Multicampus wireless for mobile med majors

Friday, 17 June, 2011

Victoria’s Deakin University has deployed a federated wireless infrastructure upgrade, known as ‘DeakinSecure’. The new network is designed to improve connectivity for the increasing number of students spending course time in remote health locations such as public hospitals.

Deakin University has around 39,000 students and of these around 30% spend significant amounts of time off campus through the year. Many students on the four-year postgraduate medical program spend two years of practical training at hospitals and medical clinics in the South West Alliance of Rural Health (SWARH), at locations hundreds of kilometres from the university campus.

Due to the increasing use of technology in education - particularly in the medical field - the there was a need for a secure communications network between Deakin and SWARH.

Prior to the deployment of the new system, such access was provided by specific hardwired locations, which severely restricted intersite communications. Users suffered downtime and restricted access to vital campus-based information, making it difficult to work while outside of the Deakin campus.

Security was a particular concern when evaluating possible solutions; protecting the hospitals’ operational systems and patient data was critical, as was the protection of Deakin’s student records.

To fulfil these requirements, Dimension Data established an encrypted ethernet over IP (EoIP) tunnel between SWARH and Deakin, with technology from Cisco.

The deployment delivers connectivity for Deakin students working in placements at hospitals and medical clinics across south-western Victoria, enabling increased efficiency and mobility to user devices including laptops, smartphones, tablets and the popular iPad for students both on and off campus.

Peter Brusco, Deakin’s Executive Director, Information Technology, believes that the new connectivity solves a long-standing problem encountered by many universities.

“Our previous hardwired solution limited students working at off-campus sites in many ways. They did not have easy access to any of the high-quality services available to students on campus, severely impacting their ability to work effectively. Video tutorials and other increasingly popular services were not available due to slow connections and restricted connectivity,” he said.

”This solution is very much in line with our strategy to deliver ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to services for all of our students and staff.”

The connection is physically located in Deakin’s Teaching, Training and Research (TTR) centre at Geelong Hospital, where both organisations are fully protected by firewalls. Only after being successfully authenticated is a user connected to Deakin’s network.

Garry Druitt, Executive Officer, South West Alliance of Rural Health (Victoria), believes the innovative deployment is a model for any organisation with affiliated operations.

“We are trying to facilitate the training of doctors across our region and the best way to do this is to ensure that we provide them with access to educational resources while they are in our hospitals, without jeopardising the security of both our organisations.

“Effectively, with this project we have extended the capabilities of both our fixed and wireless infrastructure to meet the different needs of SWARH staff and Deakin’s medical students. Our challenge now is to see how we can adapt the security profile to provide these students with access to specific SWARH resources to further their training, such as clinical applications.”

Craig Warren, Operational Service Provision Manager, Geelong Waterfront Campus, Deakin University, says that the new infrastructure “has made a significant impact on the efficiency of our communications between our campus and remote locations”.

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