Many schools and colleges rapidly embraced Microsoft® Azure® to enable them to rapidly scale learning and collaboration platforms to address the immediate and urgent needs to get students home-learning as soon as possible. However now many senior leadership teams in educational organisations are reviewing their experiences and the benefits of the technologies to explore how they can be used to improve the educational experience into a future where face-to-face learning again becomes the normal. Microsoft Azure NVv4 instances are particularly well suited to the graphical demands of delivering video rich content and interactive live online lessons. Initially, many businesses turned to Azure to meet an immediate need which resulted in a disruptive 2020, however but now those businesses are looking to optimize and expand their Azure infrastructure long term and integrate the remote learning infrastructure into blended educational models around face-to-face teaching.
Five Key traits businesses are keen to retain include:
Now that schools have the capabilities to deliver learning materials remotely and maintain continuity with students off-site, there is the potential to limit disruption to students’ education by factors that have always impacted on individual students’ education and future outcomes. The mass of digital content, recorded lessons and lesson plans that have been amassed on Azure storage via SharePoint and LMS (Learning Management Systems) such as Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle; is available on-going as a resource to aid students who miss school for illness or extreme weather events or for students with learning challenges to revisit on catch-up programmes. An advantage of Azure infrastructure is its ability to provide high-availability functionality at scale.
After nearly a year of disruption, institutions that have turned to Azure have automatically accumulated a wealth of data around application, hardware and Network usage. Using these data collection tools built into Azure, educational establishments can plan better to reduce costs and optimise resource usage. Institutions can eliminate unused application licences and plan next year’s budget accounting for termly variations based on real user data. Within applications such as Teams, educators and institution management can access a wealth of data associated with tracking student attention as well as identify students with bandwidth / connectivity problems via “Education Insights for Teams”.
The natural tools for educational content delivery on Azure are of course the office and collaborative tools from Microsoft themselves such as Microsoft 365 (was Office 365), Teams and Streams. Microsoft has long had a commitment to unifying inclusivity and accessibility features across their products. Educators using Teams and Streams can automatically make content available with captions (subtitles) in a native language or even a second language for students with second-language or hearing challenges. A wealth of other features cater for visual impairments, neuro-diversity and mobility challenges. Accessibility Technology & Tools - Microsoft Accessibility. On-going teachers who have acquired competencies with these technologies are looking to continue their use within face-to-face contexts.
It has always been a challenge to provide a wide curriculum in small schools and rural areas or to enable students wanting to study less popular subjects. With both students and educators becoming confident in remote and asynchronous learning, many educators are exploring opportunities to share staff beyond their immediate area. For many school leaders this meant dealing with the challenges of trying to recruit for part time roles and left staff with the insecurity of such roles. Many teachers have become confident in utilising and delivering externally prepared materials to reduce class preparation time and duplication. In the UK a government funded project has delivered prepared lessons for the majority of the UK National Curriculum via the Oak National Academy, with over 10,000 free lessons and resources.
Teachers and Lecturers have discovered new ways to work more efficiently from automating registration sessions to recording student progression. Online tests, quizzes and homework usage have increased and many educators indicate they intend to continue to use these blended learning elements ongoing. Educators can also collect feedback easily to rapidly evolve their classes and respond to student needs.
For more details on the NVv4 instances I’ve covered some of the economics and advantages of using a GPU enabled instance for particular educational use cases in a previous blog.
George Watkins is a Product Marketing Manager for AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.