AMA Expands Online Education with a Learning Management System on AWS
By migrating its learning management system to AWS, AMA University has cost effectively innovated to expand online learning in the Philippines. AMA University is part of AMA Education System, with 200 campuses offering blended-learning models across the country. The university uses Amazon CloudWatch to monitor resource and AWS Auto Scaling with Amazon ElastiCache to optimize performance.
On average, we need to maintain 4 seconds or less of loading time when opening our LMS from anywhere in the country, and we consistently achieve this by using AWS."
Technical Director, AMA University Online Education
Trailblazing IT Education in the Philippines
Long before the proliferation of the internet in the Philippines, AMA Education System had established itself as a leader in IT education. With just 13 students in 1980, the company has since expanded its virtual and brick-and-mortar presence, domestically and internationally, to grow into a group of companies and collegiate institutions. AMA University is its largest division with more than 200 campuses worldwide.
In 2015, its AMA University Online Education (AMA OEd) division—the first and only fully online accredited distance-learning program in the country—migrated its open-source learning management system (LMS), Moodle, from its on-premises data centers to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. Students use Moodle to access lessons and related content stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), hand in assignments, and interact with teachers and peers.
Enabling Growth with On-Demand Scaling
To reduce costs and facilitate rapid growth with on-demand scaling, AMA OEd runs its student dashboards, including its school information system, and the landing page for its websites on AWS. Since migrating to AWS, the university has experienced a 15-20 percent net income growth, and enrollment in its AMA OEd division has increased by 160 percent.
AMA OEd also looked to the AWS Cloud to keep pace with modern technology practices. AMA University uses AMA OEd as a testing ground for new technology that it can apply at scale for other divisions. The business is committed to learning about emerging-technology applications such as machine learning (ML).
Flexibility to Study Anytime, Anywhere
Learning is delivered asynchronously via AMA OEd’s LMS platform so that students can work at their own pace and time rather than during fixed classroom hours. AMA OEd uses a combination of technology, including the Viber and Facebook messaging platforms and BigBlueButton software, for web conferencing. Students benefit from a high level of flexibility that allows them to study while balancing other responsibilities.
With an AWS-based LMS, the company has the agility required to immediately implement fully remote learning, which can be integrated with open-source support tools. “Unlike other institutions, we were able to react instantly to the COVID-19 pandemic because we’ve deployed online learning models for the past five years,” says Oliver Vergara, technical director at AMA University Online Education. When strict quarantine measures were introduced, AMA Education System was even asked by the Commission on Higher Education of the Philippines to help other schools set up online learning systems for the first time.
Better Monitoring with Centralized Control
With its previous on-premises LMS environment, monitoring server resources to maintain uptime was a challenge that often kept Vergara awake at night. With AWS, the university saves time and energy that were formerly spent calling other campuses to troubleshoot performance issues.
AMA OEd uses Amazon CloudWatch for a unified view of operational health and Amazon ElastiCache to optimize system response times and meet Moodle caching requirements. “When we migrated to the AWS Cloud, we centralized our servers. This allowed us to improve the monitoring of both our computing resources and expenses,” Vergara explains.
With the savings achieved through improved expense monitoring and a pay-as-you-go costing model, AMA OEd is able to keep tuition fees low and make education accessible to more Filipinos. “Because our expenses are no longer fixed, we’ve been able to provide incentive bonuses to our employees and offer seasonal promotions or tuition rebates to students,” Vergara adds.
Innovating to Expand Remote Learning
In the weeks prior to exams, traffic to AMA OEd’s LMS spikes. Engineers use AWS Auto Scaling to adjust capacity and maintain steady performance during these periods. “The latency we are able to achieve with AWS supports our use cases. On average, we need to maintain four seconds or less of loading time when opening our LMS from anywhere in the country, and we consistently achieve this by using AWS,” Vergara explains.
Now that automated monitoring and scaling are in place, Vergara estimates that his team has 50 percent more time to devote to innovation. Last year, AMA OEd developed a system for monitoring students taking exams remotely to help reduce cheating, which was a major concern among government education agencies. This makes AMA OEd the first school in the Philippines to implement such a system, which will help pave the way for increased adoption of online education in the country.
Changing the Education Business Model
Looking ahead, AMA OEd plans to continue innovating to improve education in the Philippines. Building on the work it has done training other schools during the pandemic, AMA OEd also plans to start packaging online education as a platform that it can offer to any school wanting to go virtual. Corporate social responsibility is part of AMA OEd’s mission, and it aims to continue training other institutions and helping the government administer remote testing for collegiate entrance exams.
“We’ve essentially changed the business model for education,” Vergara says. “We see many opportunities to use new technology and AWS services.” ML projects are one example in the pipeline. AMA OEd is looking at how Amazon SageMaker can help the university build ML models to monitor students’ study habits in its LMS platform. “If we see a student failing a subject area, we can proactively intervene, offering online mentoring or other tutoring support,” Vergara explains. “The ultimate goal is a more customized learning experience to improve educational quality and accessibility across the Philippines.”
About AMA Education System
Founded in 1980, AMA Education System is the leading IT educational institution in the Philippines. Its largest division, AMA University, has 200 campuses that follow a blended- learning model, with 70 percent online instruction and 30 percent classroom learning.
Benefits of AWS
- Improves monitoring of system resources and expenses
- Keeps costs low to facilitate staff bonuses and student rebates
- Maintains consistent global web-loading time of 4 seconds or less
- Allocates 50% more time for innovation
- Opens doors for new business and corporate social responsibility opportunities
AWS Services Used
Amazon S3 is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance.
Amazon CloudWatch is a monitoring and observability service built for DevOps engineers, developers, site reliability engineers (SREs), and IT managers.
Amazon ElastiCache allows you to seamlessly set up, run, and scale popular open-source compatible in-memory data stores in the cloud.
AWS Auto Scaling
AWS Auto Scaling monitors your applications and automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady, predictable performance at the lowest possible cost.
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