The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally impacted the education sector, from the delivery of lessons to the upskilling needs of both teachers and students. However, what started as the need to provide quality education amid rigid COVID-19 policies such as quarantines and lockdowns is now shifting to the “next normal” demands. While one of the last countries to bring back in-person classes, the Philippines is now starting to loosen protocols and reopen schools with the plan to hold fully face-to-face classes by November 2022.
This transition has been long-awaited for most; however, it poses a new set of challenges. In addition to safety and health protocols, the Philippine education sector would need to incorporate digitization to better adjust to the next normal and accommodate its demands. With these changes, schools are anticipated to be heavily dependent on IT infrastructure to fully support delivery of lessons and teacher-student interactions, despite shifting towards more in-person classes this year.
As society continues to move towards the post-pandemic mindset, the education sector must focus on streamlining administrative processes or automating workflows, while enhancing the overall classroom experience for students.
“These initiatives are dependent on bringing computing power closer to where the data is generated, through digital transformation projects,” said Abraham Lim, Secure Power Director at Schneider Electric Philippines. “While this shift to digitization is the right first step, it also highlights the limitations of traditional cloud computing through large data centers. However, these can be addressed by taking your initiatives to the Edge.”
Enabling schools through Edge computing
“At its core, Edge computing conveniently brings data closer to the people and devices that need it,” said Lim. “In the case of educational institutions, the Edge helps enable schools to shift towards digitization and technology innovation, as well as deliver a faster and more enhanced user experience while remaining cost-effective, accessible, and adaptable.”
Edge computing allows the collection, storage, and analysis of data through smaller, distributed IT sites. Issues with the traditional cloud such as latency, bandwidth, security, autonomy, and interactivity are addressed by the Edge.
For schools, particularly larger institutions, Edge can help relieve overloaded networks that likely occur during school hours when many people are accessing the internet simultaneously. Edge computing also comes with a layer of cyber protection, which has been an area of concern for schools especially during online learning.
“Edge computing is secure as data is decentralized and stored locally. This means that a single security disruption will not damage the entire ecosystem,” said Lim. He emphasizes how Schneider Electric offers products that help institutions move to the Edge smoothly. “We have solutions where the IT infrastructure can be placed in remote and unmanned locations for it to be closer to the data source and ensure safer, easier, and faster processing.”
Cost implications is another concern for institutions that wish to expand computing capacity for their facilities or campuses. It’s usually costly to send data to the cloud, but Edge computing provides a more cost-efficient option if gradually invested in.
“Schneider Electric can offer micro data centers, a complete IT support infrastructure within a stand-alone, secure enclosure for protection of critical business applications,” said Lim. The micro data venters include Edge support, power distribution, UPS, environmental monitoring, as well as simple and fast deployment. “Our prefabricated data center modules arrive on site ready to deploy which significantly reduces installation time and cost.”
Opening opportunities for more innovative learning
While integral to addressing current issues in the education sector, Edge computing also extends new opportunities for the sector to become more innovative with their initiatives, and make the most of technology innovations such as autonomous processes, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and machine learning.
One of Edge computing’s biggest advantages is it allows for the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. These devices enable teachers to create smart lesson plans, aid administrators in recording attendance virtually, and more. When using Edge computing to process IoT data, information processing occurs more expediently, allowing for maximum productivity and efficiency, giving educators more time to tackle higher-level job functions.
Moreover, Edge computing allows learning to extend past the physical classroom. Learning can be made more efficient and interactive through the integration of virtual classrooms. When supported by Edge computing, these virtual experiences and learning outcomes become more seamless and efficient.
“This is just the beginning. With Edge computing posing the potential to play a major support role in the education sector, it is crucial for key decision makers to consider the right partner for implementation,” said Lim. “At Schneider Electric, we ensure that our Edge solutions improve expediency, experience, and learning in the post-pandemic classroom, as well as offer unprecedented opportunities as Edge-adjacent technologies continue to develop and deploy.”
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