Unlocking the value of cloud computing in education

Envision a scenario where students from around the world can be part of a smart, global library; one that is not only a dynamic bank of knowledge and resolves student queries 24/7 with chatbots, but can also track individual student progress for improved learning outcomes. A community that is ahead of all the lockdown shackles, where learners can study at midnight or even before sunrise.

Futuristic as it may sound, the limitless potential of cloud computing embedded in Educational Technology (EdTech) can make this a reality. While the pandemic pushed schools and universities towards online learning much before they were really fully prepared, that did not hinder students and teachers from adopting new techniques to make learning creatively more successful in terms of outcome. 

These unprecedented times have proven that digital adoption and cloud learning are here to stay. India saw its 4th EdTech unicorn entry in 2021 and the country’s growing user-base is promising more head-turning startups to join this stage in the coming months. According to a report by IBEF, India is the second-largest market for e-learning after the US and the sector is expected to reach US$ 1.96 billion by 2021 with around 9.5 million users. 

The National Education Policy 2020 framed by the HRD Ministry, Government of India has stated that given the explosive pace of technological development allied with the sheer creativity of tech-savvy teachers and entrepreneurs including student entrepreneurs, it is certain that technology will impact education in multiple ways. It also stated that autonomous bodies including the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) will be created to set up standards of content, technology, and pedagogy for online/digital teaching-learning. These standards will help to formulate guidelines for e-learning by States, Boards, schools and school complexes, HEIs, etc.

With competition leveling up in the EdTech sector, being hybrid and maximizing performance with digital and cloud is a mandate. Now is the time for legacy educators to transform their infrastructures into a faster, cost-saving, and more productive learning environment. But if we already have smart classrooms and video-based learning, is there really a need to take it a notch higher with cloud computing?

Simply put, cloud computing shifts the entire on-premise/ physical education infrastructure to the internet. With such advanced serverless architecture, EdTech companies can utilize the latest digital solutions to run fully managed, remote institutional workloads and significantly improve responsiveness, business intelligence, ROI, and an enhanced capacity for future innovation – all at twice the speed of an on-premise infrastructure set up.

An educational institution that wants to scale by providing innovative learning outcomes to its students and maximum efficiency to its staff, is probably still shy from adopting the cloud due to its assumed complexity and the unawareness of its aspirational scale. Here are some valued benefits of a cloud-empowered learning ecosystem that will change this perspective and bring more readiness to embrace cloud learning: 

Reduced dependability on physical infrastructures

When learning through a cloud-enabled education platform, students anywhere across the country, or even around the world can receive live notifications of a well-structured digital curriculum, and access updated textbooks from the university’s own data warehouse, raise questions, and study at their own pace. In this way, cloud computing improves turnaround speed and effectiveness much beyond the physical limitations of institutions. Universities can widen the reach of their online courses and tap international student bases, even after students resume in-person learning in the coming months.

High-tech value for long term resilience

A day in the life of a cloud-based EdTech company is about integrating powerful data science technologies to track, store and customize student preferences. This data is then powered by computing analysts to offer resourceful e-learning solutions. Trusting a cloud environment to manage server performance and scale based on market demand, gives educational institutions the liberty to focus on what really matters – core learning development and pursuit of knowledge excellence. Downtime costs are substituted with high value, subsequently enabling them to stay competitive.

For example, instantly responding to questions from students and staff can be handled around the clock, by having chatbots integrated into the learning management system. This eases the workload on teachers, assists students, and saves professional resources. Such enhanced core functions allow cloud-native institutions to build long-term resilience amidst increasing competitive pressure.

Increased data security

Advanced data sharing, in a cloud-built learning environment, equips users from different regions to simply log in to a controlled interface and reference data without needing to copy and paste it. This eliminates the risk of losing valuable academic information, enables secure data flow across the business ecosystem, and thereby delivers a seamless user experience.

When data is flowing in high volume, a cloud-ready strategy also helps to mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks in campus operations. Although the cloud is a highly monitored environment, it takes a team of cloud-literate experts to carefully evaluate the fit of a well-defined EdTech strategy before installing it for the company.

Paying for what you use

Because everything is hosted within the cloud, there is almost zero need for universities to buy and maintain their own IT infrastructure. This is vital at a time of change and uncertainty as it provides flexibility for the launch and expansion of plans while the institution is only paying for and using what is needed without massive capital investment. So, universities and institutions can leverage automated cloud platforms to reliably fast-track their goals while still keeping R&D investments under control.

Never miss out on important information

Information is the modern-day gold and having the right information and awareness at the right time encourages preparedness and making important decisions based on hyper-critical data. Such matured cloud adoption supports educational institutes to address current pain points and enhance the overall out-of-classroom learning experience. Teachers and facilitators can also fulfill business aspirations by utilizing on-the-job training, enabled by the collaborative and integrated environment that is inherent in cloud computing.

Prototype new business ideas

Cloud tech is changing the way students and teachers collaborate, be it video conferencing applications, revisions, tutorials, or sharing documents. This leads to configuring EdTech solutions that embrace innovation-driven growth, reduce ‘time to market’ for new ideas and ultimately strengthen educational programs.

Empowered with automated processing, cloud computing multiplies the pace of organizational momentum and responsiveness. Thereby, revealing new business insights, scaling opportunities faster, and chasing higher productivity, growth, and fiscal control. For business leaders, this could add tremendous value today and into the future.

Now is the time to explore cloud-value economics in education

It can’t be denied that cloud learning abilities are still nascent but this new form of targeted and modular learning is quickly gaining visibility and contributing to a better student experience. A 2021 Gartner CIO Survey analyzing higher education perspectives said that the digital maturity of higher education institutions has accelerated the introduction rate of new products and services. The inception of cloud-based learning is only the beginning of this dimension, and we can expect to see more innovative technologies being applied like advanced analytics, IoT, and automation at scale. Today’s chatbot may lead the way for tomorrow’s hologram tutor and other immersive experiential applications.

In the face of this potential, universities should be “all-in” to embrace the possibilities of cloud proactively, as its vast benefits for the entire learning eco-system are limited perhaps only by imagination. What emerged as a life-saver, literally, during the pandemic, cloud computing’s seamless productivity, immersive learning solutions, and collaborative benefits for student masses will ensure high and ongoing demand for it in the future. Cloud computing in education does not just help strengthen business relationships with long-term solutions but also creates value-oriented opportunities. Now, isn’t that a challenge worth pursuing?

The article has been written Vimal Venkatram, Country Head of Snowflake India

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