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TAFE Queensland delivers seamless blended learning with Microsoft 365

For over 140 years, TAFE Queensland has been delivering practical and industry-relevant training to provide students with the skills and experience they need to build lifelong careers. From entry-level certificates and apprenticeships to bachelor degrees, around 125,000 students annually undertake hands-on training at more than 60 campus locations throughout Queensland.

As you can imagine, the way TAFE Queensland delivers its learning has had to change a lot over a century and a half, especially when you consider the computer and the car hadn’t yet been invented when its doors opened – and the phone had only just arrived.

As TAFE Queensland Chief Information Officer Alan Chapman puts it:

“We understand the need for perpetual innovation and flexibility in both our training programmes and our delivery practices, and as the needs of our customers – our employers, industry sectors, and students – change, so too do our training products and delivery modes.

“Post pandemic, when the world of work changed dramatically and the demand for greater remote and flexible study arrangements increased, we looked to emerging technologies to enable us to continue to provide our customers with the same high quality, industry-standard training we are renowned for.”

The vision was to support students with best-in-class tools as TAFE Queensland expanded training into new blended delivery models, incorporating online, virtual and on-campus learning environments. The challenge was to ensure all staff and students could collaborate and learn seamlessly and securely, no matter where they were.

Establishing a secure identity in Microsoft Azure

Alan and his team identified Microsoft 365 as the ideal solution. They approached Microsoft for support with unified access to the suite of apps, including Microsoft Outlook, productivity tools like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel, cloud storage in OneDrive and OneNote, and more.

Portrait image of Alan Chapman
Alan Chapman, Chief Information Officer, TAFE Queensland

One of the first tasks was to ensure that all students’ accounts were licensed correctly throughout their study, so they’d receive secure access to all the right tools.

“The enablement of Microsoft 365 apps and services for students involved configuration of our own identity systems in concert with Azure AD and Exchange Online. A guiding principle of this implementation was the idea that TAFE Queensland would operate in a single Microsoft tenancy,” Alan explains.

The aim was to allow both students and educators to freely work together while also keeping staff-only data private.

TAFE Queensland worked closely with the Microsoft Customer Support team and the Microsoft Fast Track team to put the right systems and procedures in place, including the appropriate security controls, alongside key Microsoft partners. EY oversaw the design of the identity lifecycle, which manages each student’s digital identity to give them access to the correct licenses until they graduate.

TAFE Queensland saw an opportunity to add even further value to students, by enabling them to have their own email. Capgemini created and configured a brand-new email system in Outlook, using students’ new digital identities.

“Not only were we enabling student mailboxes for the very first time, but also making a fundamental change to student accounts to be centred around their newly provided email address as the cornerstone of their identity. Access to these tools ensured that we could provide our students with the industry-standard apps, services and support they need to be productive and successful in their chosen careers,” Alan says.

Finally TAFE Queensland was ready to roll out the Microsoft 365 suite across the organisation, managed by a host of internal team members in partnership with Microsoft.

Increased service and satisfaction

Collaborative working, whether student-to-teacher, staff-to-staff, or student-to-student, is now simple, seamless and secure.

“As a result of implementing Microsoft 365 apps and services across TAFE Queensland, students have reported not only a greater level of service and positive user student experience, but most importantly they are telling us their productivity and training outcomes have also increased. They appreciate having the capability to now work on assessments, take notes, store files, communicate, collaborate and complete their learning on any device, at any time – all important skills they will take with them into the workforce,” adds Alan.

It has also meant that we can provide a standard set of recommendations to students when completing assessments. Now we know with confidence that they will be able to access the necessary apps and services to complete their study regardless of whether they are learning on campus or remotely.

That means students don’t have to go out and purchase their own software to complete their assessment tasks. Instructors can also now ask students to author documents directly in Microsoft 365, saving teachers time in the feedback and marking process.

As Alan observes: “These sound like small efficiency gains, but when multiplied across our entire student body, the time and cost savings for the organisation are significant. We take great pride in saying we have an 89.9 per cent student satisfaction rating along with a 92.1 per cent employer satisfaction rating, and implementing Microsoft 365 apps and services is playing an important part in ensuring we continue to deliver exemplary service to our customers.”

Greater adoption of technologies for productivity

And the outlook continues to be positive.

“Enabling student accounts in Microsoft 365 has provided us the opportunity to unify our student identity for the very first time. This simply means that students just have one username (their email address) and password to remember, and it works consistently across all of our student systems for their entire study journey. Many of our other internal systems are now switching over to sign in directly with a student’s Microsoft 365 account rather than a separate login and password. This is very exciting and will make for a much more cohesive and unifying student experience across our services,” says Alan.

This success has also spurred staff to greater adoption of cloud services in the Microsoft 365 suite. Many staff teams are now working in a hybrid model and finding new ways to work together more productively using technologies like Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive.

Alan says further technological innovation is certain.

“Focusing on our customers is one of TAFE Queensland’s core values and we are unwavering in our commitment to making sure our students have a safe and positive experience when they study with us. In fact, it’s one of the many things we are known for and sets us apart from other providers in the market.

Harnessing the potential of emerging technologies will help us to continue to provide greater access to the training and skills our students need to change their lives and fulfil their career aspirations.