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January 09, 2017

How the Education Sector Must Prepare for the Digital Era

By Special Guest
Gregg Petersen, Regional Director, MEA and SAARC, Veeam Software

The new generation approaching Higher Education is millennials, who have grown up with technology. Meanwhile, the children entering primary and secondary schools see technology as second nature. Now, more than ever, is the optimal time for the education sector as a whole to think about the infrastructure that supports the digital learning experience.

As per a report from Alpen Capital, the Middle East’s e-learning market will hit a peak value of $560.7 million in 2016, having grown at an average rate of 8.2 percent per year since 2014.

Research has shown that top-level classroom success grows by 36 percent when the right approach is taken to technology (according to BESA), and clearly the trend is towards a more enhanced digital learning experience.

With the rise of blended learning, universities are also under pressure to meet students’ demands and adapt to the digital age while facing higher levels of competition. Institutions have to learn how to innovate the teaching and learning experience.

Meanwhile, technology and delivering a connected learning programme is becoming a key differentiator for universities and Higher Education institutions, particularly in light of the hike in tuition fees that have been passed on to domestic and international students in recent years. Students expect a premium service to account for raised fees.

Essential education materials such as learning resources, library files and assignment documents are digitised and stored centrally in university-owned repositories. It is no longer enough for Higher Education institutions to simply ‘have’ learning materials – however good they are – as they must be constantly available to students at anytime, anywhere. Delivering critical application and data availability to the university’s diverse user community is a basic requirement. Both students and staff are demanding a more effective IT infrastructure to meet their needs – whether that’s bringing a personal device on to campus networks or being able to retrieve materials at any given moment.

The same applies to primary and secondary schools, which must have in place a rapid and reliable mechanism for protecting and recovering student data, while providing real-time access to centralized services, including class programs, research materials and in-class services.

According to the 2016 Veeam Availability Report of more than 1,000 IT decision-makers globally, 36 percent of respondents from the private and Higher Education sector are currently investing in private cloud (including automation, self-service and billing), while 23 percent are investing in public cloud infrastructure.

But, does that equate with the exponential data growth that is taking place from digitized education? As short-staffed IT teams work to save money and modernise their data centres by combining server virtualization, modern storage applications and cloud-based services, they face new demands including exponential data growth, users demanding access to data 24/7, and no patience for downtime. All in all, the figure of 36 percent should be much-nearer to 100 percent if schools and universities are fully buying in to technology as an enabler of better education standards.

Veeam’s report also highlights that only 43 percent of respondents from the private and Higher Education sector are currently investing in data protection and disaster recovery. This goes a long way towards ensuring an ‘Always-On’ approach to education – that students can be reconnected to essential resources quickly in the event of downtime. Contrastingly, the majority are not in a position to guarantee an available learning experience for their students. A further 34 percent are planning to invest in data protection and disaster recovery services soon, while 11 percent are considering doing so in the next two years. This poses problems. With increased data and learning resources digitally connected, a like-for-like set of contingencies and technologies must be put in place to protect students from going without essential materials for too long. For Higher Education institutions, this is a potential financial risk, and may threaten a university’s ability to attract future talent if a reputation for low-tech is publicized.

Schools and Higher Education institutions must future-proof the large investments that are being made in technology and digital learning resources. By ensuring that they are constantly available, or easily restored, operations can continue and the learning process can be seamless.

About the Author

Gregg Petersen is an IT industry veteran with over 17 years of experience. As Regional Director, MEA and SAARC at Veeam, he has been instrumental in creating brand awareness, growing the company’s regional market share, driving profitable revenues jointly with partners, alliances and associates and continuously positioning Veeam as a leading provider of Availability solutions for the Always-On Enterprise. Under his leadership, the company reported a record 54 percent increase in total bookings revenue in the Middle East in FY 2015 over the previous fiscal year, a 43 percent year-over-year revenue growth in enterprise orders, nearly 30 percent increase in net new customers and over 20 percent increase in new ProPartners compared to the previous year. The company has made significant inroads in the region with major customer wins such as National Bank of Abu Dhabi, The Arabian Geophysical & Surveying Company (ARGAS), Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Ltd. (GASCO), the Electronic Government Authority of Ras Al Khaimah and American University of Sharjah (AUS), to name a few.

Edited by Alicia Young

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