NJEdge, Amazon could have big impact on edtech in N.J.

By Emily Bader
New Jersey | Feb 28, 2018 at 9:05 am

NJEdge, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, announced a new alliance that aims to make a big impact on educational technology in New Jersey.

The alliance allows for direct physical connections between NJEdge’s optical fiber network, which spans the state of New Jersey, and AWS.

NJEdge’s network, according to Samuel Conn, its CEO and president, provides students, faculty and more with internet connectivity and services.

“This collaboration with AWS is an exciting win for NJEdge, and, more importantly, our member schools,” Conn said. “Members will now have full and direct access to the many technologies that are rapidly developing, or have yet to be developed, as well as the many innovative services and products available from AWS.”

These products and services, Conn said, are strongly intertwined with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“One thing that’s occurring in higher education now is the personalization of education, as education is becoming more consumer driven,” Conn said.

AI can now adapt to the rate, progress and pathways of how people learn, which he said is a “big thing.”

Referring to the back end of NJEdge’s network, Conn said: “We’re able to have direct connections with content providers and various cloud providers. This is a big deal, because all of the subscribers to our network now don’t have to go out across the commodity internet to reach the Amazon Web Services Cloud. They’re one hop away now.”

That quick skip, according to Conn, alleviates security concerns institutions may have, as well as helping with traffic time. And, as far as edtech goes, Conn said, there are two big impacts making waves in New Jersey and the U.S.

The first, he said, is open education resources, which are free digital assets that are used to teach, learn and research.

“Part of it is the vast movement of OER, which lowers the cost of education because you can design courses now with just information that is out there on the internet, as opposed to buying textbooks. So many schools are now moving to OER course design. This will be one of the things that it impacts.”

Another, he said, is on the research side of things.

“Being able to perform higher levels of research, because now you have the storage capacity to hold big data sets,” Conn said. “So, schools that didn’t have the internal resources to have Big Data initiatives can now use this facility to promote research within their institutions as well. So, the impact of research through technology transfer programs is there, so that as more research is occurring, more technology will be released into the marketplace, which helps the economy build and grow, and promotes the value proposition in the state.”

NJEdge members, which consist of 58 institutions throughout the state, including in the K-12, health care and government sectors, can now use the existing NJEdge connections or create new ones to use AWS Direct Connect at reduced costs.

The reduced costs come from an egress waiver, according to Conn. The waiver eliminates typical charges of data taken in and out of the cloud.

Members will also be able to establish private connectivity between AWS and their data centers, offices or colocation environments. Members will be able to extend their data center onto the cloud and access resources such as Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS and VMware on AWS.