Despite the accessibility and cost-effectiveness cloud computing offers higher education, most colleges and universities have taken a conservative approach when it comes to actual investments in the cloud.
According to a survey of 496 campus IT leaders by the Campus Computing Project, more than two-thirds of colleges have outsourced student email to cloud providers. And yet, conversion rates for faculty email and other office applications are much lower. What’s more, deployment of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and learning management systems (LMS) to the cloud has not yet exceeded 5%.
“For all the conversation about the cloud, we now [know] how slow that movement has been,” said Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the Campus Computing Project.
While part of the issue is that vendors have not been as quick to offer cloud-based versions of their apps as they have for the enterprise, there is also concern about moving sensitive data to the cloud. “Trust is the coin of the realm,” adds Green. “People say they don’t want to let their data be somewhere else.”
Security in the Cloud
With this in mind, secure cloud solutions are beginning to come to the fore. In fact, new solutions not only enable off-site public cloud options but allow organizations to deploy their own private and hybrid clouds for the delivery of applications and services to their end-users. More security, flexibility and efficiency is now within reach, as this video shows:
Movement toward the cloud is clearly picking up momentum. Adoption is particularly strong for cloud-based apps from Google, which offers Google Apps for Education, and Microsoft, which offers Live@Edu. Such suites not only incorporate hosted email, but a series of collaborative and business applications as well. According to its education website, Google Apps For Education claims 16 million students, faculty, and staff members as users of its solution and 61 of the top 100 U.S. colleges and universities now use Gmail.
And while schools have been slow to move learning management systems (LMS) and other enterprise systems into the cloud, there is some movement on that front, too. For instance, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, which is made up of 34 institutions, recently announced it would drop its legacy LMS and move to a cloud-based system.
The new platform “empowers instructors to use social media and mobile tools to engage students,” says Connie Broughton, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges director of eLearning and Open Education. “We felt constrained by the concept of managing learning in a box. We need something more flexible than a traditional learning management system.”
Cloud computing offers an opportunity to substantially reduce IT costs at a time of severe budget constraints. It makes it possible to turn capital expenditures into incremental operating costs, enabling schools to scale up or down as necessary and only pay for what they use. It also brings in the opportunity for IT to explore virtualization solutions such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) as another way to minimize costs.
But, just as important, it offers a more responsive means of addressing the growing IT demands of students, faculty and others. With the explosion of new devices and apps, expectations are continuously growing. Cloud computing—whether in the form of outsourced infrastructure or outsourced apps—enables college IT leaders to dynamically and cost-effectively provision the services their constituents are demanding.
Has your institution adopted cloud apps or transferred learning management systems to the cloud? Let us know how your school is using the cloud for learning or administration in the comments below.
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