If you are a parent of a school-age child, you know first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted schools. Online classes have become the foundation of educational systems around the world. More than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries have been affected by school closures, with more than 60% of the world’s student population affected.[i] Most universities, colleges and other higher educational institutions have made a complete transition to online learning.
Lockdown and shelter-in-place orders are also forcing corporate training departments to replace face-to-face Instructor-Led Training (ILT) for employees and customers with eLearning programs.[ii] Many industry and customer conferences have also switched to a virtual format.
The critical question for public and private educational institutions and corporate trainers is how to ensure maximum engagement with their digital learning materials to ensure students and participants reach the required instructional milestones.
Ensuring an engaging online learning experience requires high-performance connectivity. Instructors must be able to deliver omnichannel multimedia, with the ability to simultaneously present high-quality livestream video, recorded video assets, virtual and augmented reality, and other educational or corporate resources, often originating from different locations. In many instances, high-quality access to these resources must be maintained even with hundreds or thousands of participants.
Accomplishing this requires high-performance connections and proximate access to teachers, students, and content, as well as to unified communications and collaboration (UCC) and cloud service providers (CSPs).
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Communications and collaboration providers
UCC providers are powering today’s shift to online learning and conferences. For example, Zoom added more than 183,000 enterprise customers with more than 10 employees just in the March quarter, up 353.7% year over year.[iii] Microsoft Teams is hosting 2.7 billion meeting minutes per day, a 200% increase from before the lockdowns. [iv]And Cisco reported that in April 2020, well over half a billion people used Cisco Webex for a total of 25 billion minutes’ worth of meetings, three times its normal capacity.[v]
To ensure an optimal user experience with these technologies, educational institutions and companies must be able to ensure secure access to these resources without their networks becoming a choke point. The best strategy for accomplishing this is to create direct interconnection between the content and the cloud, which bypasses the public internet and allows ample scalability for students to access digital learning experiences. Some corporate use cases also require private interconnection between webinar attendees and the content.
CSPs provide the platforms for online learning
Because businesses are increasingly relying on cloud services providers to store critical assets and host applications, it is essential to ensure optimal performance for data and applications residing on platforms such as AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. As with connecting to content and UCC providers, the best strategy for doing this is to create direct and secure, private interconnection between the content and CSP using high-speed, low-latency connections.
Creating the right technology environment
Infrastructure – Creating direct connections to content and UCC and cloud providers starts with having complete control over maintaining and scaling the required network bandwidth, something that can’t be done over the public internet. Look for a data center provider that offers access to dense ecosystems of UCC and CSP partners, located proximate to each other within the data center facilities. Also, to ensure maximum performance, the network of data centers must be extensive enough to have facilities in metros wherever there are dense student or participant populations. A global network of interconnected vendor-neutral colocation data centers can provide educational institutions and companies the flexibility, scalability and performance they need to deliver online learning successfully.
Interconnection – Next is the ability to easily create, centrally manage and dynamically scale interconnections across multiple data centers to ensure end-to-end performance between the sources of content and UCC and cloud providers. Today, software-defined interconnection enables organizations to quickly add and scale connectivity to hundreds of cloud services, UCC, network providers and other partners. Software-defined interconnection also makes it far easier to manage security risks than relying on the public internet.
Edge network functions virtualization (NFV) and security services – The data center platform should also support the strategic deployment of NFV services, such as SD-WAN and virtual firewalls, that optimize network performance by being located at the edge while simultaneously enhancing security – all without the need to deploy or provision additional hardware. For maximum flexibility, the data center platform should provide instant access to multiple vendor virtual network services that can be combined into a single easy-to-manage workflow.
Public, private and corporate educators should consider leveraging a global interconnection and data center platform, such as Platform Equinix®. It supports the rich ecosystems of networking, cloud, content and UCC providers needed to deliver multimedia, omnichannel online education with the greatest performance, security and user experience.
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