As its education informatization construction continues to make progress, The Government of Thailand has formulated the OPTC project to accelerate reforms in education. About this project, Thai TOT Telecom Group undertakes the construction of Education Cloud Platform, one of the core schemes subsumed under OPTC. After introducing Cloud Computing Architecture and Inspur’s APP Store into its work, TOT has realized the online sharing of education apps and interaction, and has finally created a brand-new service mode--“the Government devises plans and gives guidance; the enterprise performs constructions and operations; the school purchases services.”
Education Informatization Is Imperative; Thailand Initiates the OPTC Project
As scientific innovation makes steady progress and the level of informatization continues to rise, education informatizaton has become the strategic choice available to countries all around the world that intend to improve their education. Such countries as America, Britain, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Canada, and Portugal, are all engaged in implementing its own plan for education informatization. During the boom, The Government of Thailand has attached great importance to educational development. It is fully emphasized in Thailand’s11th Five-Year Plan (2012-2016) for the National Economic and Social Development that to improve the quality of Thai children’s education is of critical significance. The Government of Thailand makes an educational investment that amounts to 20% of government budget, much higher than its investments in other departments.
To improve basic education with modern information technology, Thailand’s Department of Education launched the OTPC project in 2012 (One Tablet per Child). The aim of this project is to equip each and every primary and secondary school student in Thailand with a tablet, which will be put to use, first of all, among students in the first grade. In addition, elementary and middle schools are brought into the wireless network, providing free internet services for students within prescribed school domains. To equip students with tablets is for the ultimate purpose of upgrading education informatization, improving in all-round way information sharing quality, and stimulating students’ interests in studies.
However, the original conception cannot be fulfilled with only the help of tablets. It also needs a complete hardware and software platform and a rich set of educational content as its support. Only by so doing can the value of tablets be fully realized, and teaching quality be improved. To this end, the Government of Thailand, based on the OTPC project, underlined the need of constructing Education Cloud Platform in 2013. It is hoped that by means of Cloud Platform, APP Store. which is comprised of various education apps, can be established, thus realizing online sharing of enormous education resources and e-Learning, and reaching the ultimate goal of conducting a unified management of the platform, and of being pro-environmental, secure and controllable.
This important task falls to the telecommunications industry represented by Thai TOT Telecom Group.
TOT is the biggest fixed-line telephone operator in Thailand. TOT used to be known as the Telephone Organization of Thailand, and I was corporatized as TOT Public Company Limited in 2002. The company’s main line of business is fixed-line telephone, mobile communication, and international calling services operated in neighboring countries. Concerning the OTPC project launched by the Government of Thailand, TOT has undertaken the task of constructing and maintaining APP Store, so that it may give full play to its broadband internet, providing the Education Cloud project with information security and support.
Cloud Service Models Have Become the First Choice
According to the promotional plan launched by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Ministry of Education, Thailand, the Government of Thailand has decided to issue altogether 2.4 million tablets since 2012. Because in Thailand, primary school classes and secondary school classes begin and end at about the same time, demanding requirements are imposed on concurrent data processing when more than 2 million tablet computers are used simultaneously. Moreover, the enormous volume of application data and its huge variety make higher demands on the data center’s capacity and stability. As for the management and maintenance of APP Store, it requires that the platform perform smooth operation and conduct intelligent management, so that the whole system is manageable and controllable, able to operate and diagnose in a normal way, and the applications can be smoothly uploaded, downloaded, installed, and utilized.
As the education informatization construction is making progress rapidly towards cloud service platforms. Cloud computing technology provides more convenient and flexible technical support. It has become the most important carrier that exerts an immediate influence on the linkage between the gathering and sharing of education resources, its construction, and application. Cloud Computing may provide ultra-large-scale computing power, and offer diverse services to terminals. With the help of bi-directional internet and with the strong support lent by Cloud Computing to the operating system, there are endless possibilities that interactive business will be conducted on the education network. Cloud computing platforms can greatly enhance the functionality of applications.
Inspur, as the leading operator that offers overall solutions for Cloud Computing, is able to provide diverse cloud applications in the field of Cloud Computing and Big Data. Given Thai TOT Telecom Group’s demands on the construction of Education Cloud, Inspur has devised a APP Store system operating on the basis of educational cloud applications. The construction of the APP Store system is in reality the construction of a cloud service system. By means of Cloud Computing, software and hardware resources can be gathered and shared to the utmost, thus lowering the costs for the informatization of schools and the difficulty of construction, promoting the benign interaction between the construction and utilization of resources, and improving application levels. The APP Store system developed by Inspur for the benefit of Thailand’s education and culture industry functions rightly as a service platform for interactive applications that aims at meeting such market demands
The Architecture and Deployment of Cloud Platform Brings Convenience to Millions of Tablets
However, many people initially objected the policy, which was made by the Ministry of Education, of issuing each student with a tablet throughout the country. The reason was that students, parents, and the rural areas were not fully equipped with the ability and knowledge of utilizing this tool. There were such problems as what kind of students are most suitable for using these tablets; what can be done to prevent students from visiting websites with undesirable information; and whether or not information technology will exert an immediate, contributory influence on education. As to TOT, the company is confronted with serious challenges concerning the development and construction of Cloud Platform, such as the tasks of connecting Cloud Platform with the existing billing system in Thailand, and creating a bilingual environment (English and Thai).
