TAFE SA and Microsoft working together to boost student learning

TAFE SA has embarked on a groundbreaking partnership with global software giant Microsoft to shift its entire online learning system into Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

TAFE SA Chief Executive Robin Murt said 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.

Moodle is a web-based, online system that enables educational institutions such as TAFE SA to deliver courses electronically.

“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,” Mr Murt said. “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 per cent 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.

“The system has to be set up to handle a lot of use at any one time,” Mr Carter said. “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,” Mr Carter said.

Microsoft Azure 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.

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

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

“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 worked closely with Microsoft to create the most efficient way of achieving the transfer – all within six weeks.

“We approached Microsoft and by tapping into their extended resources, in Australia and internationally, a solution was very quickly developed,” Mr Carter said.

“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.”

Mr 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,” Mr Carter said. “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.”

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