Transforming online collaboration for Australian universities

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Videoconferencing at The Networked Society Institute

AARNet’s partnership with Zoom is helping transform cultures around online collaboration at universities across Australia.

By hosting Zoom servers on its network, AARNet provides universities with a high-bandwidth, high-quality video conference experience, local Zoom support and Zoom cloud recording integration with our storage application, CloudStor.

In addition, AARNet works closely with Zoom to deliver new features specifically requested by the community.

At Western Sydney University, various feature requests and suggestions, such as polling, security group controls, waiting room and more, were made to facilitate enhanced online engagement between students, staff and researchers.

“There has been an amazing turn-around on our functionality requests,” said Geoff Lambert, Senior Project Manager for Information Technology and Digital Services at WSU.

“The waiting room is particularly useful for our student support services, enabling private student consultations without the inconvenience of password protected meetings.”

Western Sydney University’s requirements were a fantastic opportunity for co-creation by AARNet and Zoom, says Alex Grande, AARNet’s Head of Product Management.

“What is unique to this collaboration is our responsiveness in meeting the specific needs of the University by working with Zoom to implement additional feature requests,” Grande said.

Thanks to Zoom’s popularity, usage climbed steadily and two years after WSU signed up for a Zoom site license, there are now over 10,000 staff and students Zoom users in WSU. Monthly meeting minutes peaked at over 850,000 minutes in August 2017, compared to around 500,000 minutes in August 2016.

At Central Queensland University (CQU), Zoom was introduced to support the university’s distance education programs, in particular, tutorials with mostly off-campus students.

Due to its popularity, Zoom was quickly adopted for use outside of tutorials. It enabled CQU to extend the reach of its cross-campus Cisco teaching conferences, give voice to off-campus students in small classes, and extend participation in webinars to hundreds of remote students.

Zoom quickly became the tool of choice for self-serve conferences hosted by academics, and use of Zoom huddle spaces as a teaching platform increased.

In January 2017 CQU hosted 520 Zoom meetings with 2,949 participants. By August 2017 — still in the first year of usage — this had increased to 3,341 meetings with a total of 18,204 participants.

At the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), faculty, staff and students are distributed across multiple campuses and over 70% of students take online courses.

Zoom was introduced at USQ, initially to support teaching and learning by enabling video conferencing in standard teaching rooms.

“Zoom bridges the gap between on-campus and off-campus students for tutorials and now we’re seeing better attendance at tutes by our off-campus students,” said Troy Down, USQ Manager, Unified Communications Project.

Thanks to its features and ease of use, Zoom has subsequently taken off throughout the university — professional services, researchers, IT services and more — helping people communicate and do business in unique ways no one had anticipated.

In the state of Victoria, La Trobe University, Monash University and the University of Melbourne have also transformed online collaboration using Zoom.

La Trobe University and Monash University observed Zoom usage more than doubled in 2017.

At the University of Melbourne, Ben Loveridge, Communications and Media Production Consultant, Learning Environments, said the significant increase in Zoom usage for meetings and online teaching had reduced the need for onsite support and expensive hardware upgrades.

“Old videoconferencing codecs were removed and existing PCs in the rooms were equipped with USB cameras and microphones connected to the Zoom software. The reliability and ease of the AARNet Zoom service increased the use of desktop and mobile video conferencing with an improved support model while returning significant value in productivity costs.”

Since its introduction in 2014, Zoom has soared in popularity among Australia’s research and education community. By the end of 2017, more than 60 AARNet customers, including universities, schools, museums, and other connected institutions, were using the AARNet Zoom service to collaborate online.

To find out more about how we can help you deploy Zoom across your institution, please contact us.

You can read more about the AARNet Zoom partnership on our website

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