A few years ago, the cloud was little more than a buzzword in higher education; now it’s a fully formed reality. The global education cloud market is firmly established.
Over 70% of higher education institutions in America have already moved their email system to the cloud, and a further 50% have adopted a cloud-based collaborative system. It’s a market that will only continue to grow.
A recent MarketsandMarkets report has predicted that education cloud spending will grow over the next four years to reach $12 billion by 2019. But is this a good thing for American colleges?
Let’s review the potential pros and cons of cloud technology.
Student Learning Potential
Today’s students are technology savvy. Not only have they grown up in an era of smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi, but they increasingly know and want to use these devices to collaborate and learn. The cloud offers them an important resource for collaborative working.
Students are able to work on and edit documents simultaneously and also share work to receive feedback. The demand for collaborative tools offered via the cloud is clearly evident, with today’s students using Google to work on collaborative projects.
Learning resources such as textbooks can also be made more available via the cloud. Students can log in to access a textbook at home on their laptops, at school on their tablets, and on the move via their smartphones.
Meeting the Demand for College IT Services Capacity and Capability
The cloud enables colleges to meet the changing demands made of higher education IT more successfully. Expectations have changed; staff, students and faculty now use a range of technological devices and expect a 24/7 responsive service.
EdTech services and applications are also constantly changing and developing. The pressure on college IT services is extreme and the on-site, premises-based IT help desk of yesterday is creaking under the strain. Cloud services offer real solutions to this series of higher education dilemmas.
Enabling capability and moving services and applications to the cloud enables colleges to adopt, adapt, and respond to new technologies faster. Providing capacity, cloud services enable colleges to embrace tools such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to provide more efficient student services.
Reduced costs is one of the major advantages for colleges. And yet while there is great potential for colleges to save money, it’s not automatic. It depends on the service level agreements made, the potential of resources to be reassigned, and the services adopted.
Choosing the wrong service for the wrong purpose can actually work out to be more expensive. However, the fact remains that there is significant potential for cost savings by American colleges migrating to cloud services.
The potential to scale services up and down as required allows colleges greater flexibility to only pay for the services they need and use. Moreover, as many services operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, colleges can reduce levels of capital expenses to operational expenses, allowing colleges more predictability in capital expenditure.
Disaster Recovery and Security
Cloud services include disaster recovery and online back-up as part of the cloud infrastructure. This is a potential benefit, for both students – who will never lose work again when a computer crashes – as well as the administrators – who no longer have to purchase and rely on physical online storage items and procedures.
This does raise the potential problem of security – how secure is this information, some of which is incredibly confidential and sensitive?
Clouds providers and their technologies are now designed to provide a secure service, and actually come with a number of key security benefits.
Important security updates are applied faster and more efficiently across multiple computers in a cloud. And should your college require an enhanced level of security, for infrastructure services for example, there is also the option of a private or a hybrid cloud model.
Cloud technology offers colleges a number of significant advantages that meet the challenges of today’s changing IT world.