“More than 95% of our e-learning infrastructure is currently running off the Cloud”.
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) Director of Learning Systems & Applications, Lee Chye Seng shares the challenges he faced when scaling systems for complete e-learning and what technologies he thinks are top-of-mind for future investment.
EDUtech_talks: What has the past year been like for you as the Director of Learning Systems and Applications and how has the University pivoted?
Lee Chye Seng: SUSS is one of the pioneer universities that provides e-learning to our students. But it was still a hectic year as my team had to ensure our e-learning infrastructure continues to be robust and stable with the upsurge in e-learning as a result of the Covid19 pandemic.
In early December 2019, I recall I was conducting a briefing for our schools and admin departments on our Business Continuing Management (BCM) plans for teaching and learning (i.e. how would the University respond in terms of the day-to-day teaching and learning in the event of an emergency), everyone listened at ease with the festive mood in the air. Lo and behold, just 2 months down the road, we received an urgent activation of a 2-week trial run of full-scale online learning by our Provost in Feb 2020. We scrambled to extend the use of Zoom from teaching small cohorts of students to getting every student-and-faculty (15,000 students and 1,200 faculty) aboard full online mode of teaching and learning.
As we were prepared with BCM plans in place, we did not rush to find available technology because we have been using online learning tools, albeit on a much smaller scale. What we had to literally execute quickly next, was to get every faculty ready to teach online. That was a tall order and it was amazing how we managed to deliver 5 training workshops over a short 2-week period.
EDUtech_talks: What do you think are some of the changing needs of the university and its stakeholders post pandemic?
Lee Chye Seng: The pandemic has fast forwarded the use of full-scale e-learning on a campus-wide basis. What was perceived as less ideal (e.g., synchronous learning and e-examination) has become an acceptable mode of delivery for teaching and learning, and progressively evolving into an integral part of the new education eco-system. Our faculty and staff have to be highly competent in facilitating teaching, learning and support for our students be it on-campus, off-campus or a hybrid with both modes inclusive. We are modifying our classrooms to be conducive for all modes of learning and accommodate students that are on-campus and online.
In terms of our fellow colleagues working in the new normal, our campus facilities have been under-utilised with staff working and students learning all remotely from home. We soon realised our office spaces have to be re-designed to accommodate the change as hotdesking could be a better concept instead of dedicated workspaces. The furniture and layout should also be designed with safe distancing in mind.
EDUtech_talks: Do you currently employ any cloud solutions in your organisation?
Lee Chye Seng: More than 95% of our e-learning infrastructure is currently running off the Cloud.
EDUtech_talks: What gave you the push to start implementing cloud-based solutions?
Lee Chye Seng: Time to market, lean staff strength, ease of IT service management and cost savings were the important factors. We could not afford to wait 6 to 8 weeks for the server hardware to be purchased and configured.
EDUtech_talks: What’s your Digital Campus vision and how are you working towards it?
Lee Chye Seng: We are trying to make our all-in-one learning mobile app smart. In the app, there is an indoor navigation and positioning system. Users who are wheelchair-bound will be prompted by a new feature that will guide them to use the elevator instead of the stairs. We are also keen to incorporate other smart features such as identifying students through facial recognition for security purposes.