When gigabits become a game-changer

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By Gretel Sneath

A fibre optic cable hidden underground is changing the face of learning in South Australia’s Limestone Coast.

Stretching 183 kilometres from Keith to Mount Gambier’s UniSA campus, it’s an educational lifeline delivering internet speeds that are 1,000 times faster for students.

UniSA Associate Professor Judy Nagy says the regional learning experience is being revolutionised at a whopping 10 gigabits per second.

“Universities are now moving towards learning which requires reliable connectivity and this is a significant technology enabler with Mount Gambier now among the most connected regional cities in Australia,” she says.

All roads lead to the Blue Lake City on this information superhighway, and the brand new $12.5 million dollar learning centre utilising the cable is a dream destination.

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Inside UniSA’s new Mount Gambier campus – Picture John Gollings

About 370 students from across the Greater Green Triangle region have just begun lectures at the world-class campus, but there is space for up to four times that figure, with new courses in the pipeline for 2017.

A small number of students have also relocated from Adelaide as word spreads that the centre is as high-tech as it gets.

Specialist nursing teaching facilities include patient and treatment rooms mirroring those at Mount Gambier Hospital and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, so that students can experience real-world scenarios complete with rostered ‘shifts’ and virtual patients.

There is even a birthing suite complete with a bath, a resuscitation table and lifelike newborns.

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Patient and treatment teaching rooms mirror those at Mount Gambier Hospital and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital – picture John Gollings

“This is a wonderful example of how we can integrate innovative technology and teaching practice to deliver a real experience for student nurses so that they are work-ready when they graduate,” Judy says.

Social work students are able to role-play in simulation laboratories which can be converted to an office or lounge depending on the learning scenario. A discreet viewing gallery paves the way for peer reviews, while live streaming enables professional feedback from further afield.

“We also have collaborative learning spaces and modern teaching facilities linked through a central piazza where students can relax and interact in this wonderful space filled with natural light,” Judy explains.

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Collaborative learning spaces – picture John Gollings

Community is a real buzzword, with the wider public able to utilise video conferencing rooms capable of worldwide link-ups, a 120-seat auditorium and many other facilities.

“While the infrastructure has been brought to Mount Gambier by UniSA, work is now underway to enable schools and businesses to connect to the cable and this creates huge economic development opportunities,” Judy says. “We only need one big corporate entity to relocate here and we’re confident that others will follow.”

UniSA is a Brand South Australia member.

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