Schools must have a clear understanding of the cloud and its potential benefits before they can establish efficient cloud frameworks. What precisely is the cloud, and how can it assist schools?
To put it succinctly, cloud computing involves transferring a school’s IT infrastructure, either partially or entirely, to a cluster of servers located off-site and maintained by a cloud provider. Such a deployment is subject to service-level agreements, which define the reliability, included services, costs, and compensation in the event of a cloud service disruption.
Rob Clyde, who is both the executive chair of White Cloud Security and a board director for ISACA, notes that more K-12 schools are embracing cloud computing. This is because IT teams recognize the benefits of delegating certain tasks or workloads to third-party providers. According to Clyde, instead of maintaining their own servers, schools can now use cloud computing resources as needed, with everything accessible on demand.
According to him, there are two primary cloud adoption approaches, but educational institutions tend to prefer one of them. The prevalent approach is Software as a Service, which involves purchasing a cloud-hosted service from a provider instead of setting up an application on your own servers. Although it is feasible to move your existing programs to the cloud, K-12 schools do not do it often. The reason being, why bother when there are readily available on-demand applications?
The Advantages of Cloud Technology for Education IT Administrators
While 57 percent of IT staff believe their school should prioritize updated software and hardware, 55 percent say existing budgets aren’t enough to cover these costs. In addition, many school IT teams are understaffed and under-resourced — especially when it comes to the deployment and integration of online learning tools. Cloud solutions can help solve this problem by providing schools reliable and repeatable costs for service. But beyond better budgeting, how does adoption help IT admins?
Clyde explained that with the cloud, IT departments can delegate certain tasks to a reliable third party. As he put it, “You’re no longer in charge of managing servers, which means you can cross that off your to-do list. You don’t need to concern yourself with purchasing, maintaining or ensuring sufficient server capacity, and you won’t be held accountable for the security of all those servers.”
Clyde explains that using the cloud can address staffing issues as you can rely on the expertise of others and not have to recruit your own team.
What Are the Benefits to Schools as a Whole?
Cloud computing also extends beyond IT infrastructure to offer key benefits to K–12 districts. It provides flexibility, accessibility and simplicity for all users, from students to administrators.
Flexible technology has become increasingly important for education, as cloud computing enables schools to quickly access resources when learning transitions from in-class to at-home. This flexibility is vital for both students and educators, as the past year’s disruptions have demonstrated.
According to Clyde, the cloud allows remote learning, removing the necessity of physical attendance in school. This makes it possible to have a centralized IT administration for multiple schools, making geographical location irrelevant. Cloud computing’s accessibility feature is advantageous for both urban and rural schools alike, as it enables a more efficient use of IT resources. With just one IT administrator managing the cloud, other members of the IT staff can divert their focus to other tasks.
Top Five Ways that the Cloud is Changing Education Today
Fostering academic achievement and promoting long-term success for students, both inside and outside the classroom.
Education aims to foster the personal and professional development of students, which entails excelling in academic studies and the job market. The cloud is an effective tool to support this objective, empowering educators with extra resources to improve student learning. In fact, AWS hosts education technologies and web-based coursework that over millions of students, teachers, and scholars in 200+ regions and nations can access.
For instance, Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) is utilizing cloud technology in order to pinpoint students who require additional assistance. They are creating a recommendation system that utilizes data relating to dropout rates so as to anticipate and implement necessary interventions for vulnerable students. Additionally, the system will evaluate the efficacy of these interventions, thus providing insights to further customize and enhance recommendations in the future.
Maintaining the security of student information.
The preceding instances illustrate how K-12 and higher education organizations can extract useful information for the benefit of students through analyzing substantial amounts of data. However, the task of safeguarding student data is an utmost priority when it comes to data collection and evaluation, especially in a time of widespread data breaches and identity theft. AWS demonstrates an unwavering commitment to cloud security, and we strive to inspire confidence in all our users. Our continuous efforts to innovate aim to ensure that the confidential information of all students remains protected, despite the ever-evolving threat landscape.
