May 19, 2020

Digitisation of educational services in South Africa

South Africa
Catherine Rowell
4 min
Digitisation of educational services in South Africa

South Africa is currently a major growth region for the education sector, with the rise of new colleges and education establishments across the region. Last year, Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI) changed its name to Pearson Institute of Higher Education. The name change was a natural progression since in 2010, Pearson bought a majority stake in MGI and in 2013 became 100% owners of the institution.  

Through its implementation in South Africa, Technology Director Thuli Hlongwane has been behind the development and delivery of the company’s applications for students at the Pearson Institute, in addition to overseeing the company’s financial and HR systems. Hlongwane is also responsible for managing the project management office (PMO), encompassing all technology implementation, direct delivery and system integration. She explains: “With students, we look at them as prospects at Pearson, from the time of registration to enrolment. We do that on a CRM application. We are then able to progress the student through the level of registration.”

In order to provide a personalised and world-class service, Hlongwane liaises with colleagues and speaks with students directly in order to efficiently look at requirements from a systems perspective. Pearson has also recently gone live with a new HR platform, integrating current systems to ensure the best possible experience for staff and bring forth streamlined business processes.

At present, Pearson is in the process of enrolling students which occurs twice a year, once at the beginning of the year, and then in mid-year. All students are enrolled on Pearson’s CRM application, at which this information is then linked to target systems, such as the institute’s financial systems and student information system. However, Pearson is currently working on a platform regarding online registration for students.

Well equipped

Students at Pearson Institute are provided with tablets, containing full academic content and global systems, such an eReader and the student portal application. These technological developments have proved advantageous and have become part of the students’ induction process and success throughout their studies. Measurable learning outcomes and employable graduates are cornerstones of success.

Hlongwane explains: “For us it is all about student experience. Through the tablet, students will know their way around, have access to  different systems and know what’s available within the institution, just before they set into class”. However, in certain subjects, some students still prefer textbooks, but Hlongwane concludes “this is the exception rather than the norm”.

PIHE’s Learner Management System (LMS), myLMS, will enable students to gain access to their course material, assignments, quizzes, results, and ongoing communication with their lecturers. The myLMS team adds: “Communication with our students is of the utmost importance. The LMS system allows us to post new information directly to students, or to groups of students by qualification, campus, or nationally.”

Integration of our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, Salesforce, allows Pearson to capture and identify trends and provides insight into the students’ needs and wants, and how the company can provide the best student experience.

The advantages of the integration of current systems has even been considered for students who are graduating from the institution. Hlongwane explains: “It is more on the employability side. We implemented a system for the students who are graduating and also for current students to make sure that they have proper access or exposure to employers, whether as interns or for permanent positions”.

Further enhancement

With the revamping of Pearson’s academic management systems (AMS), technology will further support all activities on the 12 campuses for an increased number of students, which is rising year on year. Hlongwane explains: “It’s centralised because we have one technology team supporting our operations, and also, ensures that we have the proper support in place.” Pearson’s helpdesk is currently outsourced, but it is imperative that all calls are logged through this system by the respective campuses, with follow up on all incidents and proper troubleshooting on all issues. Calls must also be directed to the right environment.

Pearson’s global projects, such as its OneCRM application are implemented by global teams, incorporating strong partnerships with consulting/implementation companies. However, Pearson also partners with a number of local suppliers in the hosting of the institute’s applications, telecommunications and local networks deployment. Whilst Pearson’s student portal is also hosted externally, its AMS application is supported by local partners, alongside the institution’s two financial applications.

Long term, Pearson’s continual focus on the student journey, data security, alongside the integration of systems will enable students to interact with the institution more effectively.

“The rebranding of MGI to Pearson Institute is a positive step towards ensuring excellence in learning and providing high quality education to all students. Measurable learning outcomes and employable graduates are cornerstones of our success.  Providing educational materials may be what Pearson is best known for but we also own and operate a number of learning institutions around the world”.  Hlongwane adds that being part of an international company improves partnership with global universities and students benefit from these partnerships.


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Jun 18, 2021

GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud

3 min
VMware has been walking GfK along its path through digital transformation to the cloud for over a decade.

GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.  

In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade. 

“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.

Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.

By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.

One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.

“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.

Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs. 

“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.

The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment. 

The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.

One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.

“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.

“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client. 

“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”

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