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Inspur’s App Store Lets Millions of Thai Children Worry Less about their Studies

Introduction

As its education informatization program continues to make progress, the government of Thailand has formulated the OPTC project to accelerate reforms in education. Thailand's TOT Telecom Group has consequently developed the Education Cloud Platform, which is a core element of OPTC. After incorporating cloud computing and Inspur’s app Store in this effort, TOT has realized the online sharing of education apps and interactive functions, and has created a brand-new service mode--“the Government devises plans and gives guidance; the enterprise performs development and operation; and 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 a major strategy that countries around the world are employing to improve their educational systems. Countries such the United States, Britain, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Canada, and Portugal have all embarked on their own education informatization people programs. The Thai government has attached great importance to educational development, which receives heavy emphasis in Thailand’s 11th Five-Year Plan (2012-2016) for National Economic and Social Development, which states that improvement of the quality of Thai children’s education is of critical significance. The Thai government invests as much as 20% of the government budget in education, which is much higher than its investment in other areas.

To improve basic education with modern information technology, Thailand’s Department of Education launched the OTPC (One Tablet per Child) project in 2012. The aim of this project is to equip each and every primary and secondary school student in Thailand with a tablet, which will first be provided to students in the first grade. In addition, elementary and middle schools should have wireless Internet, and schools should provide free Internet service to students. Providing students with tablets is for the ultimate purpose of increasing the informatization of education, improving the circulation of information, and stimulating students’ interest in studies.

However, the project's original goals cannot be fulfilled through the use of tablets alone, but also require complete hardware and software platforms and a rich set of educational content. Only by so doing can the value of tablets be fully realized, and teaching quality be improved. To this end, the Thai government emphasized the need to develop an Education Cloud Platform in 2013. It was also hoped that the Cloud Platform would allow an app store containing various educational apps to be established, thus realizing online sharing of extensive educational and e-learning resources, and achieving the ultimate goals of unified platform management, environmentally-friendliness, and security.

This important task fell to the telecommunications industry in the form of Thailand's TOT Telecom Group.

TOT is the biggest fixed-line telephone operator in Thailand. TOT was formerly known as the Telephone Organization of Thailand, and was reorganized as TOT Public Company Limited in 2002. The company’s main line of business is fixed-line telephone, mobile communications, and international calling services involving neighboring countries. Concerning the OTPC project launched by the Thai government, TOT has undertaken the mission of establishing and maintaining an app store, which will allow the project to yield its full benefits.

Cloud Service Models Have Become a First Choice

According to the promotional plan launched by the Office of the Basic Education Commission (OBEC), Ministry of Education, Thailand, the Thai government has issued 2.4 million tablets since 2012. Because primary school classes and secondary school classes begin and end at about the same time in Thailand, 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 great diversity make tremendous demands on data centers' capacity and stability. Furthermore, management and maintenance of the app store requires a high level of stability and the ability to conduct intelligent management, so that the whole system is manageable and controllable, able to operate in a normal way at all times, and applications can be smoothly uploaded, downloaded, installed, and utilized.

The informatization of education currently involves heavy use of cloud service platforms. Cloud computing technology provides convenient and flexible technical support, can provide ultra-large-scale computing power, and is able to offer diverse services to terminals. Thanks to two-way Internet connections and with the strong support lent by cloud computing to the operating system, there are endless possibilities for interactive services on education networks. Finally, cloud computing platforms can greatly enhance the functionality of applications.

Inspur, as a leading provider of overall solutions for cloud computing, is able to provide diverse cloud applications in the arcs of cloud computing and big data. Given the TOT Telecom Group’s requirements for the development of the Education Cloud, Inspur has devised a app store system providing educational cloud applications. This app store system is actually its own cloud service system. Thanks to cloud computing, software and hardware resources can be gathered and shared as fully as possible, which reduces the cost of school informatization and facilitates system development. The app store system developed by Inspur for the benefit of education and the culture industry in Thailand functions as a service platform for interactive applications that aim to meet market demand.

