Powered by the rapid adoption of cloud computing, emerging technologies are poised to transform Malaysia’s edutech sector. Exemplifying the potential of digital transformation, the state of Perak, tucked away in the northwestern region of Malaysia, was once home to some of the richest tin deposits in the world, making it the wealthiest state in the Federated States of Malaya (FMS) during pre-Independence times.

Today, Perak, which takes its name from silver, is investing in another treasure: tech for education. One prominent example is the Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah (USAS), a relatively young institution based in Perak, which has turned to the cloud as a strategic step to ensure that students can continue learning during pandemic-related disruptions.

TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), shares insights into how cloud computing, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and other technologies are enabling Malaysian education institutions to carry on the all-essential practice of teaching.

Covid’s ‘silver’ lining

Pandemic restrictions highlighted the efficacy of digital technologies and connectivity in delivering education, says Prof Dato’ Dr Wan Sabri Wan Yusof, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Affairs) at USAS. The university chose TM, the country’s leading cloud provider to help upscale the digital delivery of their teaching.

Indeed, the potential of digitalisation to maintain educational momentum during the current crisis is reflected in various studies such as OECD’s Impact of Covid-19 on Education – and the World Economic Forum, which suggested that online learning has been seen to increase retention of information, and take less time.

Prof Dato’ Dr Wan noted that some benefits manifested almost immediately. The university could now support videos and streaming, which are essential to remote learning but require high data capacity.

Before this, lecturers had to advise students to access the system outside of peak hours. Since the shift to cloud services, students no longer complained of ‘sluggish access and loading times’, according to USAS leaders.

Other benefits from the shift to the cloud include the ability for greater interactivity, which is an invaluable additional layer to virtual lessons. More students are now able to interact with lecturers, who can also provide feedback in real-time. Additionally, they could now access the content at their convenience.

Cloud computing has transformed another crucial part of the schooling experience: examinations, where the stakes are higher than for the standard lessons. The system must have the capacity to accommodate a larger number of students, and any disruption will result in less time to complete the examination papers.

USAS’s cloud-based examination platform has increased the number of concurrent users from 200 to 800, noted Prof Dato’ Dr Wan Sabri.

In addition to improving the learning experience, the cloud has streamlined university operations significantly. IT teams can now restore any access disruptions in a much shorter period and perform them remotely. Traditional on-premise scenarios required on-site maintenance – a non-viable option during a pandemic lockdown.

The cloud also allows USAS to downscale or upscale consumption capacities according to demand, which saves operating costs, says Prof Dato’ Dr Wan Sabri. The efficiency resulting from the cloud adoption will also enable the university to increase its students’ intake by 15 per cent a year.

Virtual education

VR and AR are two of the digital technologies that are “expected to bring the greatest impact in the education sector in the near future,” says Iskandar Iskak, Head Education Vertical at TM ONE. Both of these have already started to make a difference in schools.

For instance, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) has started using VR goggles and 3D modelling content to enliven and enrich the classroom experience. TM ONE has partnered with the university to provide virtual content. An Experience Centre has been established to bring a rich, immersive learning experience to students through virtual simulations.

“Through VR, it is possible for students not only to get into virtual spaces, but machines, or even travel through time into the past or the future,” says Iskandar. “By doing this, we are not only stimulating interest among students but also accommodating different styles of learning to maximise learning potentials.”

Making connections

Digital adoption will also help bring education to regions that are currently under-connected. TM ONE has helped to link students in rural areas of Pahang to their teachers in Kuantan town with its e-Tutor system.

The system leverages two tools – a unified communication tool and a cloud-hosted content platform. The content platform focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, where learners and teachers can access various learning materials, and education providers can also explore and subscribe to STEM education services/products.

The platform runs on an internet centre in remote Pahang, powered by TM ONE’s high-speed connectivity services. Similar internet centres can be found throughout Malaysia, which provides free Wi-Fi and devices for online access.

The regulator for Malaysia’s communications industry, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) intends to increase the number of internet centres to 1,100, chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek told GovInsider. This will enhance access to education in less connected parts of the country.

The foundational power of cloud

The cloud serves as the foundational front for multiple forms of edutech and onward development. USAS continues to find TM ONE’s services especially supportive throughout the journey to cloud computing and indeed to unlock the benefits of digital transformation.

TM ONE looks after connectivity, which is the first step to digitalisation and also manages cybersecurity support: the entire chain from cloud services, data centres, to customers is protected.

TM through TM ONE has recently been appointed by the government as one of the key cloud service providers under the Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL). This is another testament to TM ONE’s position as a leading public sector cloud provider.

The examples in this article suggest the emerging wave of active potential in Malaysia’s edutech aspirations. TM ONE has affirmed its role to continue sharing its digital expertise and tools with academic institutions.  These institutions will be vital in nurturing a future-fit workforce, ready for Malaysia’s journey to digital nationhood in today’s world of the 4th Industrial Revolution.