28th March 2019
How the cloud is transforming education
Simon Jones, Managing Director of Libraries and Education Solutions
This article appeared in The Educator in March 2019
Today’s students are digital natives. They’ve never known a world that isn’t computerised, personalised and connected to the internet. It is little wonder they expect to find the same connectivity in their classrooms.
Cloud technology is changing the way education services are delivered. It can help to enhance students’ learning experience and improve education standards across individual schools and jurisdictions.
Already, schools are connecting to the cloud to improve security, provide anywhere-anytime learning, and to save money. And as technology improves, we’ll see more schools move to the cloud in order to harness new innovation.
Anywhere-anytime education delivery
Imagine a world where students can take control of their own learning? The world is their classroom and the cloud is their blackboard, giving them access to learning materials from any device, at any time.
With Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions, this is already the case, providing students with information anytime and anywhere. There is huge potential for this to extend learning outside of the classroom, giving students access to materials both at school and at home. Further, collaboration tools can facilitate communication with other students and staff in secure, private online spaces.
For teachers and school administrators, this mobility can streamline their administration via on-the-go processing and instant access to essential information. This could allow them to take real-time attendance while on school trips, update their timetables on the move, book specialty classrooms when needed, purchase equipment and have essential student data at their fingertips.
Cloud in the classroom will also provide students and their parents an experience that mirrors the consumer world. This might include access to student progress and academic results through online portals and forms that can be completed via a smartphone in a few minutes - instead of relying on their child passing on the papers they were given in school.
Minimising risk and enhancing reputation
Security is a key concern for parents in the digital age. With 90 per cent of data breaches occurring due to human error, many schools are turning to SaaS solutions to improve privacy and security.
School administrators are recognising their systems can be better managed by vendors with specialist resources. These outsourced vendors have secure data centres and documented processes accredited to standards, such as the internationally recognised ISO9001 certification. With specialist, centrally-managed support, these systems are monitored around the clock, reducing chances of failure.
With large amounts of sensitive data available in their systems, schools have also recognised the importance of secure data in up-to-date infrastructure. The risk of reputational loss due to data breaches is a major and legitimate concern for many schools, and a securely hosted system is a way to mitigate this.
Finally, SaaS removes many of the typical IT headaches away from schools, so they can instead focus on their core business: teaching their students. Layering analytics tools across these secure, cloud-based data storage solutions can enable school leaders to develop a 360-degree view of each student, which in turn can drive strategies for improving engagement.
By moving data to the cloud, schools also have the opportunity to significantly reduce time and money on operational management of their IT systems. A cloud hosted management system means that the software vendor is responsible for ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting, backing up systems every night and installing regular patches and updates. This frees schools from paying additional wages for staff to manage the system. Furthermore, when you review this for multiple schools in the same deployment (i.e. a state government or religious education body), the system only needs to be implemented once and it will work across all of the schools.
Additionally, elasticity in the cloud means schools only pay for processing power when they need it. This could mean that schools only need to pay for the extra processing power that is required during periods of high usage, such as when teachers call attendance or when school reports are released online.
Finally, the data centres themselves use less power per user, reducing overall electricity costs as well.
Moving schools to the cloud will improve access to information and data security. For our children, this will mean a safer haven for their personal information and better education, with access to learning materials wherever they are needed.
It’s not just the students that will benefit. By leaving technology to the experts, school staff will be able to focus on teaching, and parents will have an easier way to be involved in their child’s education.
But it’s just the beginning. Cloud computing underpins many technical innovations in the education sector, from big data and AI to connected devices in the Internet of Things. As these expand, the use of cloud technology will too.