Monday, 23 November 2015 14:21

TAFE SA feels safe to shift entirely to MS Azure cloud

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In a bid to ‘boost student learning,’ TAFE SA has entered into a ‘groundbreaking partnership’ with Microsoft to ‘shift its entire online learning system into Microsoft’s Azure cloud.’

SA in this case is the state of South Australia, and not ‘South Africa’, and TAFE is an Australian education institution that sits as an alternative to university studies.

TAFE SA Chief Executive Robin Murt noted the partnership ‘had led to the first case in Australia of an organisation the size of TAFE SA transferring the internationally used e-learning system Moodle – known within TAFE SA as ‘Learn’ – to Microsoft’s Azure cloud.’

We’re told that ‘Moodle is a web-based, online system that enables educational institutions such as TAFE SA to deliver courses electronically,’ and clearly, TAFE SA hopes to train its students to use their noodle, with ‘using your noodle’ being Aussie slang for using your brain - and not some other part of the body that noodle might, to some minds, suggest.

Must said: “Usage of TAFE SA’s online learning platform increased to the point that we needed something different to cater for our students’ needs, now and in the future. We have to be able to provide courses and content, reliably and consistently.

“Microsoft rapidly provided a solution – one that it offers its education customers around the world.”

TAFE SA introduced Moodle as its online learning platform in 2007, joining a community that now includes more than 63,000 education providers delivering courses to 78 million users in 222 countries.

Students can find and store on Moodle learning materials, notes and videos; participate in chat rooms and forums; and complete and submit tests, quizzes and assignments.

TAFE SA Director, ICT Services, Craig Carter said students around the world are telling education providers they want to study when and how they want – and for most education providers, that means offering courses online.

He said student usage of Moodle increased by 57% in the 12 months to September 2015, as measured by the number of pages TAFE SA students accessed. About 38,000 students are using the system in 2015.

Carter said: “The system has to be set up to handle a lot of use at any one time. Our system reached a point where use exceeded the capabilities of the system, which put reliability at risk.

“We had a choice: replace the system with more powerful IT infrastructure, or move it into the cloud, using Microsoft Azure,” Carter added.

Microsoft reminds us that its Azure service enables storage of computer-based activity and information in ‘the cloud’. It supports and enables the management of operating systems, databases, and other software, using secure private connections and repositories.

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George Stavrakakis, Education Director at Microsoft Australia said TAFE SA’s move to the Microsoft Azure cloud was a significant step and part of a world-wide trend.

Stavrakakis stated: “This achievement demonstrates TAFE SA’s creativity and leadership in adopting cloud technologies to innovate and deliver enhanced educational programs and services.

“We have welcomed the opportunity to work with TAFE SA to give students more access and stability in online delivery, particularly during periods of peak demand.

“With Microsoft Azure, TAFE SA and other educational institutions have lower infrastructure costs and the flexibility to scale up or down depending on student and faculty needs.”

TAFE SA’s ICT team reports that it worked closely with Microsoft to create the most efficient way of achieving the transfer – all within six weeks.

Carter said: “We approached Microsoft and by tapping into their extended resources, in Australia and internationally, a solution was very quickly developed. Microsoft’s flexibility enabled us to rapidly solve a problem that otherwise would have impacted on a lot of students across South Australia and beyond.”

Carter said the change had immediately eliminated outages caused by extremely high Moodle use, which used to occur about once every 14 days.

“This is a major benefit for us and for our students,” he added. “As demand continues to increase, having Moodle in the Cloud means it’s much easier to increase capability. It’s more robust, high performing and reliable, leading to fewer performance-related issues.

“It also paves the way for TAFE SA to migrate other systems into the cloud,” concluded Carter.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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