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Soochow University, located in the historic city of Suzhou, has been teaching students for more than 100 years. But when it welcomed 7000 freshmen and almost 5000 new graduate students during September 2019, they had a very different enrollment experience to students who had joined before them.
On the morning of September 7, 2019, a Soochow University School of Literature freshman surnamed Xia received a text message on her phone, along with a push notification on the Soochow University app — Hello. The message contained a map that guided her to the registration point. Ten minutes later, Xia completed the facial ID registration and admission process, and she officially became a freshman.
In the days that followed, Xia's smartphone acted as her personal guide to the university. Her smartphone sent her a map guiding her to her dormitory and, when she got to her dorm, she immediately received a personalized message welcoming her to the university. When she went out for lunch, she saw a push notification containing information about the surrounding canteens and restaurants. As she wandered around the campus in the afternoon, she received a message providing information about nearby historical buildings, and listing activities that she might be interested in.
"I had just joined, but I felt like I was meeting an old friend," Xia said. "Everything you want to know about the university, you can find on the mobile app."
Known in Chinese as "Suda," Soochow is a prestigious university in picturesque Suzhou, a city in eastern China's Jiangsu province that is renowned for its classical gardens. A thousand years ago, during the Northern Song Dynasty, well known landmarks such as the Surging Wave Pavilion and the Master of the Nets Garden were built within the city. Suzhou’s gardens have influenced aesthetic trends in China for a millennium and, in the year 1900, a garden-style university was founded in the historic city. Influenced by the city's beauty, the university is similarly renowned for its campus scenery.
Suda also has a reputation for outstanding professors and high-achieving graduates: it is strategically important and is listed as a key national institute in Project 211 — a nationwide initiative to improve the research standards of China's top universities.
One of Suda's main priorities as it seeks to provide better services to students is to enhance the graduation experience, and it has used innovative digital services to achieve this goal. Huawei and Suda collaborated to streamline the university's siloed systems and build an information architecture centered on Huawei the Horizon Digital Platform's Real-time Open Multi-Cloud Agile — ROMA, for short. Twenty different types of data on ten systems were integrated, enabling "one-click" graduation experiences for senior students by simplifying the graduation process. In addition, big data about the 2019 graduates was generated, including graduates' average credit scores, the number of books each graduate had borrowed, and the most popular canteens among graduates. This data reveals interesting information on a graduate's life at Suda, and has been praised by many graduates. Life in Suda Statistics, a dedicated app for graduates, provides a place to share memories from around campus that students can access anytime, anywhere.
Through data collection and analysis, Suda precisely profiled students based on data lake modules, subject databases, the video cloud, and Huawei Horizon’s big data analytics. Precision student profiling is performed based on students' interests, hobbies, and daily behaviors, allowing Suda to recommend courses and plan targeted development based on each student's learning behaviors, and their areas of knowledge and expertise.
On the morning of May 19, 2019, in the operating room of Soochow University's First Affiliated Hospital, head physician Zhou Xiaojun performed a gallbladder removal surgery (known as a laparoscopic cholecystectomy). "Puncture three holes, peel off the fat, and expose the cystohepatic triangle," Zhou said as he operated on the patient.
The whole operation was broadcast live over 5G to a classroom in Suda's Tiancizhuang Campus, where general surgery head physician Wu Runda was giving ten students a case-based lesson.
"Where exactly is the cystohepatic triangle?" "How much smaller is the incision in this laparoscopic surgery compared to a traditional one?" At various points of the operation, students asked questions, which experts both in the classroom and the operating room answered. Students could also wear VR glasses and headphones to experience the operating room in 3D. "This is the most exciting class I've ever taken," one of the students exclaimed.
This was Soochow University's very first clinical medicine class to use Huawei's 5G and Wi-Fi 6 technologies. Throughout the remainder of 2019, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR) technology-based 5G clinical teaching was made available, with 360° smart classrooms deployed in multiple teaching buildings across the university. Breaking free from the physical constraints of a traditional classroom, and facilitating interactions between students and teachers, such technological innovation seamlessly integrates the real and virtual worlds.
"Colleges and universities are facing a medium-level informatization dilemma. Data will be at the core of educational reforms in the future," said Yang Yixin, Suda's Vice President. "College informatization has been ongoing for 25 years. We have solved the problem of fast data running, but we have not addressed the big data requirements of data sharing and service collaboration. In the future, the digital transformation of universities will need innovative changes in models, methods, and paths."
"Data chimneys" and "siloed systems" obstructed Suda's development, and these were challenges Vice President Yang had long been determined to tackle. With Huawei Horizon, Suda converged all the data from sub-systems, unified data exports, and simplified data servitization. By constructing both general services and special services, the new service rollout cycle was shortened and quick integration was made possible.
United by the same pioneering spirit of innovation, Soochow University teamed up with Huawei to build a joint innovation center, which has resulted in multiple apps that help the students. By streamlining all of its data, Suda can now rapidly develop one app after another on the cloud.
Huawei and Suda have jointly explored ways to make the university cloud-based. Based on data collection without blind spots, the university implemented holographic replications of the people, scenes, objects, academic activities, and cultural life on the campus, achieving digitization and mirroring. With the help of Huawei Horizon, Suda created a smart campus, supporting ubiquitous learning, as well as integrated and innovative scientific research. This smart campus also allows transparent and efficient school administration, an enriched college culture, and a more convenient campus life.
Soochow University has 26 schools and departments and nearly 50,000 students. As a large university, Suda capitalizes on innovations to make the most of its resources. It was listed by Nature Index as one of the fastest rising universities in the world, and one of the most innovative universities and institutes in China. Identifying ways to provide high-quality services for more students through digital technologies, without building more venues, nor investing in more hardware, or hiring more teachers, is a priority for the university's sustainable development.
"Education and teaching are constantly evolving. New ICT technologies, such as AI, big data, video cloud, and IoT, have a significant impact on traditional education models," said Suda President Xiong Sidong. "We must seize the opportunities and leverage new technologies to drive internal reforms, such as talent cultivation, course arrangement, and scientific research, and provide more convenient and intelligent learning scenarios."
Eliminating information silos and achieving full data coverage and system convergence has become the driving force for campus digital transformation. The goals of the administration are increasingly focused on improving the levels of teaching, scientific research, management, and service through innovation. In this context, Suda will expand its collaboration with Huawei and capitalize on the latter's cutting-edge technology to try to establish itself as a future-oriented, world-leading university.
"Huawei is a partner of Soochow University in terms of digital platform cooperation. Using the digital platform, we have eliminated the bottleneck of informatization construction, realized data sharing and service collaboration, and deployed applications such as 360° smart classrooms, intelligent student admission and graduation, and 5G-powered clinical teaching," Xiong said.
"Using student profiling, we can provide our students with more accurate and effective guidance and services to facilitate their learning, as well as their wellbeing. We will continue to partner with Huawei to build a smart university."