Open Colleges’ Journey to a Digital and Cloud-First Future


Open Colleges’ Journey to a Digital and Cloud-First Future

By continually improving the way students sign up, research and study online, Open Colleges is building the future of online education.

This 100-year-old educational institution and Australia’s leading online vocational education provider is using the latest technology to answer students’ needs. Its Learning Management System, or LMS, interacts directly with students, helping keep them on track to achieve their objectives. LMS is key to students’ experience of the Open Colleges brand and offering.

Earlier this month, Brett Rule, Open College’s head of product and technology, joined Brian Jawalka, Rackspace senior director of customer reliability engineering, onstage at Google Summit Sydney to share Open Colleges’ digital journey with Google and Rackspace.

Leaving legacy infrastructure

Designed approximately six years ago, Open College’s legacy infrastructure, however, had become sub-optimal, making LMS use harder than it needed to be. While Open Colleges decided early on to rely on a cloud-first strategy and infrastructure to power its digital-based business, the benefits were limited.

The Marketing and Technology Division of Open Colleges, guided by Rule, needed a solution that would enable the company to support an aggressive growth and innovation plan, as well as a new business model.

Going with Google

“The decision [to go with Google] was driven organically within our development team,” explained Rule at the Summit. “They experimented with Google Free Trials and took Google Labs training, then developed a business case out of that exploration, presenting technology and business benefits which were hard for management to ignore.”

He said Google’s container orchestration was particularly appealing, giving the school a platform from which to build for the future. “Google’s Private network, which the platform uses to communicate, was also a real differentiator,” he added.

“Because Open Colleges serves a lot of traffic across Asia Pacific, we had issues around latency and general security concerns, which the network alleviated. Google’s logging and reporting tools were the last tick in the box, due to their ease of use and ability to customise machines.  We also saw great support in response to our technical enquiries from the get go.”

In order to get even more out of Google Cloud Platform, including an extra layer of support and advisory, Open Colleges’ development team decided to add Rackspace managed services.

Adding managed services

“The team quickly realised they needed extra help and expertise around the design and implementation, especially given it was our first foray into Google Cloud,” Rule said. “We wanted that peace of mind that only a trustworthy and experienced partner could provide.”

The benefit of the partnership with Rackspace was a bonus, he added: “The team of Rackers we worked with didn’t hesitate to challenge our internal thinking, and seek to understand why we were doing things, and for which outcome.”

This quickly translated into shared learning, creating a knock-on effect across application improvements, thanks to the confidence Rule and his team found they could put in a partner “willing to go in the trenches with us.”

The impact of that sharing, learning and interaction, he shared with the audience at Google Summit Sydney, “was that we were also able to invest in our people, empowering our whole team to build Open Colleges’ digital future.”

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