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In 2020, education transformed like never before. Educational institutions needed to be able to provide students, educators and staff with immediate access to education and Amazon Web Services (AWS) helped customers and partners modernise their systems and applications to reach learners remotely, quickly and at scale. In 2021, innovation continues in the world of teaching, learning and research—as well as the use of technology to automate processes and drive better student outcomes. More than ever, accelerating the digital transformation of education is an imperative to deliver results that ensure continued innovation in the sector and better learning experiences for students.

Modernising and securing the academy

At the centre of digital transformation is helping education organisations provide a foundation to innovate and bring down their costs using cloud technology. It’s integral for all institutions of learning in the academy—from K12 and higher education, to professional training and certification programmes—to modernise administrative operations to be more secure, agile and resilient.

The University of Bahrain (UoB), the kingdom’s largest university with more than 28,000 students, went all-in on AWS in 2020. UoB migrated its core applications—student information system (SIS), correspondence management system (CMS), homepage portal, and subdomain, and all backend systems—to AWS. As a result, UoB now experiences many benefits including cost savings, increased security, and the agility to launch new projects and bring new ideas to life more quickly. On AWS, core applications are optimised, resulting in performance improvement of more than 40 per cent. The migration also resulted in over 50 per cent performance improvement to the university homepage, which is the landing page that links to all of its subdomains and student services.

Innovating on behalf of students

Once an institution is modernised and secure, opportunities open to innovate on behalf of students. Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University (HBMSU) successfully completed the full migration of its systems and applications from its on-premises data centres to AWS in 2020. The move provided immediate benefits to HBMSU such as cost savings, flexibility and security and opens up new horizons for innovation, research and global expansion. With the move to the cloud, the university is working towards its mission to reshape the future of education in the Middle East.

The migration of HBMSU’s services and applications to AWS will have a positive impact on the performance of the university’s students and the academic community by enabling access to its services anywhere, anytime. It also enhances HBMSU’s responsiveness, speed and flexibility and expands its ability to rapidly connect with new locations around the world without any additional costs, while maintaining the highest levels of security and reliability. The migration is just the starting point of an initiative that offers opportunities for progress at the university.

Enriching the student experience

Educational institutions and edtechs pivoted almost overnight to support virtual learning. Now, learners have come to rely on 24/7 access to personalised digital experiences inside and outside the classroom—pushing educational institutions to the edge of innovation for their communities.

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Modernising in the cloud and using data insights to drive actionable change allow institutions to support the crux of education: enriching the student experience. The cloud gives educators an opportunity to meet students where they are and give students more agency and personalisation in designing their education journey. Beyond the classroom, education institutions are looking at how they can better communicate with, engage and support their students.

UAE-based global edtech Alef Education is on a mission to digitally transform the education sector. Using AWS, Alef Education is helping schools overcome challenges in the industry such as a lack of teachers, growing student numbers, a need for digital skills, and more homeschooling. The forward-thinking organisation is shrinking teacher workloads and helping them better manage classrooms through its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform built on AWS. Alef’s digital learning platform (Alef Platform) saves teachers preparation time by building lessons and culturally appropriate media into its system for core subjects such as English, math and science. As students use the platform, it gathers millions of data points in real time to help teachers tune into live student feedback. The sophisticated AI-powered technology also enables students to follow their own personalised learning pathways. The system alerts teachers to learner challenges so they can identify and remediate struggling students, as well as tailor support for more advanced students. Early intervention is critical so that educators can intervene when students are having a difficult time with a topic, instead of relying on test scores and exams when it’s too late to provide adequate support.

Educating tomorrow’s workforce

We depend on educational institutions, from K12 to higher education and the edtechs that support them, to make sure tomorrow’s leaders have the skills to thrive in a digital world and create innovative solutions in the face of global challenges. To that end, AWS is working in collaboration with K12 and higher education leaders to adopt programmes focused on expanding access to cloud skills training and education globally. AWS education programmes prepare learners for in-demand, cloud careers around the world. From college courses to full-time training programmes and self-paced learning content, AWS education programmes help learners develop the skills they need to begin their career at organisations using AWS around the world. AWS Academy, one of these programmes, provides education institutions with a free, ready-to-teach cloud computing curriculum that prepares students to pursue industry-recognised certifications and in-demand cloud jobs. The curriculum helps educators stay at the forefront of AWS Cloud innovation so that they can equip students with the skills they need to get hired in one of the fastest-growing industries. Education institutions in the Middle East offering AWS Academy include American University of Bahrain, American University of Sharjah, Murdoch University, University of Bahrain and others.

Cloud computing for education

As the industry continues to transform, AWS is supporting education transformation and helping educators and administrators deliver engaging learning experiences and better student outcomes. For more than 15 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud offering. AWS has been continually expanding its services to support virtually any cloud workload, and it now has more than 200 fully featured services for computing, storage, databases, networking, analytics, machine learning and AI, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 81 Availability Zones within 25 geographic regions, with announced plans for 27 more Availability Zones and nine more AWS Regions, including in the UAE, to be launched in the first half of 2022. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing start-ups, largest enterprises and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs.

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