Accelerating the Move to Online Learning at Colleges and Universities with Jenzabar and IBM Cloud

3 min read

For most college students this year, their return from spring break was a bit . . . different.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many colleges across the globe to close their physical campuses, many have transitioned to online learning for the remainder of Spring 2020 semester and potentially this fall. This change has challenged institutions to rapidly evolve their teaching and engagement strategies and the technology they use to support them.

Institutions that previously thought they were well ahead of the curve for online learning may have found themselves unprepared to quickly scale up virtual courses. Teachers, students, and administrators needed to be trained on how to use the new online tools. Teaching strategies needed to be modified to engage students over a screen. Scheduling, tech support, and non-academic engagement all needed to be considered as well.

This all left little bandwidth to address the details of the technology needed to support virtual learning. As universities added dozens or even hundreds of new online courses, they needed to ensure their learning management platforms could support such heavy traffic and loads. For help, many have turned to Jenzabar, a technology innovator in higher education.

Scaling course offerings with IBM Cloud

Jenzabar is helping hundreds of institutions develop, launch, and scale their online course offerings while classrooms remain closed. Built on Jenzabar’s private cloud and hosted on IBM Cloud, Jenzabar offers a transformational software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that can help reduce costs and boost agility. Cloud-based services like Jenzabar’s can help higher education institutions develop an adaptable IT infrastructure that enables greater flexibility, scalability, and anytime, anywhere access.

For schools that favored in-person learning, the idea of scaling online learning solutions can be daunting. But a cloud-based infrastructure enables institutions to be agile and flexible. Scalability is one of the cloud’s core characteristics.

Before COVID-19, universities might scale resources up to handle peak registration times or scale down during quieter summer months. With this transition to all-virtual learning, Jenzabar was able to use those same scaling capabilities to address a significant and urgent need to increase capacity cost efficiently. This helps institutions as they work to adjust their financials in response to the pandemic. It also allows for greater flexibility and scope when building contingency plans for the 2020-2021 school year.

Gus Ortiz, Director of Program Management at Jenzabar, added: "As institutions rapidly grow their online learning capacity, it is imperative that we offer a scalable and reliable cloud platform that offers direct control over the computing, storage, and network resources so that we can respond rapidly to our hosted clients’ needs. Running the Jenzabar private cloud on IBM Cloud makes it easy to scale the needs of our client servers to match this urgent need.”

Jenzabar is part of the IBM hybrid cloud ecosystem, a new initiative to support global system integrators and independent software vendors to help clients modernize and transform mission-critical workloads with Red Hat OpenShift for any cloud environment, including IBM public cloud. The ecosystem helps streamline the path to innovative solutions like Jenzabar’s virtual learning software by providing members their solution on the industry’s most open and secure public cloud for business as well as go-to-market support.

Meeting operational demands

For colleges and universities coping with campus closures, scaling online courses isn’t the only issue to worry about. Resilience, security, performance, flexibility, and geographic reach are all key concerns. IBM public cloud was designed for clients with complex and regulated workloads, like public colleges and universities.

“We chose IBM Cloud because it is robust and built for business,” said Gus Ortiz at Jenzabar. “Our use of IBM Cloud really resonates with our user community. They see it as a reinforcement of our commitment to meet clients’ around-the-clock operational demands.”

Importantly, the Jenzabar solution had to meet data compliance requirements that vary from country to country. The IBM global cloud data center network supports Jenzabar’s initiative to meet local data regulations. IBM collaborates with companies like Jenzabar by leveraging hybrid cloud capabilities, to help customers emerge smarter from the pandemic to become more resilient and agile.

The future of digital learning

For some institutions, near-term survival is the primary objective this year. For others, the crisis presents an opportunity to pivot to a new direction. Modern students are looking for a more personalized and connected experience with choices in how, what, when, and where they learn. They want responsive and easy administration. They are mobile and technology savvy; higher education institutions can be too.

The sudden shift to digital learning this year will likely have a lasting effect on academia, where digital transformation has been slow to roll out in the past. The trends toward online courses and learning opportunities has been accelerated far past any point we could have imagined in 2019.

Thankfully, Jenzabar is helping these institutions navigate the waters of remote learning. Together, Jenzabar and IBM are helping schools focus on educating and engaging their students during a challenging time.

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