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    UNISA Partners with Huawei to Build a Future-Proof Smart Campus with Advanced Education Network Infrastructure

To foster a digital workplace, we've worked with Huawei to upgrade and reconstruct our network infrastructure. Endeavoring to improve end-user experience, the University deployed Huawei technology to upgrade our wired and wireless network coverage across all our campuses. This has significantly increased our efficiency in managing the network.
—— Mathabo Nakene-Mginqi
Vice Principal ICT/CIO at the University of South Africa (UNISA)

A Pioneer of Distance Education in South Africa

UNISA, founded in 1873, is the largest open distance learning institution in South Africa. Its main campus, Muckleneuk Campus, is situated in Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital.

UNISA has over 400,000 students, including international students from more than 130 countries and regions worldwide, making it one of the world's mega universities, and one of the few on the African continent.

UNISA offers a variety of degrees (including bachelor's, master's, and doctoral) and certificate courses. It also provides vocational education and training (VET) and continuing education (CE) courses, which cover a broad range of disciplines in business, law, science, engineering, education, arts, and humanities, to name a few. Furthermore, UNISA is renowned for its versatile teaching approaches — providing online and distance courses — and high-quality education. All of these make UNISA a globally-recognized pioneer in distance education.

Opportunities and Challenges for UNISA Under Digital Transformation

As a premier, comprehensive university in South Africa, UNISA boasts an open distance e-learning (ODeL) system and delivers a flexible online learning and teaching environment. Students can learn in their own time zones and interact with teachers and classmates using online learning platforms, or by email, call, and face-to-face communication.

Since its establishment, UNISA has proposed the concept of "learner-centered" distance open education. Over the past century and a half, UNISA has continuously provided high-quality, efficiency-driven tools for students and teachers, for example, providing data services for students and academic personnel to access UNISA's virtual education environment. However, as the faculty is scaled up and new campuses are constructed, it is difficult to centrally manage devices in UNISA's live network and the O&M is time-consuming.

Limited by the size of the network O&M team and technical competency, the team chooses to purchase extra services during the O&M of massive existing systems and devices. This makes it difficult to quickly deal with problems and pushes the O&M cost up. Especially in today's era where every industry is embracing a new wave of digital transformation, such a time-honored university has encountered challenges in innovating teaching approaches from the conventional ones.

Building an Open Smart Campus for Revolutionary Distance Learning

UNISA aspires to seize the opportunities of digital transformation, facilitate high scientific research output, and ensure more efficient course implementation. To this end, UNISA chose Huawei's CloudCampus Solution to digitalize all of its campuses. This future-proof solution draws on switches, routers, wireless access points (APs), and a network management platform to build a network featuring high speeds, solid reliability, and robust security. With this new network, UNISA offers better network services and user experience.

By deploying Huawei's CloudCampus Solution, UNISA has fully upgraded its network infrastructure and constructed a powerful and easy-to-manage network that enables 24/7 stable Internet access. Specifically, full Wi-Fi 6 coverage is available for over 30 campuses of UNISA. This offers high bandwidth, high concurrency, and low latency, enabling teachers and students to quickly connect to the Internet anytime, anywhere and obtain high-quality educational resources in real time.

Furthermore, iMaster NCE-CampusInsight — a campus network analyzer — is used for network O&M and management. This analyzer collects network data through telemetry in real time and adopts big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to learn network behaviors and identify fault patterns. In this way, devices on the live network can be effectively managed, preventing any waste of system resources and improving network management efficiency.

All these enable a reliable network for UNISA's teaching, scientific research, and management, with the following stand-out benefits:

1. Full-coverage Wi-Fi 6: Over 2500 APs are deployed throughout more than 30 campuses to build high-bandwidth, high-concurrency, and low-latency wireless networks. In this way, teachers and students can enjoy high-quality wireless access anytime, anywhere. Thanks to full-coverage Wi-Fi 6, UNISA draws on the ODeL distance education platform to enable hybrid education — offline-online blended learning — by building online communities and high-tech remote classrooms.

2. Cloud-network synergy: An intelligent, future-proof, integrated network architecture takes shape, which features wired and wireless convergence, ultra-high performance, massive data throughput, and full-stack open network devices. All of these make it viably possible for the networks to continuously evolve and in turn for services to upgrade.

3. Centralized, efficient, and cost-effective O&M: A unified network management system (NMS) is deployed to centrally manage today's network devices and even other devices that will be added in the subsequent smart school campus solutions. This not only improves the O&M efficiency, but also reduces OPEX (by approximately 80%) and costs for training or instructing technical personnel.

Looking Ahead for a Better Future

UNISA has been moving steadily towards digital teaching and administration, and is committed to improving teaching efficiency and quality, as well as providing learners with optimal experience.

By partnering with Huawei, UNISA has meticulously planned its campus network, thoroughly analyzed its ICT requirements, and ultimately developed a viable smart school campus solution that is conducive to long-term development.

Looking ahead, Huawei will continue to work with UNISA to build a smarter campus that features more efficient services, more secure environment, and more energy savings.

Together, define tomorrow and innovate for a better future.