Stories by Chloe Herrick

iPads reduce costs, improve communication for University of Adelaide

Eight months after handing out iPads to students enrolling in a science degree at the University of Adelaide, the Faculty of Science executive Dean, Bob Hill, says the project has improved communications and driven down student costs.
The faculty launched the initiative in February and spent about A$700,000 to issue each first year science student with the device; a total of 700 iPads, a number that grew to about 800 following mid-semester enrolments.
Students were given the iPad to keep without any restriction from the university, Hill says, except a six week census date of 31 March; if a student dropped out of the course before the census date he or she would be required to return the tablet. According to Hill about 10 or 12 iPads were returned before this date.
The project was driven completely by the faculty and was linked to a completely new first year curriculum focusing on research and framing the university’s “10 big questions”, Hill says.
“These were the 10 questions we felt best explained the research we do in the faculty and now we anchor our lectures on one or more of those questions so students can see the relevance of the curriculum,” Hill told Computerworld Australia.
The new curriculum structure also sought to eliminate paper-based textbooks and embrace electronic textbooks, Hill said, as students won’t buy the traditional science textbooks because they are too heavy and bulky.
“It was counterproductive as only about a third of students were buying the textbooks,” he says. “They’re also very expensive, close to $1000 per year.”
“Having made all those decisions we looked around for the best way to deliver it and the iPad option came on the scene at that time,” Hill says. “It was the tool to deliver the new curriculum and the new way of presenting the curriculum that we wanted after doing some experiments with phones and laptops.
“Much to our surprise, for every major first year course we have had an electronic textbook this year, the publishers came to us in droves once they heard what we were doing,” he says. “The publishers were ready to go, they just weren’t telling anybody because obviously they would prefer to be selling paper-based books because that’s where their biggest profit margin is.”
According to Hill, the cost of electronic books is only 60 per cent of paper-based textbooks. However, they will only act as an interim solution until the university can eliminate textbooks completely and use free electronic sources.
“This will partly be in place next year and hopefully it’s fully in place the year after.”
“It was really important for me that education be a level playing field and we know a lot of students couldn’t afford the textbooks, so it gives us the option of moving toward an environment where every student gets the same treatment no matter what their economic background.” The transition to iPads was complicated, Hill says, but made easier by the staff who embraced the devices from the get-go.
“Every one of our first year lectures is taped and all the PowerPoint presentations are put on the web so students can download a version of the lecture, the audio plus the slides so they could revise the lectures or even not turn up if they want to,” he said.
“Many of them work part time and have problems getting to some lectures so that was an advantage for them.”
They also enable much better communication, Hill said, as he would prefer face-to-face time with students needs to be used in the most valuable way possible.
“A person standing in front of a class of 400-500 students is not the best way to use face-to-face time; there are better models and we’re working towards that.
“We’ve always had trouble communicating with our students on a mass scale. Now they all have at least email sitting in front of them and every iPad was 3G enabled to ensure that if they didn’t have access to wireless networks away from university they could pay to get 3G on the device.”
Lecturers use scientific applications on the tablet, but due to first year science classes including students studying under other faculties many courses had a combination of students with and without the device.
“We did have one course where every student had an iPad and it was very interactive and we got very strong feedback,” he says. “It went well but to make the move really strongly into that space is really complicated and we’re working at it over some time, I see this as maybe a five year project to make the real transition from our traditional teaching into a brand new approach that really properly uses the resources available to us.”
Hill did not rule out developing apps themselves for the course in the future but said the faculty will tread cautiously into the space.
The university has not implemented any security measures for the devices and has a strong philosophy not to dictate how students use them or what content they access.
Of the 800, just one didn’t work out of the box and one other was returned with a major fault. None have been stolen and any lost devices have been returned to users.
Enrolments have increased by 10 per cent (70-80 students), Hill says, with the aim for a flow-on effect as those first year students progress to second year for which a whole new year of electronic content will need to be prepared.
“In terms of their utility and people using them, it’s been much more successful than we dared to hope, students have really taken to them very well and a really convenient way of carrying information around and getting access easily from any place and that alone has made it a worthwhile investment for us.”

