exam revisions and extending their new taxonomy system campus-wide.

"Zia was instrumental in helping us define how to best leverage Alfresco to meet our document and records management needs. Zia was extremely open to sharing their expertise with our technology team so that we can continue developing our own Alfresco workflows and content processes. We look forward to working with Zia on future Alfresco projects."

— Karen Stauffer, Programmer Analyst, Athabasca University

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