Bond University has transitioned to Macquarie Telecom for its data and voice services to drive improved service delivery and reduce overheads at the not-for-profit institution.
With only around 4000 students and 1000 staff, Bond is a small university but one that prides itself on student experience - something that’s increasingly dependent on technology and telecoms, Bond’s director of IT services Marlon Sayer said.
He said the university’s previous provider, which couldn’t be named, only offered bare minimum services, “whereas Macquarie is a partner that offers better support, engagement and doesn’t waste our time and resources with service delays or billing disputes.”
“Prior to the switch to Macquarie, we would occasionally have minor outages that affected
on-campus telephony, about once or twice per year. However, there would quite often be a
lengthy delay that affected students and staff,” Sayer told iTnews.
Since switching to MacTel, Bond hasn’t experienced any outages and is using the improved uptime and savings (about 15 percent on its previous telephony bills) to reinvest in new services and improved processes.
One such service is free local and national calls for students on all campus landlines.
That might sound redundant in the age of cheap unlimited phone plans and free internet services like Skype or WhatsApp, however, Bond has a goal of ensuring at least two-thirds of its students come from outside the local area, many of whom have responded positively to the offer.
“While Bond provides free Wi-Fi and they can use for internet services, wireless does not
have the same rock-solid reliability as wired. More than 40 percent of our student base is
international and it’s these students who are typically in residence.”
“The feedback we receive from students is that they really appreciate the free phone calls. This is echoed by our staff as it has lowers the faculty and department operational costs as well. Having phone calls packaged in the overall service also reduces the administrative overhead for the IT services department.
And every cent saved helps when you’re a budget-conscious student, Sayer noted.
Having a more stable internet connection means less risk when implementing new initiatives, such as the high-performance esports Hub Bond launched last year to enable students to train for elite gaming competitions on campus.
According Sayer, that’s just the beginning.
“We are looking at leveraging new technology to modernise our systems, ensuring accessibility of digital content and resources (such as speech recognition capabilities, automatic transcription and searchable lectures and video); virtualised personalised assistants to students and staff to quickly perform repetitive tasks and answer commonly asked questions; and increase engagement.
“Other tech is focused around strengthening our information and data management, developing core analytics, expanding our digital integration services, improving collaboration and productivity tools through piloting and the introduction of self-help workflows and AI self-learning systems.”
AI self-learning systems could be a necessity borne out of Bond’s shift from traditional paper-based exams to a greater number of digital exams and a growing cohort of students who study remotely.
If the cost of human invigilators for closed-book exams is one reason to try and find a technological replacement, the issue of sitting exams remotely is another.
“We have already commenced secure online examinations in one faculty, with a view to further rollout over the next few years.
“The validated online invigilation will then be a further step we would look to bring in by approximately 2022.”
Other universities are also looking at remote invigilation, including Curtin University’s IRIS platform that taps into the student’s webcam and microphone to make sure they aren’t being coached or having someone else sit the exam.
“Given Bond’s private, not-for-profit status, budget is an ongoing area of focus for us. The
savings – both monetary and resource capacity – we’ve realised from the move to
Macquarie have allowed us to accelerate investigating and resourcing AI capabilities to
further enhance the student experience.
“On top of that, we’re deploying additional security and data protection capabilities to combat cybersecurity threats.”