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Deakin University pivots to a digital campus

Akamai provided the right solution for the university when course materials and other digital resources had to be accessible worldwide


"Our decision to both partner with Akamai years ago and invest in our digital infrastructure served us well. Good partners step up in crisis situations, and that’s exactly who Akamai is and what it did it to help us become a 100% digital campus."

Craig Warren, Deputy Chief Digital Officer, Deakin University

Established in 1974, Deakin University is a public university in Australia offering world-class programs and endless learning and research opportunities. With four campuses spread across Melbourne, Geelong, and Warrnambool, Deakin has grown to become the university of choice for more than 61,000 students each year — including thousands of international students — and 8,000 staff. Its internationally recognised research and teaching puts Deakin in the top 1% of the world’s universities according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities. The school has also been recognised for providing the number one educational experience in Australia, partly because of its online study experience.

When the novel coronavirus hit, Deakin needed to rapidly enable all students and staff to learn and work online. While the university was well-positioned because of its foresight and digital investments to date, it turned to longtime partner Akamai to ensure a seamless experience for users around the world.

Quickly Enabling Online Learning and Work for 69,000+

As early as 2011, Deakin launched a vision and plan to establish itself as Australia’s premier university in driving the digital frontier. In fact, until recently, Deakin’s fastest-growing campus was in the cloud, where more than 15,000 students studied predominantly online.

While every Deakin course has included online options to date, the university was driven to immediately move all classes and resources online when COVID-19 hit. As an organisation with digital in its DNA, Deakin saw the situation as an opportunity to invest further in a digital learning model that would serve it for years to come. At the same time, with a large percentage of international students, Deakin wanted to ensure the best possible experience to minimise potential student attrition.

"We have already invested heavily in our digital capabilities, so we expected this transition to go fairly smoothly. That said, we knew we could do even more to best serve our students, faculty, and other constituents around the world," explains Craig Warren, Deputy Chief Digital Officer at Deakin.

In particular, the university wanted to proactively address the heightened demand for video streaming and large file downloads. As Warren explains, students often opt for the cheapest internet plan or use their mobile phone as a hotspot, so the university needed to take measures to accelerate media and download delivery.

Calling Upon a Trusted Partner

For years, Deakin has called upon a number of Akamai solutions to ensure a fast, secure digital experience for those in Australia and around the world who are accessing its courses and other resources. "We had all the core technology building blocks in place, so I wasn’t concerned about meeting our aggressive timeline. But I engaged Akamai to address the anticipated surge in video streaming and downloads by students who were overseas," says Warren.

Because of the close collaboration between Deakin and Akamai over the course of their long-standing partnership, Akamai was able to quickly recommend the right products: Adaptive Media Delivery and Download Delivery. Adaptive Media Delivery provides consistent, high-quality video playback experiences across any screen and network types — fixed or mobile — at varying connection speeds. Download Delivery is a file-based content delivery solution optimised to quickly deliver large file-based content over the internet.

"Online experiences are dictated by last-mile connectivity and internet bandwidth, so we need to ensure the best experiences over every type of internet connection. Without Akamai, we wouldn’t be able to do that," continues Warren.

Scaling and Securing the Digital Experience

With tens of thousands more staff and students accessing resources online, Deakin began supporting an unprecedented volume of traffic and downloads. The combination of solutions implemented on the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform paved the way for Deakin to seamlessly support this expanded online audience.

Warren credits its strong partnership with Akamai for the smooth transition to full remote learning and work. "Because we are leveraging Akamai solutions for performance, media, and security, we haven’t seen a hiccup in access to resources like videoconferencing and our Learning Management System," explains Warren.

For example, Deakin students in China had been waiting many minutes — and sometimes hours — to download lectures 1–2 GB in size. After implementing Akamai solutions, they could access them in an average of 20 seconds.

"Industry legends enhance their status or fade into insignificance at times like these. Our strength and differentiator is our online course offerings, and the foundation we have established to deliver these securely and quickly will serve us for years to come," concludes Warren.

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