Like so many industries, education is reshaping under the banner of digital transformation – a process accelerated and disrupted by the pandemic. However, new technologies and approaches provide extensive opportunities for educational institutions and providers to deliver a more relevant experience to students, equip teachers to perform their roles more effectively and enable the organizations themselves to operate more efficiently and innovatively.
In particular, cloud provides an opportunity for education organizations – including education technology (edtech) businesses – to operate securely, cost-effectively and in accordance with local regulations in several markets, scale to align with demand peaks and troughs and to provide products and services globally across fast networks.
Following are some examples of how Alibaba Cloud helps educational institutions and providers, including Blackboard, Universitas Prasetiya Mulya, Bamboo System Technology, OpenLearning and the University of Western Australia overcome challenges and realize opportunities.
Alibaba Cloud provides a range of cloud-based infrastructure products that can enable educational institutions and providers to provide high quality experiences and operate efficiently in the modern education marketplace. For example, edtech business Blackboard – that serves 150 million-plus users across higher education, kindergarten to Year 12 and corporate and corporate government clients with a virtual learning environment and learning management system, turned to Alibaba Cloud for a highly scalable and stable infrastructure to deploy and manage its platform in mainland China. This infrastructure included compute through Elastic Compute Service (ECS), databases running in ApsaraDB RDS for MySQL, an isolated, secure network environment with Alibaba Cloud Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and a powerful domain name service through Alibaba Cloud DNS.
A scalable cloud-based infrastructure also proved crucial to Universitas Prasetiya Mulya, a leading business school in Indonesia and the first to offer an MBA program to serve business entrepreneurs, professionals and researchers, in overcoming traffic bottlenecks caused by the explosion in online student activity due to the coronavirus pandemic. The infrastructure needed to manage increasing demand and accommodate larger workloads while supporting an existing learning platform and an SAP enterprise software system, deliver effective load balancing to manage concurrent user traffic, and be secure, highly scalable and cost-effective when compared to an on-premises solution.
ECS helped achieve scalability with low latency, while Server Load Balancer helped respond to sudden traffic spikes, distribute traffic among multiple instances and prevent single points of failure.
In addition, scalable and automated Alibaba Cloud solutions such as ApsaraDB RDS for MySQL and ApsaraDB for Redis helped process high numbers of concurrent requests and improve the performance of cloud-hosted applications, while Object Storage Service and Elastic IP Address helped handle massive data and scale infrastructure and processing capability. Finally, Alibaba Cloud’s stringent Internet Data Center, server access and O&M standards, and its international information security standards, helped Universitas Prasetiya Mulya adhere to compliance and security requirements.
Overall Alibaba Cloud’s proven technology stack supported the institution’s blended learning strategy by helping it run web and mobile applications with large and volatile traffic.
Alibaba Cloud provides expert capability and support to help education providers make full use of their cloud investment to overcome scalability and performance challenges. For example, edtech organization Bamboo System Technology, that provides an all-in-one collaborative teaching and learning platform, wanted to optimize its Alibaba Cloud architecture to improve service reliability, reduce downtime and control costs. The organization also needed consultation around cloud security services and architecture to protect its cloud-based systems, data and infrastructure.
Finally, a system crash during the ‘14th Annual Mathlympics for All Singapore Primary Schools 2021’ event due to a large volume of network traffic prompted Bamboo System Technology to look for dependable technical support to ensure the success of future exams.
Alibaba Cloud provided world-class, end-to-end professional services to the organization and cloud architecture optimization based on its best practices, as well as on-site support when required. A reliable, secure and cost-effective technical solution made it easier for to scale up and down during high traffic days and improve user experience, while consultation service and support ensured the safety and stability of the cloud infrastructure. Bamboo System Technology gained the capability to hold national-level education competitions efficiently while the engagement helped attract new customers and boost business growth.
Alibaba Cloud’s experience and capability in the China market – developed internally and distilled into services such as GoChina ICP Filing Assistant which helps businesses obtain a permit to run domestic websites in China – enables education providers, including edtech businesses, to operate successfully in this complex environment. The cloud provider also offers a solution, China Gateway 2.0, that aims to help businesses across a range of industries leverage Alibaba Cloud’s local expertise and cloud experience to navigate the China market and accelerate digital transformation.
Alibaba Cloud’s expert support extends to working collaboratively with businesses like BlackBoard on aspects like compliance and regulatory competence for China’s cyber security law and Multi Level Protection Scheme (MPLS) 2.0 – helping those customers understand the core requirements to succeed in China.
OpenLearning – a Sydney-based ASX-listed higher education technology company that provides an online learning platform and learning design services to education providers and a global marketplace of short courses, OpenCreds (micro-credentials) and online degrees for learners – is another organization with ambitions to continue building its business in China and the Asia-Pacific region. OpenLearning used a networking solution engagement with Alibaba Cloud to leverage the broader Alibaba Group ecosystem to develop broader partnerships into China and the Asia-Pacific.
Alibaba Cloud networking services – that deliver low latency, high speed and stability across a network spanning 27 regions, 12 regions in mainland China, 110+ point of presence nodes and 2,800+ content delivery network (CDN) nodes – enables education providers and edtech companies to provide a consistent, high quality experience to clients and users in multiple markets. Alibaba Cloud complements the size and reach of its network with network acceleration services that enable nearby access to the internet and cross-region application deployment to improve user experiences.
For example, with a platform used all over the world, OpenLearning needs to support content flowing across regions and the globe to enable students to learn anywhere at any time. One of the organization’s key challenges is network performance and the effective delivery of information to where it is needed. OpenLearning identified this as an issue, as delivering content from Malaysia into Australia was a key part of its regional offering. The business selected Alibaba Cloud due to its network performance and solution as well as the ability to scale through the Global Accelerator solution.
Blackboard is also leveraging Alibaba Cloud’s global network solutions to deliver improved user experiences to clients in China that need to access learning content stored around the world. Leveraging shared bandwidth also enables the organization to reduce network traffic costs without sacrificing network quality. Moving forward, Blackboard also plans to offer network acceleration solutions built on Alibaba Cloud Enterprise Network (CEN) – a hybrid and distributed global network ideal for enterprise users - and Global Accelerator to improve the experience of clients' end users based in China.
Finally, Alibaba Cloud’s network services helped the University of Western Australia overcome a challenge during the pandemic of supporting stranded students at risk of being unable to complete their studies due to network limitations and constrained access to intranets and portals. The ability of Alibaba Cloud to provide cloud-hosted services in mainland China provided the university with an agile method of connecting remote students in that country with its education services. Alibaba Cloud was able to move from a proof of concept to full production in about 48 hours, ensuring students could complete their studies quickly and efficiently. Alibaba Cloud worked with the University of Western Australia and Fortinet to design and deploy a solution featuring Cloud Enterprise Network that is stable, provides high transmission speeds and low latency for end users and can scale from around 40 to 4,000 students without impacting performance.
With Alibaba Cloud’s skills, experience in complex markets and range of technologies, products and services, educational businesses and institutions can execute plans to enter new markets, meet ongoing pandemic challenges, and provide products, services and experiences that meet the changing requirements of students, teachers and other educational staff and other stakeholders.
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