1998

Where we started

After spending two decades working for IBM in Brisbane city, Sarah decided to apply for a PhD. She had some sense of what to expect: she’d graduated with an honours degree from UQ in the 1970s and still remembered all the late nights she’d spent hunched over her desk, neatly writing her assignments by hand. Things were different now, but Sarah was confident she could adapt.

Eight weeks after posting her application forms and a typed thesis proposal, a letter arrived from the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.

“We’re pleased to welcome you to The University of Queensland, the 1998 University of the Year,” the letter began.

“Please read the enclosed enrolment guide and sign and return the enrolment forms. Once your student number has been generated, you can apply for a Dial-in Access internet account through the Prentice Centre, which has one of the largest modem banks in Australia (300 modems). If you have Internet access at home, you can also enrol through our new Internet enrolment system, SI-Net.”

Behind the scenes

In the weeks before the beginning of semester one, 1996, the Vice-Chancellor's Committee on Information Technology was established to ensure “universal access to The University of Queensland network infrastructure and to information services such as electronic mail and the Internet”.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Committee was excited by the opportunities presented by digital communication technologies – and how they might revolutionise teaching, learning and research – but was also understandably apprehensive about how they might transform the higher education landscape.

“We are now entering a very different environment to the one in which we built a solid reputation as one of Australia’s finest universities,” the committee wrote in its mission statement.

“It is important for a number of reasons that The University of Queensland adopt a university-wide approach to the challenges posed by the new environment.”

Eighteen months later, in the first wintery week of Semester 2, SI-Net was launched.

2000

Where we were

Simon got to the newsagency before sunrise and waited impatiently for the doors to roll open. A group of his year 12 classmates was already there when he arrived, so he greeted them and yawned and nervously said that he hoped they might all see each other again next year when they started uni together.

At 5.30am the doors opened and a pile of newspapers was dropped at the group’s feet. After a few moments of panicked searching and rummaging through pages, Simon found his name: he’d been accepted into a Bachelor of Psychological Science and would begin studying at UQ’s St Lucia campus in February. 

Simon raced home, phoned QTAC to accept his offer and then visited the UQ website. After scanning the page, he saw two links for UQ students: “SI-Net – Student Information Network” and “my.UQ Student Portal”. He couldn’t wait to receive his welcome pack from the University in a few weeks time, so he could access these links and begin planning his future. 

Behind the scenes

At the end of 1997, Professor John Hay, Vice-Chancellor of The University of Queensland, disbanded the Vice-Chancellor’s Committee on Information Technology.

The VCIT had successfully developed policies and programs to cover basic IT issues, but the university was still concerned about the lack of clearly defined responsibilities for different IT services and infrastructure, and about the lack of adequate funding to maintain them. Despite the VCIT’s best efforts, digital technologies and communications at UQ were fragmented and didn’t operate as a cohesive and consistent whole.

As a result, at the beginning of 1998, the Vice-Chancellor formed a new committee – the Information Technology and Services Policy and Planning Committee (ITSPP) – which would be responsible for the planning of information technology services using a “university-wide” approach.  

One of the ITSPP’s first recommendations was the formation of a new central unit called Information Technology Services (ITS) to provide university-wide services, advice and expertise. This central unit, it was hoped, would offer a “number of advantages in terms of standardisation, quality control, greater integration of IT services and increased interoperability across the University.”

One of the first major projects for the new ITS was an “innovative web-based portal” called my.UQ, which launched in July 2000. One year after its launch, my.UQ won three major national awards, beating 150 other nominations.

The vision for innovative, meaningful and “university-wide” technologies and communications, spearheaded by ITS, was on its way.  

2017

Where we are 

Lucy felt confident about going to uni. Her father and both sets of her grandparents had attended UQ and she’d heard stories about St Lucia campus since she was a child. 

Unlike her family, though, Lucy wanted to study at Gatton. She’d made up her mind after reading about Gatton campus on UQ’s Future Students website and all the degrees she could apply for. Lucy knew she wanted to work with animals, so she’d paid close attention to the different “Animals” categories on the Future Students site, and had pored over the videos, testimonials, images, and descriptions before making up her mind.  

The email from QTAC arrived at 12 noon.

“Congratulations!” it read. “You’ve been accepted into a ‘B Science (Gatton) QTAC code 761001’ at The University of Queensland. To accept your offer, click on the green ‘Accept’ button below’.”  

Lucy clicked “Accept”. The Bachelor of Science (Gatton) was her second preference, but she was hoping she could upgrade into a Bachelor of Veterinary Science after a year. She’d read about upgrading on the Future Students website and felt determined to reach her goal.

Shortly after clicking “Accept”, a second email arrived – this time from The University of Queensland.

