We are in the middle of a defining moment in the history of education. With schools indefinitely closed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the education sector has undergone a hard reset. While the familiar physical classrooms wear a deserted look, the online space has come alive with scores of students connecting with their teachers to ensure learning doesn’t stop. In developing this virtual culture of learning, technologies such as video conferencing and online learning management systems have played a pivotal role in supporting students to learn, grow and thrive.
In India, market estimates suggest that the online learning market is expected to reach INR 360 billion by 2024, with an expansion at a CAGR of ~44% between 2019 and 2024. According to a BARC-Nielsen report, there has been a 16% increase in the time spent on smartphones during the lockdown, with around 18.7 billion minutes being spent per day over a week in the month of May! Further, the report’s findings indicate that there has especially been a surge in the usage of education apps, besides gaming and social networking.
What we are witnessing today is a staggering volume of data generation and exchange across virtual education platforms. Hence, a well-founded data infrastructure becomes imperative for designing a great learning experience. Whether it is storing and backing up personal data or drawing data-driven insights for monitoring performance and measuring engagement, storage solutions are the very bedrock of this worldwide experiment in remote learning.
A paradigm shift in the education landscape
Today, instant access to information, real-time communication, and online collaboration are a ‘must-have’ for learning continuity plans. A whole host of Next-Generation technologies are connecting the educators and learners in the virtual world. These include video, language apps, virtual tutoring and online learning software, as well as digital platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom.
However, digitalization is a double-edged sword. The effectiveness of online education is contingent to several factors, including where the content is hosted, how it is managed and access to a robust connectivity. Think about it this way: online learning platforms replicate physical classrooms by way of providing an interactive learning environment along with several tools and functionalities.
Irrespective of the platform, online learning produces vast volumes of data from different sources, ranging from video lectures, presentations and performance trackers to course and project work as well as assignments. In crafting a seamless online learning experience, it is vital to manage data in an effective and a secure fashion. Implementing appropriate data storage solutions also helps in overcoming challenges in accessing historical data in the form of study references, administrative and financing department records, etc., and creates a well-structured and streamlined e-learning infrastructure.
External storage devices: enabling seamless learning
With digital learning set to become an extension to offline learning modes in the future, it is likely educational institutions will partner with technology companies to create the perfect ‘virtual schoolbag’ consisting of laptops, network equipment and, more importantly, data storage devices. Besides offering a high volume of storage space, these devices safeguard against data loss – especially in an e-learning environment, where a system crash or a glitch in the central database can result in an instant loss of valuable data collated over a long period of time. Towards this end, external storage devices, such as portable HDDs and SSDs offer a crucial safety net as a medium of secure offline data storage.
With hours upon hours of recorded video lectures, media-rich presentations and large volumes of files, photos and videos, students are increasingly adopting portable HDDs, which offer high-capacity storage space to backup crucial data from online lessons in a secure manner. Similarly, Portable SSDs can help teachers and students to transfer a large amount of content in a jiffy to either back up or share with another person.
Similarly, pre-loaded micro SD cards and dual USB drives are versatile storages devices that can be used along with smartphones by those who may not have access to laptops for attending virtual classes. The dual USB drives allow content to be seamlessly transferred between devices, such as from a smartphone to a smartphone or a PC. In addition, these drives work well for those residing in hard-to-reach areas with fractured broadband infrastructure.
While students can choose any device, memory cards are of utility to a large percentage of students who use their smartphones to attend virtual classes. These cards differ in speed, storage capacity and compatibility and can be used for storing everything, from text notes to video files. They also allow high-speed data transfer, thereby enabling a better experience.
The online learning experience will evolve
The paradigm shift in the education ecosystem onto the digital framework has a large number of advantages. This is fast proving that virtual education may not be a short-term stopgap solution for continued learning, but perhaps a new way of schooling that will complement and co-existing with the physical classrooms. With resilient and effective storage solutions, e-learning can become a powerful tool to bring about democratization of quality education. Tools and services with a mobile-first approach and a richer content in more regional languages will be the key enablers of growth in this sector.
#This article is authored by Jaganathan Chelliah, Director, Marketing, Western Digital