Case study: Education institutions and the cloud
By Digital News Asia August 15, 2013
- Both organisations needed single, unifying communication and collaboration platform
- Office 365’s ability to scale and be future-ready was a major consideration, says Microsoft
TWO education institutions in Malaysia have adopted cloud computing, allowing students and teachers to collaborate and communicate from anywhere, at any time, Microsoft Malaysia said in a statement.
The English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC), an institution under the Teacher Education Division in Malaysia’s Ministry of Education, and Al-Madinah International University, a non-profit web-based Islamic university, have adopted Microsoft Office 365 as their secure, all-in-one solution of choice.
ELTC (pic) was established in 2002 and has about 80 personnel, consisting of lecturers and administration staff, providing training and courses to primary and secondary school English teachers.
It faced several crippling IT issues that were hampering its efforts to be more productive and efficient. It needed a single, unifying communication and collaboration platform that would help overcome these challenges.
“One of the problems I observed was the fragmented nature of communications that lecturers and administration staff were facing,” Dr Wagheeh Shukry Hassan, unit head of the Language & Technology Department at ELTC.
“They were using different versions of email providers to communicate with each other, and there was no one system in place. There was also no framework in which lecturers and teachers who attended our courses could collaborate on.
“When we wanted to meet or have other collaborative activities, there was often a ‘disconnect’ and as a result, efficiency and productivity suffered because extra time and effort was wasted unnecessarily to arrange them,” he said.
What ELTC was looking for was a solution that could provide the answer to not only its existing challenges, but which could be ‘future-ready.’
“We needed a system that was secure, easily managed, and [which had] to be cost-efficient,” Dr Shukry said.
ELTC looked at offerings from Microsoft and another vendor – the latter’s solution was free and easily-managed, but could not promise the level of security and privacy that ELTC wanted.
“After extensive research, we decided to go for Microsoft Office 365 and Azure as [they provide] one platform that addresses all our needs,” he added.
Microsoft Malaysia said that Microsoft Office 365 ability to effortlessly scale up will also help ELTC to offer services to other organisations within the Ministry of Education.
“For us, Lync and SharePoint within Office 365 were important because those are the sort of technologies that we can easily build upon,” Dr Shukry said.
“As part of the Ministry of Education, we needed also to come up with solutions for other projects within the ministry that could be rolled out quickly. As an example, when we get a request to create an internal blog or website, SharePoint is the perfect solution that allows us to create sites that have a uniformed look across the organisation, but is customised to the individual requirements.
“On the backend, all of this is actually managed by us and more importantly, managed seamlessly and without much trouble,” he claimed.
Pilot project failed at Al-Madinah
Al-Madinah International University (pic), established in 2007, faced similar issues. As an education institution with an international presence, over 3,000 students and more than 300 employees, it has huge amounts of valuable education content that needs to be stored securely.
The university was also struggling to provide students and teachers with easy access to this content, from wherever they were, and at any time they needed to.
“We explored the various options that were available in the market, with our main considerations being that the solution must be able to provide ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to our content, suits our IT budget, and is a secure and reliable, all-in-one solution,” said Ahmad Nimer, deputy chief technology officer at Al-Madinah University.
In its first attempt, the university decided on a pilot project that combined solutions from Microsoft and another vendor, but because this was not an integrated all-in-one solution, it did not work out.
That all changed with the launch of Microsoft Office 365. “After we evaluated the proposition that Microsoft brought to the table, we decided to … migrate to Office 365 as it answers all our criteria,” said Ahmad.
“We now have a secure and reliable, all-in-one solution that allows our students and educators to collaborate and work together from anywhere, and at any time.
“Office 365 also works seamlessly with our backend systems and as a result, we were able to reduce our IT expenditure significantly by better managing hardware and consulting costs. This is important to us because we have the additional flexibility to scale up as the university progresses, thanks the power of the cloud,” he added.
Microsoft gains momentum in education
An increasing number of education institutions in Malaysia and around the world are choosing Microsoft cloud solutions, the company claimed. ELTC and Al-Madinah follow in the wake of other deployments around the world.
The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) deployed Microsoft Live@edu – a hosted communication and collaboration service that offers email, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and storage – to more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes in India. The project reaches more than 7.5 million users, and is Microsoft’s largest cloud deployment ever.
In June 2013, the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment procured 14,000 Windows 8 tablets – the largest rollout of Windows 8 in Australia – which will be supplied to a number of high school students to enhance their learning experience, Microsoft Malaysia said in its statement.
“Technology has the power to economically expand the impact of education, and accelerate the growth potential of every student, educator and school,” said its managing director Carlos Lacerda (pic).
“For over 20 years in Malaysia, Microsoft has been the trusted partner to the Government in providing students and educators with 21st century skills and technology that are relevant to the IT industry and the economy as a whole,” he added.
The video case studies for Al-Madinah University and English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies.
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