The Cloud in Higher Education
Doing more with less is the mantra for today’s higher education leaders, and IT solutions have emerged as the best way to accomplish this lofty goal, with cloud rising to the top. While hosting major systems and services in the cloud provides a range of benefits for institutions, especially when it comes to meeting the high expectations of today’s students, the cloud should not be seen as a panacea.
This Special Feature focuses on true value of the cloud, what it takes to successfully shift to this approach to computing and how it can transform the student experience.
The Transformational Power of the Cloud
The higher education industry is not much closer to widespread adoption of cloud technologies than it was two years ago, but market conditions today make it more important than ever before.
Moving to the cloud has a significant impact on staff satisfaction, which impacts the capacity for IT staff to work on more high-value tasks and has significant benefits on its own for institutions.
Hosting major systems and services in the cloud transforms the way IT teams operate and creates a number of benefits for institutions, but the market is shifting and the nice-to-haves will soon be must-haves.
Students have high expectations for higher education institutions when it comes to business processes and moving to cloud-hosted systems and services will allow them to focus on their academics.
Taking Advantage of the Cloud’s Opportunities
The cloud has the capacity to transform institutional processes and vastly improve student experiences, but only if the IT team using those services truly appreciates how it works and how it can be manipulated.
By partnering with a cloud service provider on the provision of central administrative functions, IT organizations gain the capacity to better allocate their resources, focus their time and efforts on high-value tasks and provide a higher level of service to key stakeholders than would otherwise be possible.
The Many Benefits of the Cloud
By moving major systems to the cloud and taking advantage of services offered by partners in the cloud space, higher education institutions can reorganize their workforce to focus on unique, high-value tasks that make a difference for students.
While the initial move to the cloud can create some expense for higher education leaders, those costs pale in comparison to trying to create a market-leading cloud environment in-house, both in terms of actual resources spent and opportunity cost.
Exploring the Flexibility of the Cloud
Cloud technologies can help institutions adapt to the demands of today’s key institutional stakeholders within the budgetary constraints of today’s postsecondary environment, but a successful transition requires buy in from institutional IT staff.
Cloud services do not offer institutions a panacea but can help them to create a business that meets students’ expectations and allows them the space to grow and evolve.
Developing a Cloud Strategy
Defining a strategic approach to the cloud will help any college or university determine what cloud-hosted services and systems to adopt and will help to make integration as smooth as possible.
Cloud tools alone aren’t enough to guarantee an institution’s agility or flexibility. An exostructure strategy that clearly defines institutional goals and maximizes the use of appropriate technologies will have a better long-term impact.
Becoming a Cloud-Friendly Institution
Cloud-hosted systems and services are creating lower-cost environments for higher education institutions, allowing colleges and universities to take advantage of the Internet of Things, but leaders and staff must collaborate to ensure the solutions are right for the institution.
Institutional IT teams need to be more open to risk-taking and innovation in order to meet the heightened technology expectations of students and staff.
Making Strategic Use of the Cloud
Student engagement across the entire student lifecycle—not just up to the point of enrollment—is critical for today’s more innovative enrollment management teams, and cloud-hosted tools and services can help them deliver the experience today’s customers expect.
Moving to the cloud has inherent risks and challenges to go along with the benefits that must be managed in order for the transition to be truly successful for the institution.
Transforming the Student Experience with the Cloud
Traditional higher education IT services have been commoditized and the future model, based on cloud, is becoming critical to staying up-to-date with industry changes and student expectations.
Replacing a legacy management system with a highly functional, cloud-based on-demand system similar to the App Store has created an environment where students can access whatever services they need on any device they want with a simple click.
By implementing a new mobile management system, the university was able to realize significant cost savings and efficiencies, improving the overall experience provided to both students and staff.
Business Benefits of Moving to the Cloud
It would be immensely difficult and expensive to achieve the convenience and flexibility available in the cloud through on-premises tools, and would ultimately detract from the institution’s core business of educating students.
Organizational flexibility and agility, facilitated by the use of cloud-hosted systems and tools, supports the development of the responsive programming critical to continuing education organizations and the institution by extension.
Scott Sorley | Executive Director of Information and Communication Technology Services, University of Southern Queensland and Ken Udas | Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer, University of Southern Queensland
Adopting cloud-hosted tools and systems helps drive creativity, flexibility and innovation at higher education institutions.
Security Considerations of the Cloud
Strong policies, a commitment to ongoing training of all key stakeholders and up-to-date technology are all central elements of protecting critical student information from data breaches.
College and university leaders need to ensure they are well aware of state compliance and security regulations, and must find a vendor that uniquely understands the higher education environment to facilitate their shift to the cloud.
Developing distinct risk management frameworks is central to minimizing silos, improving communication and collaboration, and improving institutional efficiency.
Build Or Buy? Navigating the First Hurdle
In today’s higher education marketplace, IT leaders should be looking to SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions before building in-house but some of the more persistent misconceptions about the cloud slow that movement and tend to stop discussions around true benefits.
When choosing between an in-house build and a service provider partnership for major systems, deciding entirely based on dollar value will typically lead an institution to spend more than it bargained for to get the functionality originally desired.
Taking a Case-By-Case Approach to the Cloud
As different needs arise, and with the wide and expansive market of services available, institutions have more choice than ever before as to how to address their needs and what tools and systems to use. Different solutions require different approaches to hosting.
It’s irresponsible for leaders to purchase and implement a cloud-based system without doing the necessary legwork beforehand. It’s critical to ensure that any considered solution is the right solution for the right set of circumstances.
Crystal Gazing: The Future of the Cloud in Higher Ed
Cloud computing is dominating the radars of CIOs and technology leaders at higher education institutions across the United States, but deployment of cloud-hosted solutions for more mission-critical work has been slower than expected.
With all the conversation around whether to phase out legacy systems in favor of newer, cloud-hosted platforms, institutional leaders need to ensure they are balancing the expectations of their new student demographics against the needs of internal stakeholders and the pace of change.
Long-Term Benefits of Transitioning to the Cloud
Replicating the service and convenience offered by cloud-hosted services is very difficult for institutions to do today and will be nearly impossible to do in the coming years, which will impact the agility and responsiveness of the institution in the long term.
By focusing on delivering the institution’s key differentiators and outsourcing peripheral services that may actually detract from the student experience if kept in-house, higher education leaders can weather the coming storms and set themselves up for long-term viability and growth.