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University of Auckland selects AWS as strategic cloud provider

By Shannon Williams, Fri 30 Apr 21

The University of Auckland has selected Amazon Web Services as its strategic cloud provider. 

UoA will leverage AWS cloud to drive its digital transformation and enhance student engagement during online learning, which has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

UoA has already migrated 30 university applications, including several contact centre operations and online learning tools, from its on-premises data centre to AWS. The university plans to move a further 100 applications to AWS by 2022 to modernise its IT infrastructure, drive operational efficiencies, and deliver more innovative services to more than 45,000 students.

With COVID-19 restrictions prompting unprecedented demand for online learning, UoA drew on AWS’s broad and deep portfolio of cloud services to rapidly digitise its educational applications on AWS, using the cloud to deliver remote learning in a fast, scalable, and user-friendly way for students, the university says.

For instance, in just six weeks, UoA migrated its Lecture Theatre Recordings – a critical teaching and learning application that holds 29TB of learning content – to AWS. Using AWS compute and storage capabilities, as well as Amazon CloudFront, a fast content delivery network for securely delivering data, videos, and applications to users, enables the university to scale their online content delivery systems quickly and more efficiently than what they were able to achieve with on-premises resources. This new cloud-based system delivers learning content to students, including more than 2,000 overseas students who were unable to travel due to lockdowns. 

UoA is the first organisation in New Zealand to completely migrate its internal and external contact centres to Amazon Connect, an easy to use omnichannel cloud contact centre. 

Using Amazon Connect, UoA was able to easily manage a 40 percent increase in call volumes in 2020, as well as deliver business continuity and resilience during peak periods such as enrolment or exam result days. UoA is also leveraging innovative services on AWS such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) capabilities to help reduce call wait times and call volumes, and increase first-call resolution by providing agents with real-time information such as the purpose of the call.  

“Cloud is a significant pillar within our multi-year digital transformation programme, and harnessing the breadth and depth of AWS allows us deliver substantial and ongoing business value across our organisation,” says Stephen Whiteside, chief digital officer at University of Auckland.  

“The key to unlocking cloud’s transformational value lies in leveraging the innovative services that sit within the cloud ecosystem. Our ability to harness these services such as Amazon Connect while upskilling our staff on cloud capabilities, were key drivers in our successful adoption of cloud and the associated capabilities we now have across the University.”

As part of its commitment to driving a cloud-first culture and upskilling its own workforce, UoA launched a new cloud guild using Cloud Uplift Standards and Practices (CUSP), a UoA framework to help employees adapt faster to the new cloud environment across 25 areas of the business. This specialised programme trains UoA staff with skills across AWS cloud essentials, machine learning, data and analytics, and security, with the eventual goal of empowering teams beyond IT to exceed business expectations. The university has already trained 225 employees and plans to achieve more than 400 AWS accreditations over the next three years.

“As the top-ranked university in New Zealand, we endeavour to maintain excellence in all areas of our operations,” says Bharat Kochar, cloud transformation programme manager at University of Auckland. 

“Our IT infrastructure is the cornerstone for delivering the best experiences to students, staff, researchers, and other stakeholders, which is why we turned to AWS to address the gaps and areas of improvement we identified. 

"AWS has made a crucial contribution to evolving our online learning environment, and our success in adopting cloud services to upskill our workforce is a source of great pride for the university.”

Tim Dacombe-Bird, head of public sector at AWS in New Zealand, adds, “University of Auckland’s digital transformation program is a great example of how a large university can leverage the cloud to flexibly accommodate and empower students wherever they are.

“By moving to a cloud-first environment, the university can fully leverage the breadth and depth of AWS services to adjust to the changing learning needs of their students in real-time, while continuing to deliver a great student experience," he says.

"Further, the university’s commitment to upskilling its workforce on AWS will help them continue to innovate and improve how higher education is delivered.”

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