You’ve probably heard of the cloud by now. Cloud storage providers like Dropbox let you upload and access your files online from anywhere, even your phone, on the beach. Cloud office suites like Google Docs let you work on documents just as flexibly. And then there’s cloud teaching and learning apps like Stile.
Why is everyone so excited about it?
Technology is rapidly becoming a huge part of how we teach and learn, both inside and out of the classroom. ‘Traditional’ learning management systems are installed on school servers and maintained by dedicated staff, which is great – you have someone to yell at if things don’t work! (Just kidding. Sort of…) But if that person quits or the system goes down, things can quickly go south.
Cloud providers unburden schools from most of these issues so that teachers can spend their time innovating in education practice, rather than arguing with the good folks over in IT.
I’ve put together a few key points that hopefully explain why the cloud is actually one of the most useful innovations in educational technology in recent times.
1. The modern classroom has no walls
Learning takes place everywhere: in the classroom, at home, on excursion and even on the train. It also happens any time of the day or night. The tech we use to enhance that learning needs to be available and accessible any time, anywhere and on any device and that’s what the cloud is great for. There’s no need to be on a school computer or even on school grounds, as you can log in from home or on the go and still have complete yet secure access to your school work without the need for slow, flaky VPNs or clunky and potentially insecure portal screens.
2. Always the latest and greatest
Cloud education platforms get updated regularly (sometimes even daily!) with new features and fixes to help make teaching and learning a smoother experience. Traditional on-site systems might get updated a couple of times a year… if you’re lucky!
3. It is cheaper and more efficient
Running servers on school premises isn’t easy. Firstly, there is the cost of actually purchasing servers, which need upgrading and replacement over time. Then you need someone to keep them running, and properly secured — an ongoing process — with pesky disk failures, backups and ever-growing storage all demanding attention. And in case of a server outage on the weekend, there might not be anyone available to take care of it until Monday.
Cloud providers use top-shelf servers and employ dedicated experts to take care of these things 24/7. They are able to recoup these costs because they serve hundreds or thousands of schools, passing the savings on to you while maintaining a quality far beyond the typical school budget.
4. It is more secure
Schools manage a lot of private information about the students in their care. Unfortunately, good security practice is expensive and time-consuming. Networks need to be properly set up, servers need all their software regularly patched, and the actual platforms themselves need to be configured correctly. School budgets rarely stretch to employing security experts.
For reputable cloud providers, security is their business. Schools obviously need to do their homework on a particular vendor’s security before jumping in (and in a future post, I’ll list a few things to look out for when shopping around), but contrary to popular belief, student data is actually much more secure in the cloud than on premises.
When you consider all these points, it becomes quite easy to see why going to the cloud might be a smart move.
Do you agree? Please let us know in the comments.