Next Education Delivers Cloud-Based Digital Classrooms to 1,000+ Schools on AWS
Next Education, a technology company providing India’s leading digital classroom solution, implemented its teaching and learning platform on AWS, replacing on-premises servers and enabling fully remote learning on the cloud during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company, which has served 18,000 schools and 12 million private school students, used AWS to achieve high-volume storage capabilities, enhanced security, and scalability. Next Education has brought cloud-based digital learning to more than 1,000 schools and gained the ability to efficiently expand to new regions.
Today, a school can name virtually any academic requirements, and we can achieve them on AWS."
Product Manager of Next Learning Platform, Next Education
Next Education has provided digital learning resources for India’s students and teachers since 2007, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted a growing need to make online learning even more secure, flexible, and accessible. To achieve these goals, the software-as-a-service education technology company used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to transition from a hybrid system with on-premises servers located inside partner schools to a fully cloud-based alternative that works on low-bandwidth networks and enables access to educational materials from anywhere. Migrating to AWS addressed the immediate challenges of remote learning during the pandemic and helped Next Education achieve the high-volume data storage, enhanced security, and scalability required to rapidly expand into new regions and deploy its solutions in a growing number of schools.
“Today, a school can name virtually any academic requirements, and we can achieve them on AWS,” says Madhan Mohan, product manager of Next Learning Platform at Next Education.
Powering Remote Learning on AWS
Next Education has served around 18,000 schools and 12 million students, representing 10 percent of India’s private school students. Because the company’s Next Learning Platform—a comprehensive solution for managing schools’ academic and administrative needs—enables teachers to deliver lectures in a digital classroom setting, assign online homework, and assess student progress, it was the ideal solution to facilitate remote learning when schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most schools turned to simple online conferencing tools to conduct class but needed the capabilities Next Learning Platform offered, like virtual whiteboards and adaptive assessment tools. Mohan explains, “Our platform meets these needs because it has built-in resources that cater specifically to academic requirements.”
Before the pandemic, Next Education used a hybrid model with its data stored on AWS and its platform hosted by on-premises servers. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the company needed to transition to a fully cloud-based solution so that teachers and students—particularly those with low internet bandwidth at home—could hold classes remotely without relying on school servers. Next Education also needed to expand its data storage capabilities so that it could scale during high-traffic times, such as India’s busy examination season. Because the company was already using AWS, making educational resources available on the cloud was the obvious next step.
Next Education’s journey on AWS started in 2008 with the launch of LearnNext, a cloud-based solution providing self-learning tools that support students as they study at home. In 2009, the company launched its flagship product, TeachNext, which has become India’s most-used digital classroom solution and includes over 4,000 hours of award-winning educational content hosted on AWS, as well as tools for teaching, learning, and assessment. In 2014, the company developed an in-house enterprise resource planning tool that helps schools manage administrative transactions like admissions, attendance, and communications. Eventually, Next Education integrated its enterprise resource planning with a learning management system and other tools to create its all-in-one Next Learning Platform. Because AWS already powered the platform, implementing it in the cloud was not only painless but also inevitable—an acceleration of Next Education’s mission to make its teaching and learning tools even more accessible.
Finding a Low-Bandwidth Solution
Because 70 percent of students access Next Education resources through its mobile app and because many are on low-bandwidth mobile networks, all content must be accessible to students using 3G wireless mobile technology. This content includes house-produced educational videos, simulations, and teachers’ live lectures. Next Education achieved this by using multiple services from AWS, including Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance, to sync on-premises content to the cloud. It made its thousands of hours of audio and visual content ready for the cloud—a process that involved generating metadata for each piece of content, extracting a thumbnail, performing digital rights management encryption, and packaging and transcoding each video into multiple bitrates for adaptive bitrate streaming to provide a low-bandwidth solution. “All of these steps are powered by Amazon Simple Workflow Service (Amazon SWF), which helped us convert each in-house raw video into a cloud-ready, low-bandwidth streaming video with much less effort and cost,” explains ArunBalaji Madhanagopal, vice president of technology at Next Education.
To enhance scalability and performance during peak traffic times, Next Education transitioned its monolithic, multitenant software-as-a-service application to a microservice-based application. It runs approximately 80 containerized microservices using Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR), a fully managed Docker container registry. Amazon ECR integrates Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), a fully managed container orchestration service that offers the security, reliability, and scalability Next Education sought.
The company also began using serverless architecture on AWS to efficiently meet its scalability needs at critical moments. For instance, when report cards are issued, schools must generate and release grades for every student in multiple classes, all at the same time. “On Next Learning Platform, report card generation each term is a bulky and compute-intensive process,” explains Madhanagopal. “The heavy load caused by this process was impacting the other parts of the system, like attendance, transport, and fee collection.” Now Next Education handles peaks in traffic following report card generation by using AWS Lambda, a serverless computing service that enables automatic scaling and consistent performance—no matter the size of the workload.
Finally, using AWS helped Next Education resolve schools’ security concerns that arose from moving teaching and learning online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because schools collect students’ and parents’ personal information in the enterprise resource planning, Next Education uses personally identifiable information encryption security on AWS to securely store data in the cloud. “It was very easy for our relationship team to convince schools that student data is safe,” says Isha Sayana, marketing manager at Next Education. “That’s the faith people have in AWS.”
Bringing Digital Classrooms to the World
As of 2020, Next Education has brought its fully cloud-based remote learning solutions to 1,000 schools and has made a total of 1.7 million live lectures available to students across India. Though the COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus for these innovations, they will impact how Next Education delivers services to schools going forward. Over the next few years, the company plans to extend its new capabilities to 3,000 schools and keep expanding beyond India’s borders to offer its services around the world. In fact, Next Education hit a major milestone in 2020 when it launched its first application targeting students in grades K-3 in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.
Using AWS helps Next Education deliver its innovative digital classroom experience to even more students, wherever they are, without having to rely on in-school servers. “Along with security, the most important thing for Next Learning Platform is that when the requirements increase, the system should be able to scale, deliver, and not break,” says Madhanagopal. “When demand is high, we can rely on AWS to meet those critical needs.”
About Next Education
Founded in 2007, Next Education is a fast-growing education technology company revolutionizing the education system in India. Its innovative products and digital classroom solutions transform the lives of 10 percent of India’s private school students.
Benefits of AWS
- Brought cloud-based digital classrooms to 1,000+ schools
- Achieved scalability during high-traffic times
- Enabled access for students on low-bandwidth networks
- Improved school data security
- Gained high-volume data storage capabilities
- Can replicate solutions and expand to new regions
AWS Services Used
Amazon ECR is a fully managed container registry that makes it easy to store, manage, share, and deploy your container images and artifacts anywhere.
Amazon ECS is a fully managed
container orchestration service. Customers such as Duolingo, Samsung,
GE, and Cookpad use ECS to run their most sensitive and mission critical
applications because of its security, reliability, and scalability.
AWS Lambda is a serverless compute service that lets you run code
without provisioning or managing servers, creating workload-aware
cluster scaling logic, maintaining event integrations, or managing
Amazon S3 is an object storage service
that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security,
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