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Molinaroli College of Engineering and Computing

  • Crichigno smiling

UofSC researcher develops cloud learning platform used by schools and Army in wake of COVID-19

Project recognized by leading IT company as the forefront of learning models

A team from the College of Engineering and Computing and the Network Development Group (NDG) have deployed a cloud education platform serving high schools, colleges and universities as well as the U.S. Army. The platform, called Academic Cloud, enables learners to conduct virtual laboratory experiments, a key capability following the onset of COVID-19. Approximately 100,000 learners used the platform between January 2020 and May 2021, an achievement that places UofSC and partners at the forefront of new learning models.

Jorge Crichigno, professor of Integrated Information Technology, deployed Academic Cloud alongside Stanly Community College in North Carolina and NDG, a leading developer of IT training solutions. The team collaborated with VMware, which supported the project with its virtualization technology. VMware recently recognized UofSC for this project’s significant impact, naming the university a VMware IT Academic Center of Excellence, a distinction awarded to academic institutions that have exemplified leadership and made a positive impact in their communities.

“Without VMware, which provided the operating system and hypervisor, we could not have built the platform as it operates today. This distinction means that we will be able to continue using this state-of-the-art technology and improving the platform to serve additional learners nationwide,” Crichigno said.

The platform was deployed through a $600,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded in 2019. While the NSF proposal initially applied to high schools and colleges in South Carolina and North Carolina, use of the platform has expanded to other states as well as Fort Gordon, the main training center for the U.S. Army in cyber security and information technology. Institutions are using Academic Cloud to replace physical laboratories without losing rigor nor hands-on activities.

Crichigno said, “Through this platform, UofSC is able to serve the state of South Carolina as well as the nation. Closures due to COVID-19 began happening in March 2020, and thankfully by that time the platform had begun to operate, offering a means to continue effectively training soldiers and students. The platform is enhancing national security by providing them training in cybersecurity and IT.”

Each student is given an account for access, and when instructors assign laboratory works, students log on before their deadline to complete the assignment. Crichigno said, “The platform provides everything students need to complete their assignments. It’s very scalable, supporting hundreds of institutions.” While mostly used for IT, Crichigno says the platform also supports computer science, computer engineering and training for IT professionals.

Crichigno is an associate professor in the Integrated Information Technology Department. His research focuses on P4 programmable switches, implementation of high-speed networks, network security, TCP optimization, offloading functionality to programmable switches and IoT devices.

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