2 page Case Study - Posted 11/20/2009
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Virtual Campus Solution Delivers Return on Investment in First Year of Operation
E-learning specialist Aula Salud wanted a highly available, robust, and cost-effective solution to deliver education programs with video streaming for healthcare professionals in Spain. Aula Salud chose Atnova, which offered this kind of solution based entirely on Microsoft® technologies, rather than open-source development tools. With these solutions, Aula Salud achieved increased student numbers and a return on investment in the first year.
Atnova is one of the leading providers of e-learning solutions developed in Spain. The company provides a virtual campus infrastructure and tools for course creation to Aula Salud, which delivers training videos for healthcare workers. The critical requirements for the product—called Atnova Campus 9.6—are reliability, high performance, and round-the-clock security.
Loss of service, even for a few hours, in the highly competitive e-learning industry in Spain could result in severe damage to the reputation of Aula Salud. Denis Dureux, Chief Executive Officer at Atnova, says: “A highly available solution is vital to our clients because trust is the key to success in this service sector where there is intense competition for business. In the past, Aula Salud had been let down by an outsourcing company. It didn’t want that to happen again.”
Based in Alicante and founded in 2007, Aula Salud brings together healthcare professionals with experience across different sectors. In its first year, Aula Salud delivered courses in a conventional classroom setting with many learners making journeys of up to two hours in each direction for their training.
Federico Juarez, Chief Executive Officer, Aula Salud, says: “Face-to-face teaching was expensive to provide because teachers were getting €400 [U.S.$586] per session, and, with around 320 students, we would need up to 14 sessions to satisfy demand.”
The virtual environment provided a benefit in addition to cost. Learning is more inclusive in a virtual environment because healthcare professionals can access the teaching materials at home, or during quiet periods at work, from any browser. Juarez says: “We were confident that by using a virtual environment hosted by a reliable partner, we could attract a greater number of students than in a classroom setting.”
Atnova, based in Elche, is one of the main e-learning solution providers in Spain that offers an environment based on Microsoft technologies. Its competitors mostly use the Moodle open-source environment—a bundle of open-source software with Linux as the operating system.
Juarez says: “We considered using Moodle, but we realized we needed a more available and reliable service with better security than Moodle partners offered. To use Moodle, I’d need at least one dedicated member of my staff, and it would be far more expensive than the Atnova licenses.”
Atnova launched its services for Aula Salud in the last quarter of 2008, with the Windows Server® 2003 operating system, Microsoft SQL Server® 2005 data management software, and Microsoft Visual Studio® 2005 development system. The multi-video systems integrate the Flash Video Studio format with the Microsoft .NET Framework development system, which is also used to produce communications tools for user forums to enhance the learning experience.
In 2009, Atnova migrated the infrastructure to Windows Server 2008 for Web content and services delivery. It is managing formats for the learning materials in XML and storing them in Microsoft SQL Server 2008—and it uses Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 for development.
Now, Aula Salud records the video learning modules in its own studio and uploads them directly to the Atnova data center in Madrid. Juarez says: “The environment offers a lot of power—the Microsoft software is highly robust compared to Linux and can support thousands of users simultaneously. In fact, it can do everything that the client requests. It can handle video in multiple formats, including Flash Video and Windows Media Player. We can also store Windows-based files in different formats.”
Aula Salud achieved a return from its investment in the Atnova virtual learning environment in the first year of deployment—2008–2009—and increased the number of students using its teaching system. Juarez says: “With the Atnova virtual campus solution, we only have to record a teaching video once. We can then reuse it many times without extra fees for the teachers.”
• Robust solution handles large workload. A server farm tested with up to five servers can support the virtual campus load. They have the files and settings to route thousands of students an hour to the appropriate video courses held in the database.
• Aula Salud uploads content within five hours. Aula Salud is achieving fast turnaround for new teaching videos. Juarez says: “If we finish the video filming work by 11:00, we can have the session indexed and ready for release by 16:00.”
• Students avoid need to attend in person. Juarez adds: “The students now only have to attend our offices in person for an initial briefing on how to use the system. Identity management features ensure total security.”
• Atnova offers highly responsive support service. Juarez says: “Atnova takes full responsibility for the virtual environment and the infrastructure, leaving us free to concentrate on the quality of the learning materials. Atnova is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to guarantee business continuity.”
• Technology converts Microsoft presentation slides to video format. More than 95 percent of Aula Salud teachers use Microsoft Office PowerPoint® 2003 or Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007. The Atnova solution easily converts presentations in PowerPoint to Flash Video, maintaining a high level of quality.
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