Goulburn Ovens Institute of Tafe in regional Victoria is the first Australian organisation to deliver videoconferencing around its dispersed campuses using its existing ATM Microwave network.
Linking campuses at least an hour's drive from each other, in the country cities of Shepparton, Wangaratta, Seymour and Benalla, the videoconferencing solution will enable intra-campus meetings, lectures and staff training sessions, without travel.
"Funding cuts within the education sector have meant we have to leverage technology as much as possible both to enhance the learning experience for students and to maximise staff productivity," said Albert Amadei, IT manager at the institute.
"By using videoconferencing across the network, we're not only gaining the benefits of less travel between the four campuses and greater access to expertise outside our organisation for student lectures, staff training and workshops, but we're achieving this without high access costs," he said.
Com Tech installed the institute's ATM backbone in early 1998.
The $1.3m funding for the network upgrade came from the Victorian Office for Technology and Further Education, following the formation of the institute from the amalgamation of the Goulburn Valley and Wanga Tafe institutes.
Originally the Goulburn Valley's main Shepparton campus was a Bay Networks shop, and Wangaratta had a combination of solutions. Com Tech replaced the institute's entire communications infrastructure with Cisco equipment.
The network now carries all internal voice and data traffic between campuses.
The institute added the videoconferencing capability (from PictureTel) to the network in stages at a total cost of $500,000, which the institute funded. It implemented point-to point-videoconferencing at Easter 1998, and added a multi-point bridge once staff became familiar with the technology.
"We've been using the videoconferencing since Easter [last year], but could only link two sites at once, which meant that meetings involving all four campuses still required some staff to travel in order to attend," Amadei said.
"The addition of the multipoint bridge means we can now link up to eight sites -- including four internal and four external locations."
He added that "some glitches" including "configuration issues" had occurred during implementing the videoconferencing technology, but they were resolved to the institute's satisfaction.