Drifting Off to College: Universities & the Cloud

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013

The cloud has helped countless businesses and enterprises gain a competitive edge on the market. From nonprofits to the largest Fortune 500s, cloud storage and syncing offers secure solutions that are both cost-effective and convenient. For universities and colleges, private cloud services offer streamlined admissions, secure grading, and protections for student records. The cloud also grants universities the capabilities to offer online education opportunities, from real-time feedback over the web to entire courses, like in the example of Open Yale.

Admission Office at Tulane University

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Recently, Far Eastern University switched to NetSuite SuiteAcademy, a program that brings cloud-enabled management to global classrooms. Through the program, the Philippines-based institution has enabled offsite learning through online modules. Instead of having to purchase a wide range of software, NetSuite’s SuiteAcademy offers students flexibility in being able to learn anywhere with an Internet connection on their own devices. According to Dean Celito C. Macachor of the FEU Institute of Accounts, Business and Finance (IABF), “We see the cloud as the future of software. Introducing cloud-based business instruction through NetSuite SuiteAcademy can enable us to give students highly sought-after skills that today’s employers covet as more companies migrate to NetSuite cloud business management. Being in the cloud, NetSuite makes anytime/anywhere learning and education possible for both our students and faculty.”

Cloud Technology and Education

Image courtesy of edtechmagazine.com

The recent switch also makes marketing admission much easier for the university. As James Dantow, NetSuite’s Vice President of Worldwide Support and General Manager for the Philippines, told DigitalJournal, “FEU has staked out a leadership position in preparing students for a fast-changing business world with hands-on instruction of the world’s leading cloud financials/ERP software suites. FEU’s partnership with SuiteAcademy can not only make FEU graduates more appealing to employers, it makes the university itself more appealing to students looking for an outstanding business and accountancy education, and the practical cloud computing experience that employers demand.” Even software language giant Rosetta Stone, has put its weight behind the cloud, investing in the cloud-based online learning programs like Livemocha and Lexia Learning Systems.

The Potential Future of the Cloud for Education

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Along with online learning, colleges can leverage the cloud for better admission operations. Before online admissions, colleges and universities would be flooded with loads of paper applications to keep track of. With cloud-based admission procedures, institutions can store and sort thousands of applicants online instead of having to hire hordes of temp workers. While system shutdowns can derail an entire admissions season, angering applicants and their families, the private cloud offers a safe space for application storage. One recent cloud adopter is the Undergraduate Admissions department at Tulane University. With over 30,000 applicants each year, Tulane found a solution in the cloud. As Tulane’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, Earl Retif, told PRWeb, “We pride ourselves on our evaluation process as well as the support we provide to students and their parents. Over time, we realized we’d reached a tipping point where a more robust infrastructure was essential to sustain a quality admissions experience. Increased application numbers meant increased call volume, which strained resources while posing challenges to an equitable and comprehensive review….[the cloud is] a superb solution, not only as a secure place to store our data, but as a strategic, low-cost cornerstone of our disaster recovery plan. We’ve seen the kind of results we were hoping for. Increased efficiencies and automation are allowing staff to focus more time than ever on problem solving and admission decisions. We’ve also seen a significant increase in the percentage of completed applications, adding even greater equity and opportunity to our process. We made the right move at just the right time.”

Securing Records & Grades in the Private Cloud

Universities and colleges must protect student records and grades to preserve the integrity of higher learning. But hacking attempts and privacy concerns brought on by the PRISM program can severely damage institutional brands. Instead of relying on drastic systemic change, universities should exclusively seek out cloud services that offer user anonymity and strong data encryption. That way, even in this case of a security breach, student and school data would be protected.

For many universities, finding a truly protected third party cloud service can be a challenge as many “secure” services on the market have security gaps that leave private school and student data wide open to third party attacks and even governmental spying, in the light of the ongoing NSA PRISM program. One cloud storage and sync service that sets itself apart from the rest of the market is SpiderOak Blue. This service provides enterprises with fully private cloud storage and sync, featuring all of the benefits of the cloud along with 100% data privacy. SpiderOak Blue is available with onsite deployment and private servers or outsourced deployment through a private and secured public cloud server.

SpiderOak protects sensitive school data with 256-bit AES encryption so that files and passwords stay private. Authorized accounts and network devices can store and sync sensitive data with complete privacy, because this cloud service has absolutely “zero-knowledge” of user passwords or data. And all plaintext encryption keys are exclusively stored on approved devices because SpiderOak never hosts any plaintext data. This way, even if programs like NSA’s PRISM continue to stand unchallenged, universities can rest easy knowing that their data is truly protected while earning diehard alumni loyalty by publically securing student information. SpiderOak Blue’s cross-platform private cloud services are available for colleges and universities on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, along with Android and iOS mobile devices, allowing flexible solutions for online and mobile classrooms.

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