IT INFRASTRUCTURE FOR ONLINE LEARNING SYSTEM - M.N.E. VISION
Developed by the Ministry of National Education (M.N.E.) through the European Social Fund, the CRED program “Relevant curriculum, education open to all” aims to prepare more than 55,000 teachers, elaborate 19 methodological guides and create more than 7,200 educational resources. In this sense, one of the main lines of action of the project is the establishment of 13 centers of Open Educational Resources (RED) at the level of the partner units of the project, of an online learning platform (educred.ro) for the tEacher’s development and training, and the creation of multimedia materials and their dissemination to the school community. The project’s efficient functioning implies the existence of an efficient IT infrastructure, which will support the productive functioning of the online platform as well as a professional video conferencing solution, which will ensure good collaboration between the participants, easy operation of webinars and creation of digital video content.
IT INFRASTRUCTURE FOR ONLINE LEARNING SYSTEM – THE BENEFICIARY’S REQUIREMENTS
In this sense, the project’s technical team opted for a telepresence solution, which would offer versatility and a high level of performance in video communications. This solution would ensure both the videoconferencing sessions between school inspectorates /teachers’ houses / pre-university educational institutions, based on telepresence technologies (13 locations in total), as well as live transmissions and recordings of educational video content with the possibility of connecting with different other video portal software solutions.
“In the educational environment in Romania, video technologies have been implemented to create specific content but also live broadcasts of various events, workshops, lessons taught at a distance by teachers from renowned schools. These projects have been successful and have convinced us that telepresence is the right solution,” says George Boros, Video Education Systems Expert, within the CRED project.
In a first stage, the project team outlined the technical requirements and prepared the specifications for designing an infrastructure to help create and disseminate educational video content, as well as its interconnection with the e-learning portal, through API type software libraries. The acquisition was made through a tender conducted on SEAP and won by Datanet Systems.
IT INFRASTRUCTURE FOR ONLINE LEARNING SYSTEM – TECHNICAL SOLUTION
The technical solution proposed and implemented by Datanet Systems included both the telepresence system and the necessary infrastructure elements: storage, networking, and security. The telepresence system was built on Cisco technology, with the following structure:
- Cisco TelePresence Management Suite (TMS) allows for video sessions, applications, and equipment integration;
- Cisco Meeting Server (CMS) offers recording and streaming capabilities;
- Cisco Expressway for providing collaboration facilities;
- Cisco Unified Communications Manager (UCM) solution for the effective management of telepresence sessions.
Also, Datanet Systems has integrated this system with the Wowza streaming service, a transcoding engine that allows the export of live transmissions through the CMS server and its playback in any format (mp4, or Adobe HDS, RTMP, Apple HLS, MPEG player , RSTP) or live streaming to any platform (Youtube, Facebook, uStream, etc). For work scenarios involving content sharing within live broadcast sessions or content recording, the video equipment was connected to a 75-inch touchscreen. This touchscreen allows teachers to teach traditionally “on the board”, but also to use multimedia /video /presentation materials in the same teaching environment.
At the infrastructure level, Datanet Systems has used Cisco UCS servers to run telepresence sessions and a NetApp storage server. It offers both “file” type storage, for video content created with the telepresence infrastructure and the back-up systems of the infrastructure, as well as “block” type storage, for storing the data related to portal use. I
n addition, Datanet Systems has installed a Cisco Firepower 2110 equipment for the protection of the voice and collaboration infrastructure in the data center, as well as the servers hosting the educred.ro platform.
Firepower equipment also offers encrypted access to the management of the entire infrastructure. For secure access to resources, with the help of Datanet and the Internet service provider, a hub and spoke VPN has been configured.
“Datanet Systems understood the requirements very clearly, and the technical solution implemented is the result of their experience in the development and implementation of collaboration and telepresence projects. The company provided us with a detailed description of the proposed technical solution and offered us a series of complementary services, which will bring additional functionality to the system. From the day the contract was signed, Datanet Systems presented the project team and initial analysis. At the second meeting, this team was already proposing a solution, installation steps and delivery times,” declared George Boros.
Thus, the implementation of the solution was very fast. Basically, in a single week, Datanet Systems carried out a test at the center level, to identify the specific risks and aspects, and in the following days, the equipment was installed in all 13 centers. At the same time, the system was presented to the technical teams from the country and a training session was held for the use of the adjacent equipment and services (video content recording, live broadcasts, etc.). IT INFRASTRUCTURE ONLINE LEARNING
RESULTS AND BENEFITS
The telepresence system developed by Datanet Systems proved useful from the first week of installation, both for the classic video conferences and for recording the events in the partner centers.
The system supports the simultaneous registration of a large number of users, without affecting the performance. Initiating telepresence sessions is easy, and by integration with tools like Google Calendar, scheduling them will be even easier. Availability is high and the use of a VPN guarantees a good level of security.
The telepresence equipment is intuitive and easy to use, and teachers who want to create educational video content do not need a technical person present, but only brief initial training. Thus the teachers can focus on the direction of the lesson they want to carry out and not on the technical aspects. For these reasons, the level of use is high in all 13 centers and the CRED project is closer to reaching the objectives.
The development plans of the CRED project are now supported by this new technology. The system is designed to be open to those interested in developing useful applications to the educational environment. In the future, the number of local centers will increase, so that digital literacy will cover a larger percentage of the school population. There is also the opportunity to open the system to the Romanian diaspora, with distance education facilities.
“The telepresence system developed by Datanet Systems, through the remarkable facilities of communication and sharing of educational content, ensures a much better transfer of knowledge. In addition, we can ensure the virtual presence of the best teachers everywhere, where these resources are lacking, both in the country and in the diaspora ”, declares George Boroş, Video Educational Systems Expert , CRED
IT INFRASTRUCTURE ONLINE LEARNING
"It was the first collaboration with Datanet Systems and they surprised us with the professional approach and the very well documented activity. The project has permanently involved a team of specialists, from project manager to experts on video technologies and networking. We quickly realized that I am an experienced company that has a good command of the field. From the sending of the technical offer to the passage of the system in operation, the company showed a very good understanding of the project."
George Boroş, Video Educational Systems Expert, CRED
"The set of technological solutions integrated within the project helps to grow the CRED project. In the first 3 months of use, we organized no less than 7-800 monthly webinars with over 12,000 participants. In this interval, the educred.ro platform has exceeded 11 million viewed pages, 40,000 registered users and over 60,000 online sessions. Digital literacy contributes to the increase of quality in education, and the technology we use gives us important support in this endeavor,"
Liviu Costandache, Coordinator of Open Educational Resources
"The good results of the project were ensured by the close collaboration between the specialists involved, both at technical and operational levels. The main challenge was the simultaneous mobilization of the teams that carried out the installation of the equipment in a very short time, complemented by the rapid configuration of the Cisco Collaboration solutions from the Data Center of the Internet service provider, realized by the technical department of Datanet Systems,"
Tiberiu Novac, Project Manager, Datanet Systems