UWA moves courses online

09/04/2020 - 09:04

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The University of Western Australia has partnered with Microsoft to rapidly implement a remote learning solution that covers nearly all its courses, building on a package originally conceived to support international students unable to come to Australia early this year.

Warwick Calkin says the remote learning solution is a game-changer for the university.

The University of Western Australia has partnered with Microsoft to rapidly implement a remote learning solution that covers nearly all its courses, building on a package originally conceived to support international students unable to come to Australia early this year.

Microsoft said the solution was deployed in just two weeks to support more than 18,000 students and 3,000 staff working remotely.

A total of 3,144 units have been transitioned to the online platform, constituting nearly all units offered by the university, allowing it to move lectures, tutorials and practical classes online.

All major universities and schools are in the process of adopting similar changes to those deployed at UWA, as they seek to deal with social distancing rules and travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move to full online learning and collaboration build on trends like online viewing of recorded lectures and tutorials, which have become common practice across most universities in recent years.

UWA’s online learning platform also builds on a growing relationship with Microsoft.

This included UWA migrating 60,000 email accounts from Google Suite to Office 365 early this year.

Microsoft said this allowed it to rapidly ‘spin up’ its video conferencing and group chat platform Microsoft Teams.

Teams has become the preferred platform at UWA, in part because of security concerns with other video conferencing platforms.

In addition, Microsoft had been trialling its online teaching platform Azure Labs in UWA’s architecture and cybersecurity courses, putting 77 labs online.

That has now been extended to more than 2,000 lab sessions across the university.

The remote learning platform takes account of China’s internet policies, caching content in Hong Kong in order to ensure UWA’s Chinese students can continue learning without interruption.

Microsoft tested the system in China in order to confirm the experience that overseas students can expect.

UWA’s chief information officer Warwick Calkin said the solution was a game-changer for the university.

“The solution implemented by Microsoft allows UWA to strategically blend digital technology with a flipped classroom model of learning and teaching, while providing downloadable recorded lectures and virtual labs to students,” Mr Calkin said.

“University IT and faculty teaching staff worked closely with the team from Microsoft to accelerate the introduction of the cloud-based learning platform and move more than 3,000 units fully online.

“These newly implemented online teaching, learning and collaboration tools will enable more than 18,000 students and 3,000 staff to study and work remotely.”

UWA has also developed analytics that provide executives with dashboards that reveal how students are accessing and using the platform.

Microsoft Australia’s education director Tiffany Wright said Azure Labs, one of the solutions implemented, provided a scalable and reliable platform for remote learning.

“The solution supports international students who are accessing the learning platform from their home countries, and also local students who are studying from home,” Ms Wright said in a statement.

“Access to Microsoft Teams also allows UWA to support its staff who are working from home without interruption or complication, providing a rich, resilient communications and collaboration environment.”

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