How Cloud Computing is Changing Education

Posted on: 11/02/2019

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The concept of cloud computing is simple. Instead of storing information on local servers, individual computers or even as physical documents, the cloud uses a network of servers hosted online to manage and store data. The immediate benefits are obvious: cloud-based systems reduce infrastructure and IT costs, increase accessibility and enable collaboration. UK schools are increasingly adopting a cloud-first strategy and turning to cloud-based IT solutions to reduce spending and make significant savings. We look at the main ways in which UK schools and universities can benefit from the cloud.

SaaS

One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing in education is the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, meaning software applications which are available either free or on a low-cost subscription basis. This substantially lowers the cost of essential applications for students. Moreover, when software is made accessible via a browser over the internet, implementation times are dramatically reduced because the installation and set-up times for institutions are minimal – there is no hardware to run, deploy, manage or optimise. A secondary benefit is significantly reduced need for involvement by trained IT professionals. Compared to traditional software deployment, SaaS maintenance costs are minimal, if not zero.

Textbook costs

Textbooks are one of the many hefty expenses university students are expected to endure, and frequent updates mean that second-hand options aren’t always viable.  Cloud-based textbooks and learning platforms offer an inexpensive alterative to the current model. Students can purchase ebooks for a fraction of the physical cost, or a license for core texts which are made available via a centralised cloud account. This ideally will level the playing field so that lower-income students have the same access to quality learning materials as their higher-income counterparts.

Furthermore, in schools, teachers no longer need to worry about students damaging or losing textbooks, meaning that they do not have to budget for replacement copies. Moreover, when resources are digitised, updates are often included as standard, which means no more trying to teach something from an outdated textbook. This can be critical when it comes to curriculum updates, as student won’t be catching up before exams, or learning from hastily photocopied sheets from the sample textbooks.

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The cost of textbooks has outpaced the cost of virtually everything else in education. Cloud-based textbooks can solve this problem.

More expansive and diverse reach

Cloud computing opens up a new wealth of possibilities for students, especially those who are not served well by traditional education systems. For example, before education moved online, there were extremely limited options for mature students in employment. Now however, these students can earn qualifications online through virtual courses. There are many other types of students for whom the traditional school environment is simply not practical, and now these students have many options for pursuing alternative forms of education. Cloud computing is creating a high-quality learning platform which all students can access. SaaS works so much better because it enables applications to be available any time, anywhere, from any type of laptop, smartphone, tablet or device.

Security

Invariably, educators deal with large volumes of sensitive data, be it regarding staff, students, changes to the curriculum or examination details. With cloud storage, documents are safe and easily controlled – you can choose exactly who can access information and when. Students and staff therefore have different logins to protect sensitive data, such as examination results. For the companies that host cloud computing your safety is in their best interest.

SaaS solutions come with enhanced security. User content is protected by state-of-the-art technology, such as encrypted access and “always on” physical security at data centres, internet and server firewall data protection, and malware and anti-virus protection.