How data centre infrastructure is keeping the wheels of learning in motion

Jul 24, 2020
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School uniforms, classrooms and lunch boxes have given way to a laptop or smartphone logging into a remote classroom, with a teacher and classmates in little windows on the screen. There’s no two ways about it - the COVID-19 pandemic has brought along with it the age of online learning. For India's 320 million school going children, this means a totally new world of learning experiences. Corporate employees are looking towards online learning to up-skill themselves for an uncertain post- pandemic world of work as well. The paradigm-shift to e-learning mandated by the pandemic is calling for easily scalable IT-infrastructure that needs the support of robust data centre infrastructure.


Pre-Pandemic: The Journey towards Education enabled by Technology


Even before COVID-19, there was already rapid growth and adoption of education technology, with global ed-tech investments reaching $19 billion in 2019 and the overall market for online education projected to reach US$350 billion by 2025. The future of education relies on datacenter infrastructure that is reliable and secure. Data centres power modern teaching methods that require a high transmission of video, image and text, such as online video-based micro-courses, e-books, simulations, graphics, animations, quizzes, gamification, and e-notes. These make learning more accessible and engaging based on student-competency. Consequently, the need for data centres to evolve in support of a revamp in technology infrastructure was already established.


Steepening the Technology Curve: How Schools are learning in the New Normal


The pandemic is rapidly transforming India’s centuries-old, chalk–talk teaching model to one driven by technology. In the wake of the pandemic crisis, educational institutions are climbing a steep digital learning curve. Teachers are familiarising themselves with an uncertain world. Schools that were hitherto reluctant to adopt technology have been forced to change their view. In the wake of COVID-19, the adoption of online learning methods will accelerate further as educational institutions are encouraged to use remote learning to improve resilience in future crises. Teachers and school administrators are continuing to communicate with learners by delivering virtual live lessons or Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)-styled ones. Classes using technology-stacks such as Google Classroom, Blackboard, Zoom, MS teams, WhatsApp and Skype are becoming the norm for students, parents and teachers.


Keeping up with Accelerated Demand for Online Learning


In response to significant demand, many online learning platforms are now offering free access to their services, including platforms like BYJU’S, a Bangalore-based educational technology and online tutoring firm founded in 2011, which is now the world’s most highly valued ed-tech company. Since announcing free live classes on its Think and Learn app, BYJU’s has seen a 200% increase in the number of new students using its product. Vedantu, another start-up that offers programs for entrance & competitive exams, is aiming to achieve 4X increase in users to 1 million in 6-months – a growth-target it had set for the next 2 years. A supercharged data centre infrastructure is essential to scale up to meet such demands. Technology-powered education requires always-on connectivity, storage and massive computing power. Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Software hosted out of robust, secure and scalable data centres should be adopted for wider adoption of e-learning. With a rapid increase of mobile internet users in India, which is expected to reach 85% households by 2024, technology is enabling ubiquitous access and personalization of education even in the remotest parts of the country.


Data centres enabling up-skilling for Life-Long Learners


Online learning has surged as people look ways to be productive while staying at home. Udemy shows an overall 200% rise in enrolments in India and more than 600% growth in uptake for communications skills programs, 300% growth in financial analysis and business fundamentals courses. Learners have shown strong interest for programs such as telecommuting, working in virtual teams, decision making and stress management. Coursera, one of the largest MOOCs platform globally is using a hyperscale data centre to handle half a petabyte of traffic each month and achieve scale to deliver courses to 21 million learners from around the world. Data centres are at the heart of such technology-powered education models. As data centres form the lifeline of education technology, they need to evolve to provide more cloud-based applications, strengthen student-data privacy, and enable AI-lead learning analytics that’ll help improve retention and develop personalize learning, support media-rich content that uses AR/VR.


Technology for a Brave New World of Learning


Technology is transforming education, not just in terms of teaching and learning but in the entire operation of educational institutions and the choices that young people have about how they wish to learn and be educated. Institutions will turn their attention to such technology solutions as remote collaboration, high-speed networks, and data security to ensure seamless delivery of knowledge to dispersed and diverse students across the country.