In the end, with the help of the architecture and deployment of Cloud Platform, TOT brought great convenience to millions of tablets.
The whole application platform of interactive teaching and Mobile Internet helps to build up a stable and reliable data center, giving support to 2 million users and 50 thousand apps, allowing 10 thousand developers to work on-line simultaneously, and sustaining the continuous operation of the system for 7*24 hours. Moreover, the system serves the function of making remote diagnosis, examining the application information uploaded by developers, and automatically shielding off contents unfavorable to studies. In this way, the system accomplishes the goal that all the information on the platform is manageable and controllable. Besides, by excavating, organizing, and analyzing various application data on tablets, the system provides data support and reference data for Thailand’s Ministry of Education when they do an assessment of applications.
The standard APP Store application platform will be completely open to operators and manufacturers on the business chain, thereby attaining a rapid fusion with terminal hardware and application services. It has shortened the time spent on the development of new products and business integration; hence much lower prime costs. The standardized business and application development system has lowered its entry barriers, which can greatly stimulate developers’ enthusiasm for developing diverse education Apps.
The APP Store system directly interfaces with such existing billing systems as Bank of Thailand, mobile payment platforms and prepaid platforms, thus making it more convenient for users to pay and make purchases. Moreover, regarding the business operation model, the co-operation between Inspur and TOT is able to provide Thailand’s education and culture industry with unified leasing business, which ultimately creates a brand-new service mode, that is, “the Government devises plans and gives guidance; the enterprise performs constructions and operations; the school purchases services.”
Millions of Thai Children Are Relieved from Worries over Their Studies
Inputting teaching materials into mobile terminals to make e-schoolbags and e-textbooks is one of the main trends in contemporary educational development. The prosperity of the Internet Era brings new opportunities and challenges to the development of education industry. Statistics released by the research company, FrostSullivan, show that now the education APP market is conservatively estimated to have a 1000-bilion market value, which is expected to reach 2000 billion in 2015. On the part of Thailand, the education APP market is in full swing. Worawat Ua-apinyakul, Minister of Education in Thailand, declares that “with the electronization of textbook materials, tablet PCs are, to some extent, beginning to replace traditional textbooks. They are just like computers, helping students to figure out results much faster.”
An Hour a Day, Students Will Grow Better
The considerable education resources gathered in APP Store, including famous teachers’ lectures, online courses, reality reading, and puzzle games, bring enlightenment to Thai children on their studies. Besides, the APP Store system, as a professional learning platform, can single out beneficial educational contents for children through the manageable and controllable management platform, thus achieving the goal of more accurate dissemination and directional coverage. According to the statistics given by Thailand’s Ministry of Education, at present time, 98% of Thai schools have begun to conduct teaching activities with tablet PCs, allowing students to use it an hour a day. Surveyed schools point out that to teach with tablet PCs makes students more concentrated on studies, promotes them to acquire more computer skills, and allows them to study anywhere. In addition, Students who have received education with tablet PCS have generally attained higher grades in English and Thai. Most teachers agree that this policy is beneficial.
Transform the Original Learning Methods, and Create Unique “Mobile Classroom”
The informatization of education represented by APP Stores may create an omnipresent study environment, provide diverse education resources and support for individualized learning, and allow all the learners to study anytime anywhere, according to their own needs. By means of online teaching and interaction, it helps to complete the transformation from instruction-based teaching to ability-based teaching as well as the transformation from classroom-based learning to a variety of learning styles, thus enhancing students’ learning ability, practical ability, and innovation ability. Thailand’s education officers declare, “Through the implementation of Education Cloud, the concept of ‘Mobile Classroom’ shall be created for our students during the process of education reform. Teaching in the classroom has become teacher-led. Even teaching given by famous teachers cannot prevent students from being absent-minded and bored, while the application ‘Mobile Classroom’ will transform the traditional passive learning into a more interactive and individualized activity”
Promote Equality in Education, and Realize Online Sharing of Resources
Educational APP Store has also effectively ensured the sharing of each school’s education resources, thus realizing the nation-wide dissemination of education recourses. The sharing of education apps is effective in promoting education equity and improving education quality. Thailand’s geographical environment--its central part being plains, its southern part being dominated by hills, the north of the country being mountainous, and the northeast consisting of plateaus—has led to the uneven distribution of education resources. Educational APP Store has lowered the costs of informatization, and digitalized high-quality education resources, so that education resources may be disseminated to outlying districts in a convenient and efficient way, thus accomplishing the open sharing of high quality education resources. In today’s Thailand when the Government is striving for education equity, Tablet PCs, because of their small size, lightness, and low prices, will flood into classrooms and families in the future, and relieve students from apprehensions about their studies.