Uni receives $415k of fee-free software

When the University of Newcastle canvassed vendors to replace its outdated database management programs, it didn't expect to receive $415,000 worth of free software licences.

To refocus on product rather than procedure, the university needed to replace its raw SQL databases and restricted freeware management applications with retail software used by professionals.

Daniel Conway, technical advisor at the University of Newcastle School of Design, Communication and IT, said the 108 licences covered the SQL manager Toad for Oracle (expert DBA module) which replaced the limited freeware version students used for their database and programming courses.

"The freeware program is stripped down from the retail version as it has reduced functionality," Conway said. "We wanted to accelerate students' learning [of SQL and database management] by focusing more on the wider details such as why particular methods are used as well as on the final product."

With Toad for Oracle experience, the university approached the program's designer, Quest, for a solution.

Quest regional sales manager Don Williams said the company supplied Toad for Oracle at no cost as it was for educational rather than commercial reasons.

"They came to us with a problem that we could easily solve," Williams said. "We decided that as an educational institution, there was no reason to charge them on a commercial basis."

Conway said allowing the university to use the software would benefit Quest as students familiar with its applications would eventually use it in the workplace.

"I was able to prove the benefits in allowing educational access to their software, namely the concept that what the students use in education, they will use in practice," he said. "It is a partnership that I am willing to promote and develop as long as it is possible."

Toad for Oracle is a database development and administration tool for Oracle SQL applications that adds functionality to query building and execution, database object creation and modification and PL/SQL and SQL development debugging. It also improves data importing/exporting and schema comparison.

Conway said the software will be used by postgrad and undergrad students across four of its IT courses and campuses.

"Students will use [the software] in courses: information systems programming, database management systems, business systems Web database interfacing, and applications programming," he said. "Quest was generous enough to allow our external campuses at Ourimbah [near Gosford, NSW], Port Macquarie [NSW mid-North coast] and Singapore to use the software."

He said Toad for Oracle was chosen due to staff familiarity and to reduce training.

Students will acquire software skills through course design rather than short courses, although Quest offers free training programs twice a year.

The university started using the software, designed to make IT courses reflective of the workplace, in its first semester.

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