Why IT Staffs Require Dynamic IT Infrastructures to Support Edge Computing and New “Hybrid” Learning Approaches

online learning enabled by edge computing

More than 1.2 billion children across 186 countries have thus far been affected by school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum. These closures have prompted school districts across regions to rapidly substitute in-class learning with online learning.

As a result, IT staffs are pivoting to better support this shifting demand by revisiting their data center and edge computing IT infrastructure framework. The ability to support “hybrid” learning approaches requires IT system resiliency and high availability. These changes have not only affected the K-12 student groups, but also higher education students at both four-year and community colleges. In fact, the community college arena is experiencing an unprecedented surge in applications as many students invest in lower cost education alternatives while the full experience of four-year colleges (i.e., living on campus) is either limited or fully restricted.

Many institutions are also proposing hybrid teaching environments, which include a combination of online and in-class scenarios where staggered student attendance schedules are planned to enable easier social distancing, thereby reducing the risk of virus transmission.

Even before the pandemic, education investments in online-related education technologies were on the increase. These global investments reached $18.66 billion (USD) in 2019, and the overall market for online education is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025 as noted by the World Economic Forum. Tools that fall under the online education umbrella include language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing, and online learning software.

Education IT Staffs Require Higher Edge Computing Availability

In addition to impacting students, teachers, and parents, these changes are also influencing the way IT technical support staffs design, operate, and support their data centers, edge computing applications, and communications networks. The high speed of the transition to these expanded online and hybrid learning environments means that system administrators face the issues of little training, insufficient bandwidth, and primitive management tools. In some cases, the result is a poor user experience where the degree of student learning is diminished.

However, in cases where networks are online and available, and where bandwidth is sufficient, creative, graphically-oriented tools such as videos or virtual reality are allowing students to retain a much higher percentage of the material that they are taught virtually.

Bolstering Bandwidth and IT Systems Availability with Remote Monitoring

The evidence is far from conclusive at this early stage, but most stakeholders agree that the pandemic has forever changed the future of education. For example, snow days or bad weather days might be a thing of the past. For IT support teams, the main focus will be on both bandwidth and systems availability. To support a potential explosion of rich media being transferred across their networks, educational institutions will have to invest in both more advanced networking equipment and in infrastructure power and cooling devices that help to maintain network uptime.

A robust online platform should allow for remote monitoring (because IT staff may also be forced to work from home) of server room power, cooling, and computer equipment, and wiring closet networking equipment. By enabling remote visibility to the server room equipment, systems administrators can both monitor systems performance and identify any equipment behavioral anomalies that require maintenance. To further enhance systems availability, computer servers and communications equipment can be backed up by smart uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) that provide transitional power should a power glitch occur, and that can allow administrators to remotely reboot systems should the need arise.

Access Resources for Hybrid Learning Strategies

To learn more about how educators and their IT staffs can better prepare to accommodate expanded online learning environments, download either our “Higher education, meet high-performance computing” or “Online learning in unprecedented times” brochure. Both of these resources offer practical advice to IT and educational administrators on strengthening IT infrastructure to adapt to a hybrid educational approach.

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