Apple wins injunction to temporarily halt Galaxy tablet sales in Australia

Apple has won an interim Federal Court injunction to prevent the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet device in Australia until the legal stoush between the two companies regarding patents has been resolved.
Justice Annabelle Bennett said she had weighed up the balance of convenience for both parties and had come to the conclusion that should the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 be released, Apple would suffer significant damage. However, should the device launch in Australia be delayed, Samsung would also suffer the lack of profits made from the sale of the device.
According to Justice Bennett, the balance of convenience had weighed in Apple’s favour as she granted the injunction today.
Both sides had requested time to prepare further evidence to support their case for a final hearing at a later date.
The judgement follows lengthy legal proceedings between the two companies after Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung claiming the Galaxy Tab 10.1 infringes on a number of Apple’s patents in relation to the iPhone and iPad.
The legal battle between the companies has also raged offshore, with ongoing cases in Europe, Asia and North America.
Samsung has flagged plans to file court injunctions in France and Italy in an attempt to block the sale of Apple's iPhone 4S. The preliminary injunctions will request the courts block the smartphone from being sold in France and Italy, alleging infringement of wireless telecommunications patents.
"Apple has continued to flagrantly violate our intellectual property rights and free ride on our technology, and we will steadfastly protect our intellectual property," Samsung said at the time.
Apple lawyers in Germany were by filing flawed evidence of the similarity between the iPad 2 and Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets based on an inaccurate picture.

Westpac Australia recovers from outage

Westpac has managed to recover its IT systems following a glitch yesterday that resulted in the outage of its online banking services and numerous ATM and EFTPOS facilities.
A Westpac spokesperson told Computerworld Australia that following the recovery of it ATM and EFTPOS services earlier today, customers can now access their online banking as well.
“Online banking is being progressively rolled out this afternoon; we’re not saying that it’s back up and running 100 per cent but it is being rolled out as capacity comes back online,” the spokesperson said.
“You may not get in the first time but you will get in. I would say by the end of the day we should be back to normal.”
The meltdown of the bank’s systems was due to a faulty air conditioner in its data centre that caused a server outage.
The bank has also experienced issues with its online banking portal in recent weeks.

Westpac Australia in IT meltdown after datacentre aircon failure

Australian bank Westpac has suffered an IT meltdown overnight following an air conditioning fault at one of the bank’s datacentres.
A Westpac spokesperson told Computerworld Australia the system issues had been triggered by an air conditioning problem resulting in the shut down of the bank’s online banking facilities.
“It has also affected a number of our ATM and EFTPOS facilities so obviously at the present moment we’re trying to rectify the issue to ensure our customers aren’t interrupted.”
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The bank also issued a statement via its website and Twitter noting issues and the unavailability of its online banking services.
“We are currently experiencing technical issues. Currently being investigated. Very sorry for inconvenience,” the bank tweeted.
An EFTPOS spokesperson said the outage was “very much being handled by Westpac”, however noted EFTPOS was working with the bank to resolve the issue.
The meltdown follows the bank’s recent glitch with its online banking portal which suffered numerous issues throughout a two week period.
According to posts on the bank’s Twitter page at the time, the issue was caused by “heavy demand” for its online banking services.
"We're experiencing heavy demand for online banking at the moment. If you can't log in, please try again in a short while," read one tweet from the bank at the time.
As reported by Computerworld Australia, the bank’s customers have recently been subjected to a slew of malicious emails requesting customers to fill out a survey or restore their account details.
It also found evidence of fake SMS asking for account details as well as scammers phoning up customers claiming to be from Westpac.

Victoria Police database project faces $100 million blowout

Victoria Police has suspended attempts to replace its criminal history and crime reporting database LEAP, ahead of a redevelopment of the business case for the project.
The replacement, LINK, was initially planned for rollout last year but was put on hold, initially for six months and has now been halted to allow the state government department to reconsider the business case and funding requirements.
The department estimated the project could ultimately add $A100 million dollars to the original $68 million budget approved by government, and would extend the deadline for rollout a further two years.
The decision follows two project reviews which revealed the new system, while offering opportunities to retire a large number of ageing business applications like LEAP, would require significantly more time and money for successful implementation.
Deputy Commissioner, Kieran Walshe, said halting the program would give Victoria Police an opportunity to re-visit the project's scope to ensure that the plans take better advantage of the extended functionality of the system and value for money.
"The integration of old and new technologies is an extremely complex and time-consuming task - there are close to 200 interfaces with 25 existing applications that need to be dealt with as part of the change,” Walshe said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the scale and cost of this work was underestimated in the original business case.
"In the meantime, LEAP is operating adequately and Victoria Police will continue to enforce our stringent security measures regarding the appropriate access of LEAP data.”
Victoria Police will continue to develop the business case over the next 12 months with plans to reapproach the Government as part of next year's budget process. The project will then recommence subject to the options being considered favourably by the Government and funding becoming available.