USyd goes digital to keep 14,000 quarantined Chinese students learning

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USyd goes digital to keep 14,000 quarantined Chinese students learning

Builds and sets platform live in one week.

The University of Sydney stood up a digital environment in the space of a week to allow 14,000 students quarantined in China to continue their courses remotely.

Associate director of client technology Jordan Catling told the BriefingsDirect podcast that his team worked with Citrix, Zoom and other technology partners to put the platform together.

“As the [COVID-19] situation really began to develop in late January and early February, we quite quickly came to scenario plan around the possible eventualities,” Catling said.

“A significant part of our role as the technologists within the university is making sure that we're providing a toolset that can adapt to the needs of the community, so we looked at various platforms that we were already using - and some we weren’t - to really try and find ... the best set of tools that we could make available for our staff to use in different and innovative ways.

“We really quickly had to develop some solutions and lean on our partners to help us out.”

A case study published by Citrix shows the digital environment uses a suite of Citrix tools including virtual apps and desktops (CVAD), workspace, content collaboration for secure file and data exchange, and application delivery controllers (ADCs) to prioritise and route traffic.

“The last mile issue is a really tricky one,” Catling told the podcast.

“We knew that people were going to be in various locations throughout Mainland China and elsewhere, and we really needed to quickly build a solution that was capable of supporting our students, no matter where they were, no matter what device that they were using, no matter what their local internet connection was like.

“We worked quite quickly with Citrix to put together a set of application delivery controllers into Hong Kong to make sure that the access to the solution was nice and fast, and then worked to optimise the connection back from Hong Kong into Sydney to really maximise the user experience for our staff and students.”

Catling said the COVID-19 crisis had highlighted the importance of providing a flexible set of tools to staff and students.

“This current situation has demonstrated to us that the combination of just a few tools - for example, the Citrix platform that we're obviously using but also Zoom, Echo and Canvas - to one person means a very different thing to another person,” he said.

“There's such a large variability in the way that education is delivered across the university, across so many disciplines, that for us it's really about providing a flexible set of tools that all of our people can use in different and exciting ways. 

“That extends not only to the current situation but also to I guess more normal times.

"If we can provide the right toolset that's flexible and can meet the users where they are, and also make sure that the solutions that we're focusing on provide a real natural experience, that's when I think you're really geared up well for success.”

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