Alberta Educator’s First Major Shared Service Passes the Test

When over 53,000 students at three of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions went online this month to register for courses and communicate with their teachers, it was under the watchful eye of the University of Alberta’s IT staff. The institution has successfully transferred the operations of one of Alberta’s first educational shared services from Cybera (Alberta’s not-for-profit technology accelerator) to its own internal team, who will operate it going forward.

For the past four years, NAIT, NorQuest College and the University of Alberta have delivered their individual learning management systems (LMS) to students via a shared Learning Management Cloud. This novel service was developed in 2012 to allow multiple institutions to share the hosting, management, and delivery of their LMS (in this case, Moodle) in a cloud-based environment. By automating the operation and management of their systems, the institutions have reported that they have greatly increase the efficiency, uptime and capabilities of their organizations.

Previously, these institutions operated separate, siloed learning management systems in-house, which required expensive hardware maintenance and dedicated IT staff time. During the busier periods of the year (such as during registration and exam seasons), the increased demands on their LMS could cause slow-downs and delays for end-users.

Seeking a better alternative, the institutions worked with Cybera to invent a cloud environment that would allow them to share their LMS infrastructure, while still keeping their user data separate and private. Operating from its own Alberta-based servers, Cybera created the powerful cloud service, which has successfully improved the performance of the institutions’ online LMS resources. This initiative also created new opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing, sparking discussions about other potential shared applications between post-secondaries.

“Cybera has provided NAIT with a reliable and consistent Moodle environment within a predictable cost model,” says Daryl Allenby, Director – IT Infrastructure and Operations at NAIT.  “Moreover, the opportunity for collaboration amongst PSIs and Cybera’s staff has proven uniquely beneficial.”

Since 2012, the Learning Management Cloud served over 53,000 students and staff, and maintained 52 TB of volume storage and 27 different virtualized environments (for testing, development and production purposes).

“We are very pleased with how well this group initiative worked,” says Barton Satchwill, Development Manager at Cybera. “The Learning Management Cloud demonstrates the effectiveness of shared services to increase collaborations among educators, and we look forward to helping more schools through similar, technology-leading pilots.”

Based on the success of this project, Cybera is now pursuing other opportunities to provide efficient, collaborative and cost-saving shared services to Alberta’s educators in both the post-secondary and K-12 sectors, including a shared IT procurement pilot, and a service for sharing online user authentication tools.

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