From world-leading universities to local schools, the education sector has begun to embrace cloud technology for the range of important benefits it brings to administrators, teaching staff, students and the parents of school children. Here, we examine how cloud technology is driving transformation in the education sector today.
The high costs of staffing, building maintenance and educational resources have always made balancing the books a challenge in the education sector. Today, with IT playing a valuable role in almost every aspect of education, the costs associated with it can become a burden. Modernising infrastructure to keep pace with curricular innovation, adopting smart technologies for building maintenance and security, deploying data management and analytics software and so forth requires the procurement of expensive hardware and the ongoing costs of running and managing them.
Adopting cloud technology can drastically reduce the cost of IT. Moving to a cloud environment removes the need to purchase on-site servers as it replaces them with cloud-based infrastructure charged for on a more manageable monthly basis. This, in turn, reduces expenditure on power and cooling, housing, security and insurance while decreasing the burden on IT staff.
Education establishments have an increasing need to make their systems and data accessible remotely over the internet. Aside from ongoing issues with Covid isolation, remote access is highly beneficial for many other reasons, for example, in ensuring continued provision for absent students, in lessening the impact of snow days and for offering distance learning courses. By migrating to the cloud, data and information can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection and access to it can be made secure using logical access control. Staff and students can access files, documents and other resources anywhere and collaborate and communicate using a growing range of devices, channels and specialised education platforms.
A new way to have meetings
Cloud-based video conferencing is now being used for a wide range of educational purposes, including the delivery of lectures and lessons, recruitment interviews and parents’ evenings. This provides a more effective way for universities to interview foreign students who can live thousands of miles away, it allows researchers to collaborate better on projects and saves the parents of school children from having to queue up time and time again to speak to teachers. Online meetings can also help reduce carbon emissions, as people won’t need to travel to get there.
The benefits of real-time data
Data has become vital for educational establishments, helping them with everything from intelligent heating and lighting systems to the tracking of student progress. In the cloud, all that data can be gathered and stored centrally to provide a unified collection of datasets that can be analysed for insights using the latest cloud-based, AI and ML enabled applications. What’s more, being centralised, it offers the potential to access real-time data and ensures everyone has the latest versions of documents and files. As a result, understanding of things like student progress is more complete and those who need access to the data can have it quicker than if it was kept in separate departmental silos.
Indeed, the cloud transforms how data is stored, managed and accessed. Held centrally, it can’t be lost or accidentally deleted from a laptop or portable disk, and it can be quickly and securely backed up without the need for saving copies to obsolete disk drives.
Reduce paper and printing costs
The staff and students at one London university jointly printed over 27 million sheets of paper in 2018 and in the 2017/18 financial year, it spent almost £200,000 just on printer paper [i]. That doesn’t include the paper used to take lecture notes or work printed out at home for handing in. Modern cloud-based technologies can reduce paper usage and cost considerably, as well as the cost of printing ink and the power needed to operate printers. Today, work can be completed, handed in and assessed online, lectures and lessons can be recorded by staff and the notes transcribed by software and distributed by email. Permanent copies of everything can be stored online for safe keeping and future reference.
It’s not just internal documents that can forgo printing, either. Schools, for example, send home copious amounts of paper to parents in the form of letters, school magazines, consent forms, guides, etc., all of which are probably more useful, retrievable and accessible as digital documents rather than on paper. Again, besides the financial and administrative advantages of using digital documents, there are environmental benefits too.
One of the major advantages of cloud technology is that it offers the potential for personalisation. In the business world, this has been used to improve the customer experience, such as in offering personalised homepages and sending customised communications. Student experiences can likewise be enhanced through the use of the cloud in education. Establishments will be able to create personalised learning environments for students, enabling them to deliver bespoke learning plans built around individual preferences and needs. These can put the right tools, resources, information and support that individual students need at their fingertips to make learning more inclusive, accessible and user-friendly.
The education sector can benefit greatly from cloud technology. It provides a cost-effective way to digitally transform, enabling establishments to swiftly adopt many of the new technologies, apps and platforms that are helping students and staff perform better and make greater progress.
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