Most companies are looking into cloud computing as part of their IT solutions. Cloud computing extends beyond the IT department as industry leaders are using the service to spur innovation, grow their businesses into new product lines as well as provide business insights through big data analytics. The cloud offers great potential for any business aiming to maximise on its scale, speed, economics and control. Companies around the globe increasingly depend on the cloud to sell, create products and manage supply chains. Results from IDC research indicates that 85 percent of new software being created today is meant for the cloud.
However, as much as leading companies recognise the vast potential of transforming and growing their business, they are not shifting their entire IT department to the cloud. For them, the switch to the cloud is gradual which usually begins with small, manageable workloads and increases as their confidence in the cloud grows. One such company is Pearson Education (Guido, 2014).
Pearson is a global publicly owned publishing company and owns Penguin books and the Financial Times Group. The British-owned company publishes and assesses services to corporations and schools and directly to students. It is an owner of several educational media brands such as Prentice Hall, Scott Foresman, Longman and eCollege. Pearson’s education division is part of Pearson plc and was founded in July 1998. The division is separated into a North American and International division. The company generates close to 60 percent of its sales in North America and runs operations in over 70 countries. Its headquarters are in London but also has offices across South America, Europe as well as Asia. According to the company’s recent data the company has close to 32,000 employees and an operating income of 553 million British Pound. In 2018 it generated a revenue of 4,129 million British Pound.
The Inefficiencies and changes needed in Learning
The education market is quickly changing, and printed textbooks are becoming a thing of the past. Offering digital content is also not enough and should be part of a highly analytical, collaborative as well as highly interactive solution that supports emerging ways of learning and meets new standards. Pearson, being a leader in the education industry should be at the forefront of this market by implementing cloud computing systems. The company requires to be innovative on different fronts and at a pace previously not thought of or achieved. The challenge is developing new methods of teaching personalised to match the students’ interests. The innovation should also be inclusive of unique levels of engagement attracting and retaining the attention of the learners. Moreover, by employing cloud services, Pearson will further help the administrators and teachers to understand faster and wholly of how well their students are learning. The cloud systems should support an agile software development process enabling a vast and complex project to be done flexibly and quickly. It ought to also support huge amounts of data as well as integrate high levels of social partnerships. The cloud systems should also keep up with the quick evaluation of the student’s learning performance to assist teachers in implementing the most effective pedagogical model for working with each student.
Solutions for Pearson through Cloud Management
To achieve these ambitious goals Pearson is already using the Pearson System of Courses (PSOC), a tablet-based curriculum. PSOC was introduced in 2014, and immediately after its launch eight school districts and 85,000 students were using it. To address the technological as well as educational requirements for PSOC, Pearson and its technology partner Fino Consulting are using a range of Microsoft technologies specifically the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform and Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 to run PSOC. The Microsoft platforms were used by the PSOC team consisting of over 50 developers and 50 UI designers, project managers as well as quality-assurance personnel for everything from designing to testing (MIcrosoft, 2015). Azure platform was the best choice for PSOC as it has all the components allowing the cloud platform to meet the heavy demands of data analysis, social collaboration and content hosting.
PSOC uses Azure Blob and Azure Websites as well as Table Storage to author and host Pearson-generated material. It also implements Azure Cloud Services for processing interactions with users, which are reaching over tens of millions of events after a period of four months. It also uses the Azure SQL database and Azure HDInsight to provide educators with assessments of student performance. The events of how PSOC is being used such as how students download, share or create content are evaluated in HDInsight allowing teachers to track and understand how students are operating with the material, the concepts they have grasped and the ones they require to be aided.
The front ends of the PSOC solution allow for iOS, Windows and Android interfaces to feed the cross-platform Azure portion. Once students log into PSOC, an automatic action triggers the download of appropriate course contents such as interactive material like class activities and assignments. PSOC also contains a digital notebook that stores user-generated content such as class projects, class notes as well as homework assignments sharable through Azure with teachers and peers.
Implementing cloud computing services not only aids Pearson in delivering and hosting educational material to its teachers and learners but also assists the development team in formulating a gradual stream of enhancements. By employing RightScale, also a cloud computing service, Pearson’s development team is able to manage its digital learning in the Cloud. RightScale, a leader in cloud computing management, was founded in 2006 (RightScale Incorporation, 2011). They offer a fully automated cloud managing platform that allows firms to easily manage as well as deploy business-critical applications across many clouds with full portability and control. The platform is offered as “software as a service” (SaaS)
RightScale offers an opportunity for Pearson’s developers to simplify new product creation, gives them test instances almost immediately, reduces sales cycles and manages the whole process in the cloud from a common platform. RightScale offers them a better test environment for developers to test their code. Previously, the company’s developing team relied on virtual and physical machines, specifying web server, versions and flavours of the operating system, SuccessMaker, database and other necessary applications. They were experiencing long delays as it took a day or two to gain entry to a test machine, regardless of whether they created the test environment themselves or made a request through e-mail. Apart from the delays, they were not certain if the test instance would match the production environment that live customers were using. Pearson turned to the cloud for quick speeds and more reliable solutions.
By a click of the mouse on the RightScale dashboard, the company’s developers can develop multiple server environments in the cloud from Server Templates by pasting production deployments for testing. The software also allows the developers to create adjustments at the deployment level to come up with separate testing environments that may be required. Employing the Server Templates has resulted in a huge difference in testing for Pearson. The 100 percent consistency between test and production systems confirms to the developers that they are accessing a common thing real-world users will view, giving them more confidence in the accuracy of their outcomes (RightScale Incorporation, 2011). In addition to this, the cloud managing system assists Pearson to achieve a much shorter Sales Cycle. After announcing the availability of SuccessMaker at a sales conference, it only took a couple of weeks before the sales team recorded a substantive number of new customers either starting pilot programs or purchasing licenses. Pearson is able to make available its digital learning content in front of a huge audience quicker without the hurdles of having to get into the facility’s data centre and troubleshoot the implementation with the institution’s small IT staffs. They can also be certain that all users access the same version of the content at any time.
Pearson is a huge company that has hugely invested in offering digital learning to its consumers. With its huge size and widespread use of the company’s services across multiple districts, cloud computing management becomes necessary for it to ease operations. The company is already employing some cloud-based solutions through RightScale and PSOC. So far, the company is enjoying great benefits and has made notable steps in the quality of its service. The company’s customers are enjoying reduced implementation time as well as easy Web access to the digital content.
Guido, P. (2014, November 3). Three Companies That Transformed Their Businesses Using Cloud Computing. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ibm/2014/11/03/three-companies-that-transformed-their-businesses-using-cloud-computing/#26a8d431b66b
Microsoft. (2015, March 06). Pearson uses cloud platform to bring digital textbooks to life and to analyse how kids learn. Retrieved from Microsoft: https://customers.microsoft.com/en-us/story/pearson-uses-cloud-platform-to-bring-digital-textbooks
RightScale Incorporation. (2011). Pearson Manages Digital Learning in the Cloud with RightScale. Retrieved from RightScale: https://assets.rightscale.com/baa80d2d50ccf11c8c4a3d6be99019b3e9153201/web/PDFs/RightScale_CaseStudy_Pearson.pdf