“Welcome to UQ,” the email began. “We’re thrilled that you’ll be studying Science with us at Gatton campus next year.” The email outlined all the facilities on offer at Gatton campus and included Lucy’s new student number. “If you want to take your first steps as a UQ student, simply activate your UQ account and visit the Starting at UQ website.”

Behind the scenes

In 2014, Web and Software Services within ITS began a process of transforming how prospective and current students interact with UQ’s web and digital presence.

The University’s major websites for students – my.UQ, Courses and Programs, and SI-Net – hadn’t changed substantially in 10 years (or more), and UQ’s web and mobile services increasingly didn’t meet the requirements or expectations of a new generation of users, who were habituated to digital culture, intuitive design, ever-changing technologies, and online communication.

Throughout 2015 and 2016, Web and Software Services researched, plotted and implemented a single user journey from future student to current student. For the first time, the user and their needs drove the decision-making and research, so that information could be presented in a way they would best understand.

Once the research process was complete, developers, designers and content experts worked together to create new websites (Future Students), update existing websites (my.UQ) and bring together content in a streamlined, coordinated, and helpful way.

At the same time, across the university, Web and Software Services was also coordinating an ambitious upgrade of UQ’s content management system. Since 2002, the University had been using the bespoke “UQ Online Content Management and Publishing System” and ITS was directing the transition to Drupal, which promised greater flexibility, reliability, manageability, security, support and interoperability than anything UQ had used before.

For the first time, the university-wide transformation of UQ’s digital presence was a combined effort of development, design and content – and was managed and implemented entirely by ITS.

2020

Where we’re going

After completing a three-year science degree, Lucy applied for the Bachelor of Veterinary Science. 

She’d originally planned to upgrade into vet science after 12 months, but had excelled in the Bachelor of Science (Gatton) and decided to develop her science knowledge before applying for vet.

The process for applying for her second degree was a familiar one – she’d sent an application to QTAC and, on the morning of January 13, 2020, she was hoping to receive an email confirming her acceptance into the Bachelor of Veterinary Science. The email arrived at 12 noon. 

“Congratulations!” it read. “You’ve been accepted into a ‘B Veterinary Science (Hons) QTAC code 736002 at The University of Queensland. To accept your offer, click the green ‘Accept’ button below’.”  

Lucy clicked 'Accept'. She drummed her fingers on the table, waiting for the email she knew was coming from UQ. Sure enough, the email arrived a few moments later.  

“Welcome, Lucy,” the email read. “We’re delighted to welcome you back to UQ to continue your studies. To get started, sign-in to my.UQ – your student number is 51234567.”

Lucy opened my.UQ on her phone – she’d bookmarked it when she was studying her science degree and had regularly used it to help plan her timetable. She followed the familiar sign-in process using her student number and PIN, which were also linked to her Google account. 

“Welcome back, Lucy!” the my.UQ Dashboard read. “my.UQ has been upgraded since you last signed-in. Do you want to take a quick virtual tour?”Lucy tapped “yes” and a short animation started, walking her through everything she could do using my.UQ. The new features included: 

  • Enrolling to study
  • Instructions about getting her student ID
  • Key dates
  • Course timetables and lists
  • Points of contact
  • Links to live-streams of lectures
  • Bus timetables from Indooroopilly, where Lucy lived
  • Timetables for yoga classes and boxing sessions, which Lucy had done regularly from her first-year, and
  • Video content, including a welcome video from the Vice Chancellor, UQx content, and a campus tour.

After the virtual tour finished, a small chat window opened up on the bottom half of her screen. 

“Hi Lucy, I’m Richie, an academic advisor for the Faculty of Science. Contact me when you’re ready and we can talk about transferring credit from your Science degree to the Bachelor of Veterinary Science. If you’d prefer to do it yourself, here’s a link to an online form. Congratulations again and welcome back to UQ.” 

Two weeks later, Lucy received a package in the mail. It was a Samsung tablet, loaded with her enrolment details, her timetable, video content, her course reading lists, and with my.UQ. 

Behind the scenes

Information Technology Services will continue directing UQ’s digital transformation well into the future, with plans to consolidate customer relationship management (CRM) systems across the University, to ensure information is used in a consistent, coherent, personalised, responsive and befitting manner.

At the same time, ITS is also pioneering a system of rigorous digital governance, to ensure consistency and compliance across all of UQ’s enterprise platforms, including the web, applications, CRM, and content.

To date, the University has no governance in place to ensure a strong and coherent digital presence. This has sometimes resulted in a fragmented presence and a lack of quality control across the University’s many digital platforms.

Rigorous governance will play the next crucial role in achieving a digital presence for the University that is clear, accessible, trustworthy, consistent and easy to use.

Our digital users (such as students, staff, alumni and others) expect UQ to behave in a coherent, comprehensible and coordinated way across our many web pages and digital channels.  

ITS is taking steps to meet these outcomes and targets, so the University can maintain its position of leadership in research, education and engagement.