Transforming Higher Education in Australia: Flinders University
The partnership between Cisco and Flinders University in Australia is focused on developing an enhanced digital learning experience for students, showcasing digital campus innovation, and enabling research excellence in digital health.
Flinders has always prided itself on being one of the most innovative academic institutions in Australia and through embracing the vision of a digital campus and its strategic investment in the foundation of digital infrastructure, it is well placed to capture the value of digitization. Furthermore, through having access to Cisco’s global network and industry experience, Flinders remains at the forefront of the digital transformation, so it can continue to attract the best staff and students.
To showcase the partnership and to better understand the impact that digitization can have on higher education institutions, we’ve interviewed Robert Saint, the Vice-President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University.
How have educational institutions become more dependent on technology to meet the needs of students and educators?
Robert Saint (RS): Technology affects every aspect of what we do in a university. The students come to our university deeply skilled in current technologies, and they want an experience that matches the way that they use technology.
Educators want to use technology to provide a high quality of teaching, and to revolutionize the way that teaching happens. The old idea of a classroom with a couple hundred people and someone standing in front of them has passed its time. We can replace that using technology in innovative ways.
Of course, research activities at a university revolve around technology in every aspect and every discipline as well. We need to be able to communicate and collaborate with each other, and we need to be able to work with partners. All of these requirements, including the work itself, require technology.
How has technology specifically impacted your campus?
(RS): Technology has impacted our campus by creating a stronger, communicative, collaborative environment for both teachers and students. For example, we have in place a wonderful networking system, and a unified video phone system that enables us to talk ‘face-to-face’, to have meetings at a high level and to provide the technological capacities for learning and communication that students require.
How has technology impacted research on your campus and beyond?
(RS): The research world is now driven by technology. For me personally, that means that I can talk to my collaborators anywhere in the world. It’s a remarkable thing to be able to do this as opposed to relying on email or phone calls. To be able to talk face-to-face changes the nature of the discussion.
In terms of the technologies themselves, they are driving the research. For example, I am a geneticist and with the advent of genome sequencing, now vast amounts of data can be produced in the new technologies that have come online. What’s actually holding us back now is not the DNA technologies, but the computational technology.
How important is digital transformation to your university?
(RS): We really can’t underestimate the importance of technology to what we do on campus. It’s the way in the future that we’re going to interact with our students, not because we’re asking the students to interact in that way, but because that’s what they expect.
They want a seamless experience when they come to the campus. They want it to be ubiquitous, they want to be able to open their mobile phones anywhere in the world to connect and engage with our faculty. The researchers and teachers want to be able to provide teaching tools, and their own lectures online. Technology really touches every aspect of what we do.
From a university perspective, we want to engage our employees and have them working with each other effectively, even if they’re working in separate buildings or separate campuses all over the world. Technology allows us to do that.
How has Cisco helped in achieving that vision of digital transformation?
(RS): Our partnership with Cisco has been really important in establishing the right technologies across the university. Cisco has set up systems that we use for networking and for conferencing, both of which have been absolutely crucial. These technologies are only the start of a much greater engagement that we want to have with Cisco in developing new and innovative tools to create the fully-connected campus.
Watch this video to learn more about how universities are leveraging digital technologies to transform higher education around the world, and visit cs.co/digitalcampusanz to see more.