Compliance with common privacy and security frameworks—known by acronyms such as FERPA and the EU’s GDPR—are critical components of data safety; many data management vendors have achieved these levels of compliance. But did you know that it’s possible to go beyond basic compliance to monitor data? AWS’s security offerings include auditing, log in identity management and data encryption capabilities that offer more transparency and control to allow schools to rigorously protect student data.
Constructing on-premise servers that are highly available and resilient can be a significant expense for numerous educational establishments, akin to ensuring compliance or data protection. In the event of on-premises critical systems failure, schools frequently risk losing access to valuable student data, whether due to an animal chewing through a line or a power outage caused by a snowstorm. AWS offers cloud-based services and infrastructure that enables the construction of dependable, fault-tolerant, and highly available systems.
Extending the value of technology expenditures.
The cloud provides a solution to enhance both student outcomes and data security, while also promoting fiscal responsibility. Constructing and operating data centers require substantial initial investment and ongoing maintenance expenses. By transitioning to the cloud, educational institutions can redirect their limited resources towards teaching and learning. The cloud’s pay-as-you-go system allows school districts to adapt to high-traffic periods, such as the start and end of the school year, and reduce usage during breaks when server demands are lower.
Reducing the amount of time educators spend on tasks.
Teachers’ time is being saved by cloud technology as it provides new resources for lesson planning, enables better identification of effective interventions, and even automates paper grading, resulting in significant time savings each week.
Equalizing the opportunity for everyone.
Although many schools have integrated technology into their curriculum, utilizing it to create a fair and individualized learning environment for students is a challenging task. The rise of remote learning, space constraints in classrooms, and the requirement of specific software for subjects like STEM and the arts are gradually rendering the computer lab irrelevant. Additionally, schools located in rural or economically challenged areas cannot always afford to purchase software licenses for every student, worsening the problem. Consequently, districts must find alternative solutions to deliver educational apps to their students.
Utilizing cloud-based secure application streaming services, school districts can now stream desktop applications to any web browser-enabled computer, allowing students, including those at Peninsula School District in Gig Harbor, Washington, to access industry-standard tools from home. This provides them with unlimited exposure to technology.
The use of cloud technology can greatly enhance student achievement, safeguard student data, maximize financial resources, assist educators in time management, and promote equal opportunities for learning. However, to fully capitalize on these advantages, there is a need for increased implementation of cloud technologies throughout the educational sphere. It is essential to explore every option to guarantee that students receive the necessary support, which entails transitioning to and utilizing cloud technology and its associated innovations.
Simplifying the process of application and service distribution, cloud solutions are highly recommended for K-12 schools by Clyde, with preference given to popular public cloud providers due to their accessibility.
What Do K–12 IT Decision-Makers Need to Know?
When selecting a cloud solution, it is imperative for IT leaders in K-12 to take into account three vital elements.
- Connectivity: If last mile connections can’t keep up, cloud solutions won’t offer the same ROI. As a result, Clyde recommends choosing a major cloud player that can help address connective concerns.
- Scalability: With cloud options expanding, it’s now possible for schools to select SaaS-specific providers that offer unique or specialized services. “Make sure they can handle peak loads,” Clyde says. “Make sure they can scale with demand.” Evaluate your district’s needs now and where they will be in the future.
- Security: “You also need to consider that there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” says Clyde. He suggests IT decision-makers have proper guidance to ensure security settings are enabled and correctly designed. This will allow schools to handle attacks or loads on their networks.
What Are Some of the Top Tools and Providers for K–12 schools?
Clyde proposes various learning management systems and providers that may be suitable for different education systems and regions. Clyde observes that the Blackboard LMS is widely adopted due to its strong cloud connectivity. Additionally, other platforms like Google Classroom, Schoology, and Moodle are also popular. For cloud providers, Clyde suggests major industry leaders including Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services due to their dependability, uncomplicated operation, and adaptability.
According to Clyde, the key to implementing cloud technology in K-12 schools is to have the ability to solve problems with financial resources. Instead of relying on in-house IT personnel to invest time and energy, a suitable cloud vendor should enable schools to choose the necessary services and apps at a reasonable cost. This will transform the IT management process from being unreliable to becoming an on-demand utility.