Deployment of a Cloud Platform Brings Convenience to Millions of Tablets

Many people initially objected to the Ministry of Education's policy of issuing a tablet to each student in the country because they believed that students, parents, and rural areas lacked the ability and knowledge to use these tool. The plan also faced such problems as what kind of students were most suitable for using these tablets; what could be done to prevent students from visiting websites with undesirable information; and whether or not information technology would exert an immediate contribution to education. As for TOT, the company was confronted with serious challenges concerning the development and development of the Cloud Platform, such as the task of connecting the Cloud Platform with the existing billing system in Thailand, and creating a bilingual environment (English and Thai).

In the end, after deploying an effective Cloud Platform, TOT brought great convenience to millions of tablets.

Thanks to a stable and reliable data center the application platform, including interactive teaching and mobile Internet functions, is able to provide support to two million users, offer 50,000 apps, allow 10,000 developers to work online simultaneously, and maintain the continuous operation of the system for 24 hours every day. Moreover, the system's functions include remote diagnosis, examining application information uploaded by developers, and automatically blocking content not compatible with education. In this way, the system ensures that all the information on the platform is manageable and controllable. In addition, by uncovering, organizing, and analyzing various application data on tablets, the system provides data support and reference information used by Thailand’s Ministry of Education when assessing applications.

The standard app store application platform is completely open to operators and manufacturers, which attains rapid fusion with terminal hardware and application services. This has shortened the time spent on new product development and business integration, and has thus lowered upfront costs. The standardized business and application development system has lowered barriers to entry, which has greatly encouraged developers’ eagerness to develop diverse educational apps.

The app store system directly interfaces with the such existing billing systems as Bank of Thailand, mobile payment platforms, and prepaid platforms, thus making it more convenient for users to pay for purchases. Moreover, regarding the business model, the cooperation between Inspur and TOT has provided Thailand’s education and culture industry with a unified leasing service, which has also created a brand-new service mode, namely the Government devises plans and gives guidance; the enterprise performs development and operation; and the school purchases services.”

Helping Millions of Thai Children Worry Less about their Studies

Inputting teaching materials into mobile terminals to create e-schoolbags and e-textbooks is one of the main trends in contemporary educational development. The rich environment of the Internet Era has brought new opportunities and challenges to the development of the education industry. Statistics released by the research company FrostSullivan indicate that the education app market is conservatively estimated to have a 1000-bilion value, which is expected to reach 2000 billion in 2015. The education app market is in full swing in Thailand, and Thai Education Minister Worawat Ua-apinyakul has declared that: “With the computerization of textbooks and 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 the app store, including famous teachers’ lectures, online courses, readings, and puzzle games, have brought much educational enlightenment to Thai children. In addition, the app store system, as a specialized learning platform, can point out beneficial educational content for children through a controllable management platform, thus achieving the goal of more accurate dissemination of information. According to statistics from Thailand’s Ministry of Education, 98% of Thai schools use tablet PCs in their teaching activities, and generally allow students to use them for an hour each day. The surveyed schools have indicated that teaching with tablet PCs helps students concentrate on their studies, encourages them to acquire more computer skills, and allows them to study anywhere. In addition, students who receive instruction via tablet PCs generally attain higher grades in English and Thai. Most teachers agree that the tablet policy is beneficial.

Transforming Learning Methods and Creating a Unique “Mobile Classroom”

The informatization of education represented by the app store can create a mobile study environment, provide diverse education resources and support for individualized learning, and allow learners to study at any time or place, according to their own needs. By means of online teaching and interaction, this approach can help to complete a 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 skills, and ability to innovate. Thailand’s education officials have declared, “Through the implementation of the Education Cloud, the ‘Mobile Classroom’ concept shall be created for our students during the process of education reform. Teaching in the classroom has become teacher-led, and even instruction given by famous teachers cannot prevent students from being absent-minded and bored, while the application of a ‘Mobile Classroom’ will transform traditional passive learning into a more interactive and individualized activity”

Promoting Equality in Education and Realizing Online Sharing of Resources

The educational app store has also effectively ensured the sharing of each school’s education resources, thus realizing the nationwide dissemination of education resources. This sharing of educational apps has been effective in promoting education equality and improving educational 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 educational resources. By reducing the cost of information and high-quality educational resources, the educational app store has ensured that education resources can be transmitted to outlying districts in a convenient and efficient way, thus accomplishing the open sharing of educational resources. In today’s Thailand, where the Government is striving equality in education, because of their small size, lightness, and low prices, tablets will be widely available in classrooms and households, and will relieve students from apprehension about their studies.


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