AWS Public Sector Blog

Mission: Getting back to school

Due to COVID-19, schools quickly shifted to remote education to meet students’ needs and wrap up the school year. But with a new school year upon us and social distancing measures still in place, many classes will not gather in traditional classroom settings. Millions of students are now learning in their homes. And public sector leaders are creating new models to ensure learning is sustainable and accessible to all. These changes certainly carry their own set of challenges, but they also open new possibilities for the coming school year.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and members of our AWS Partner Network (APN) are supporting schools across the world to prepare for whatever the new school year brings. AWS partners like Blackboard, Canvas by Instructure, and others, provide a variety of education technology (EdTech) resources, and AWS solutions architects and experts are available virtually to help establish remote learning environments, consult on the best virtual resources for each school’s unique needs, and provide technical guidance.

Read on for examples of how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred important solutions to existing problems from primary school to higher education, and how the cloud has opened up new possibilities for educators and students as they start the new school year.

Accessing tools and resources at home

When schools around the world transitioned to online learning in March 2020, they had to solve several challenges quickly, including: getting devices to students, teachers, and staff, and making sure everyone could connect to the internet. For faculty, administrators had to ensure everyone had desktop access while working full-time from home, so that they could access files and applications, and collaborate with other staff. Similarly, students faced the same challenges—they needed devices to communicate remotely with teachers and classmates, and they needed internet access.

Now school districts are taking their lessons learned and thinking even bigger for the upcoming school year. For example, the South Central Regional Information Center (SC RIC) is an organization that provides technology services to 50 school districts across three Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in the south central region of New York state. SC RIC is considering new cloud-based services that will support students, teachers, and staff in the long-term, whether working from home or in a school.

While students are currently using Chromebooks from home, they cannot handle some applications that many students in grades 9-12 need for specialized courses (CAD applications, electrical and mechanical engineering applications, and more). SC RIC is considering an application streaming service like Amazon AppStream 2.0, which would allow students to access these tools remotely. Even if students return to in-person learning, schools can save physical space and reduce hardware costs with an application streaming service.

Blending learning both on and off campus

Across the globe, the University of East London will offer blended learning as a standard, not just as an emergency for COVID-19 through cloud. With the start of the new semester, students can enjoy learning on the state-of-the-art campuses or via online delivery as if they were there in person.

This “best of both worlds” approach includes learning sessions on campus that are simultaneously live-streamed online. Live-streamed sessions will also be recorded, so students can login when they want, playback, and watch from the comfort of their home and while on the go. This allows students and teachers to interact and collaborate in person and online in any of these live-streamed sessions. Students can meet and make friends for life, face-to-face on campus and online, from day one.

AWS is pleased to support the University of East London in the launch of their dual-delivery educational model. By hosting their Virtual Learning Environment in AWS Cloud, the university can allow each student and educator to access their learning modules whenever and wherever they need them. Our collaboration supports the university’s Vision 2028 plan to advance careers-first education, reinforcing the digital skills agenda, and increasing access to education through technology for all learners. Listen to Dr. Amanda Broderick, vice chancellor and president of the University of East London, share more in episode #22 of the Fix This podcast.

Transforming the global classroom

The classroom is changing, but so are the experiences that come with being on campus or with other extracurricular activities, such as studying abroad.

In a usual year, millions of students travel abroad to study to enrich their personal development and global perspective through international student exchange programs. However, given the travel bans and stay-at-home orders, virtual exchange is becoming an even more important part of the digital learning environment due to its student-centered nature, cost-effectiveness, and means of advancing international education.

ImmerseU is a virtual exchange learning platform developed by Class2Class, an AWS EdStart Member. The platform helps colleges and universities create and enhance collaborations through its online environment, by fostering cooperation globally across classrooms, nonprofits, governments, and the private sector.

Using AWS, Class2Class created a secure and affordable global platform to give every student equitable access to cross-cultural exchanges and empower democratized learning. The platform helps instructors model 21st century skills for collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving, perseverance, grit, project-based learning, interconnected thinking, pro-social behavior, and intentional community building.

With so much uncertainty ahead, those who work in and have a passion for education are looking for best practices, guidance, and advice as millions of students and educators worldwide transition to remote teaching, working, and learning. Organizations are connecting to share their proactive approaches and new models for learning for the upcoming semester.

Join the IMAGINE: The New World of Education, a global webinar series for education leaders where we highlight and elevate the stories of education customers, both in their response to remote working and learning, and their commitment to innovation in the cloud, as well as to provide education institutions and organizations actionable solutions as we move forward.

Read more articles by Teresa Carlson.