Digital transformation designed for staff and student success

Microsoft Pty Ltd

Monday, 06 July, 2020

Digital transformation designed for staff and student success

Australian Catholic University (ACU) has selected Microsoft to assist with digital transformation plans designed to provide a foundation for excellence in research, service, learning and teaching.  

Ranked in the top 2% of tertiary institutions, the nine-campus university will adopt a technology stewardship approach to support the needs of its 35,000 students and 6500 staff under the banner of its 2023 strategic plan.    

For ACU, empowering staff is the catalyst for creating a modern and secure workspace accessible from anywhere and any device. The digital transformation will help ACU to collaborate, innovate, sustain and serve to deliver new solutions for students, uplift the cybersecurity posture of the organisation, and deliver IT-enabled value faster and more effectively. 

The intent is to deliver an engaging, technology-enriched and immersive student experience and to equip both students and staff with modern tools and data-rich insights. The staged transformation focuses initially on staff, with the student component to follow.  

Microsoft 365 is at the heart of the transformation, with a focus collaboration and optimised communication. The digital workspace for staff now offers access to SharePoint Online (replacing the on-premise version) and OneDrive for Business (replacing network share drives), along with Teams and Teams Telephony (replacing Skype for Business and Cisco desk phones). It also offers a next-gen meeting room experience providing a simple solution for on-demand bookings and associated services like catering or IT support as well as ‘single click to join’ functionality from non-Microsoft devices and tools. 

The ACU digital workspace enables the best experience for employees and students securely, regardless of their location or device. They have the same seamless experience no matter where they are.

This includes full online functionality, with the ability to access workspaces, join meetings, collaborate, interact with peers, and engage with internal and external stakeholders. With eight campuses nationally at ACU, this has also facilitated continuous dynamic virtual social interactions between campuses — physical distance simply doesn’t matter anymore.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital workspace made the entire working-from-home experience possible, including secure remote access to files and applications and collaborating across borders with Microsoft Teams.  

ACU’s dashboard analytics provide complete transparency of the adoption and usage of the digital platform across business units. Unsurprisingly, when COVID-19 struck and forced a remote work model on the university, these analytics revealed that the digital workspace and associated tools were widely adopted, with less than 1% of staff raising service tickets and no significant resistance. 

As an example, in October 2019 ACU had 1100 active Teams users — by March 2020 that had soared to 8700, equally a 690% increase in just five months. ACU analysis also suggests productivity has more than tripled since the introduction of the digital workspace. ACU worked in collaboration with Microsoft Partners Espire Infolabs and InSync to deploy leading-edge cloud-based digital tools and the entire transition to remote working for ACU staff was achieved in about two weeks.  

That change and transformation extends to students and will likely prove enduring, with 50% of students choosing to attend lectures on campus and 50% choosing to attend online.

In the future it won’t be an either-or proposition; rather, it will be a case of digital everywhere, with advanced technologies used to complement in-person learning. Students at home will have the same experience as those on campus, which ACU sees as important for both the existing student experience and for the future direction of education — students need to be equally equipped to study regardless of location. 

Ultimately, the ACU’s Digital Workspace initiative is about supporting ACU personnel, faculty and students and empowering them to do what they want to do where, when and how they want to do it.

Image credit: © Eichinger

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