Technology's ability to remove barriers to learning and research has been exemplified in this year's finalists for the education category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2017.
We're pleased to welcome back two former winners of this category - one as recent as last year - proving that innovation is not a one-time effort.
From staring down a data tsunami with enviable infrastructure, to offering students an app to play around with the heart, and bringing tech learning tools to remote educational facilities, we applaud this year's entrants for their attempts to further Australia's education sector.
Please join us in congratulating:
David Abramson - University of Queensland
Infrastructure for Data Intensive Science
Can infrastructure be cool? If so, the University of Queensland’s FlashLite computer and MeDiCI fabric take the cake.
Faced with the challenge of a data tsunami, David Abramson - who took out this category last year - and team needed to find a way to provide infrastructure that could support data-intensive research while simultaneously being easy to use and not too expensive.
The FlashLite parallel computer boasts high-speed SSD and main memory for the ability to store and manipulate large amounts of data, while the MeDiCI fabric moves data around systems, devices, and storage using local data caches - making data appear locally even though it is distributed - to allow for anytime, anywhere access by end users.
The team leveraged off-the-shelf technologies and a commercial data centre for the effort, which originated as an ARC grant. It grew into a multi-university project that brought on six partners, who alongside the federal government have contributed funding to the initiative.
Fiona Rankin - Wollongong University
Early Start Program
The University of Wollongong has embarked on an ambitious and laudable campaign to use technology to break down the barriers of distance and ensure all children and educators have equal access to learning and teaching tools.
Its Early Start program partnered with 41 early childhood centres in rural and remote areas to bring technologies like video conferencing, iPads, and smart whiteboards and tables for improved local learning as well as interaction with other facilities.
The early childhood centres use video conferencing to connect into the Early Start Facility back at UOW, which offers research and discovery spaces that students and teachers can tap into despite the tyranny of distance, providing them teaching and learning tools that would otherwise have been unavailable.
The project required a significant amount of integration work as well as training for educators. It also had the added challenge of ensuring its chosen technology solutions were robust enough to withstand both the challenges of remote locations and the less-than-delicate hands of students.
The payoff for the effort is less in hard dollar return on investment - although the program has generated commercial research income and grant funding - and more on opening up previously unattainable opportunities for rural and remote students, as well as for research and collaboration on early childhood.
William Confalonieri - Deakin University
Deakin University has cemented itself as one of the more digitally-mature universities in Australia, and its latest focus on virtual and augmented reality for new ways of learning shows great promise.
Its cARdiac ECG iOS app uses augmented reality to immerse students in the fundamentals of the heart and electrocardiography (ECG), allowing them to perform a digital ECG and test their understanding of critical cardiac events.
The app is the first deliverable from the university’s three-year DeakinAR program, which will see the introduction of an enterprise-scale solution for creating and managing AR experiences.
While the business value of the full three-year project, launched this year, is yet to be realised, the university has successfully delivered on the cultural and technical competency journey needed to jumpstart the program.
Winners will be announced at the CIO Edge Experience (formerly the CIO Strategy Summit) on February 21 at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne.