July 18, 2024

Sky-High Learning: Higher Education In The Cloud

5 min read

For years, businesses around the world have been moving their companies to the cloud.  For most business owners and execs, this decision was a no-brainer.  The numerous benefits outweigh the minimal disadvantages.

And none of us second guess their decision.  After all, the sole purpose of most businesses is to make money.  If there is a way to make more money in a more efficient manner, why wouldn’t someone take advantage of that opportunity?

However, many people have been surprised to learn that schools have been moving to the cloud too.  Business owners will have to squish together to make room for the millions of people joining the cloud each day – many arriving from college and university campuses.

Sky-High Learning:  Higher Education In The Cloud

This transformation has caught some people off guard but it really shouldn’t have.  After all, higher education institutions need to cut costs and reduce spending just like everyone else.  And efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to education.  Everyone – upper-level execs, professors, students – want to make sure the students are learning as much as possible.  If the cloud can make all those things happen, why not move to the cloud?

Let’s take a look at who is in the cloud, how the cloud is being use, and who benefits from this transition.

Everyone Who is Anyone is Already in The Cloud

According to a 2011 study by CDW, 95% of the study’s participants from higher education institutions were using or considering the cloud.  Another report shared that more than half of those schools are using or considering Google Apps.  At present, 62 of the US News and World Report’s Top 100 Universities use Google Apps for Education.  School like Harvard University, Wellesley College, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and University of York are happy to be frolicking in the cloud!

Each school has its one take on transitioning to the cloud.  However, one trend seems to be most popular.  Higher education schools that transition to the cloud are more likely to search for new services rather than transition established methods.

Which Apps are Schools Using?

There are quite a few apps that have been specifically designed with schools in mind.  Other apps were once used primarily for business but have proven effective in other arenas too.  Since Google pretty much dominates the world now, it is no surprise many of these apps communicate directly with Google Apps.

Here are the most popular cloud apps for higher education:

  • OpenClass is a learning management system in the cloud; it stimulates a social learning environment.
  • SlideRocket EDU allows students to create, share and offer feedback on visual presentations.  It connects with Google Apps for Education and is accessible on any device or browser.
  • Blackboard enhances every level of learning.  Northwest University combined Blackboard and Google; the result was Blackboard Bboogle and links Blackboard directly to Google Docs, Calendars, and Sites.
  • Desire2Learn adds widgets to the Course Homepage and makes it easy to monitor pending assignments and submit the final product.
  • Dropbox is widely used in higher education institutions.  The DropItToMe application makes it easy to upload documents without the requirements of a username or password.
  • SchoolTube is similar to YouTube.  However the site features educationally relevant videos.

 Other Ways to Learn in the Cloud

If you aren’t currently a college student, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn.  The cloud offers a wide variety of educational opportunities.  In fact, these resources are just a few online venues that offer unique coursework opportunities you couldn’t find anywhere else.

  • The MOUSE Squad program trains students to become digital media and technology experts.  They learn to use technology while enhancing their current learning experience.
  • CodeAcademy provides a series of courses to help you master a topic or language of computer coding.  Learn Java Script, HTML, CSS, Python, Ruby, or jQuery.
  • Coursera allows students to “take the world’s best courses, online, for free.”   Courserians interact with thousands of other students and learn with videos, quizzes, and assignments.  Classes fall into 20 different categories and are offer by 33 participating universities, including Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and more.

How Universities and Colleges Benefit From The Cloud

With budget cuts and sky-high tuition fees, everyone from the university president to the lowly freshman is anxious for ways to save money.  And with the ever increasing demands on our time, professors and students alike are looking for ways to make life more efficient.  Here is a breakdown of how the cloud improves the lives of everyone in higher education.

The IT department and upper-level execs will like it.

  • It is cost effective.
    • The cloud decreases the total cost of the IT department, making upper-level execs happy and tuition-paying students happy.
    • According to the 2011 CDW survey, the average university or college IT department will save 21% by moving to the cloud.  Savings come during low-enrollment seasons when hardware, power, management and cooling needs are at their lowest.
    • It will unify and clarify otherwise ambiguous IT spending and practices.
    • Once a solution is created, it can be used over and over again.
  • It allows access to scarce IT talent.
  • It is easy to launch.
    • There is no month-long IT hardware procurement process.
    • The cloud reduces the amount of time the IT department will need to implement a new program.

Teachers, instructors, and professors will like it.

  • There is no software to download or install.
  • They can easily see assignments while they are still in progress.
  • Grading group projects is easy since instructors can easily tell who contributed what information.

Students will like it.

  • Real-time collaboration makes life easier.
    • Edits happen immediately.
    • Peer edits and group projects can be completed anywhere, anytime.  Students no longer have to worry about scheduling conflicts or lengthy commutes when working together.
    • Instructors can offer feedback while the assignment is still in progress.  This means the student will benefit from constructive criticism before the final project is graded.
  • All information is stored safely and securely.
  • Students can create a new file or incorporate an existing one.
  • Organization is a snap because all assignments and projects can be stored in one place.
  • Students never have to worry about computer crashes and lost information.  Stored data can be access anywhere, regardless of which computer is being used.
  • Most information can be accessed via mobile devices.

Obviously, the idea of higher education in the cloud is spreading like wild fire.  It won’t be long before every college and university in the world is united in the cloud.  What are your thoughts on the transition?  Is it a good idea?  Do the pros outweigh the cons?

Are you a member of a higher education institution?  Do you use a cloud app we didn’t mention?

Tell us your ideas and opinions below!

Guest author Michael Dahlberg is an instructor at the local community college.  He leads a class in woodworking.  The cloud allows Michael to manage both his weekly lesson plans and his business demands (building corn toss boards for Custom Corntoss).  Michael can easily keep his woodworking lesson plans separate from his corn toss woodworking projects for his employer.

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