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RM Education: Ways that the cloud can improve your school

OpinionPrimary Education
By Heather McLean | 5 July 2017
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Create DateJuly 5, 2017
Last UpdatedJuly 5, 2017

By Steve Forbes, head of networks at RM Education.

Through the opportunities a cloud-based model opens up, schools can not only simplify but actually improve their operations, both in and out of the classroom. Here’s how:

Managing costs more effectively: Cloud computing tends to be purchased ‘as a service’, meaning ICT spend is transacted more on lower annual subscriptions and less on large capital spend every three to five years. This gives you greater visibility of your ICT spend each year, without worrying about peaks in capital expenditure.

Access to free learning platforms: The main choice to make is which platform to use. Both Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 are free and have similar feature sets which are constantly being developed. Both can be easily integrated with your existing on-site technology and because they’re free, you’ll no longer need to purchase the hardware to host your exchange server. These platforms can also replace expensive Virtual Learning Environments that are rarely used for more than storing resources.

Anytime anywhere learning: G Suite for Education and Office 365 can be accessed from any internet browser or via specific apps on most mobile devices. This means pupils can work from anywhere to research independently or use resources their teacher has created with apps like Google Classroom or Microsoft Classroom. Having access to their files in this way also reduces the need for expensive remote access solutions that can be over-complicated for the needs of most schools.

Real time feedback and reducing workload peaks: Cloud computing offers lots of ways for teachers to easily assess pupils’ work. You can give feedback in real time on current projects, as well as using Forms within G Suite for Education and Office 365 to set quizzes which give automatic marking and feedback.

Quick document access: Schools have numerous documents that must be updated frequently, but having them in the cloud allows you to update those documents in real time and ensure everyone always has access to the most recent versions. You also get a full audit of what changed, who changed it and when; removing the need to review multiple documents with lots of comments and try to bring it all back into a single document; everyone works on one document collaboratively.

Making homework more efficient: There are various education-specific features that help teachers to be more efficient. Both G Suite for Education and Office 365 have Classroom Apps that allow you to set assignments to your pupils and include any relevant resources. This ensures there are no excuses from pupils that they didn’t know what their homework was or when it was due in!

Easier staff briefings: Once the whole school is using your new platform, you’ll start to see immediate improvements in your productivity. Staff briefings can be done online, meaning you only need to check a bulletin board or site to see what you need to know about; traditionally, these may have been meetings that take up valuable time. For the meetings you do need to have, you can distribute the content for review beforehand so they are even more productive.

Enabling cost efficient 1:1 schemes: A cloud model also allows school to consider the use of more cost effective 1:1 devices through parental purchase schemes. These schemes are managed by a third party, so the school doesn’t have to worry about collecting payments or setting up the scheme; everything is done for you. This enables pupils to own a suitable device from as little as £5 per month, and for parents who may struggle to afford it, there are various grants available.

Seamless access to apps: A good cloud-based identity management system will allow your users to sign on to a device with just one username and password. This gives them seamless access to any cloud-based applications and can also link to personalised web filtering, to filter a user’s content based on their year group, age or individual user’s identity, wherever they are using their device.

Sharing resources more easily: One of the biggest benefits of the cloud to teachers is that sharing resources and information becomes second nature. Using G Suite for Education or Office 365, you can share documents with pupils and teachers, working on them collaboratively and giving real time feedback.

A more consistent MIS: A cloud-based identity management system takes the data from your MIS and ensures consistency of data across all your systems, including your Active Directory. It negates the need for any additional hardware on site and works across multiple platforms, giving you choice and flexibility. This also saves a significant amount of admin time, as you only need to enter new users onto one system and they automatically get everything else created for them.

No need for storage: G Suite (Google Drive) and Office 365 (OneDrive) offer free file storage for education users as well as solutions for shared areas such as Google Sites and Microsoft SharePoint. You could also store data on cloud-based servers in Microsoft Azure, for example.

Secure and cost effective backup: Cloud backup allows you to backup all your critical files and systems in a secure manner. Once set up, there is little for you to worry about; you can be safe in the knowledge that you have an off-site backup in the case of a disaster and, unlike traditional backup techniques, cloud backup is highly flexible and scalable and you only pay for the data stored.

Accessing the latest software updates: Software as a Service (SaaS), where you move your services from hardware within your school to a fully managed cloud-based environment, means schools don’t have to worry about maintaining software or updates. This type of service is normally sold on an annual subscription, meaning you’ll always have the latest software updates without a large capital expenditure, thus managing your budget more easily.

A more secure environment: G Suite for Education and Office 365 have security tools built in to protect your users, data and network. Cloud-based antivirus solutions give you anytime, anywhere protection from cyber threats, while using cloud backup will keep important onsite data encrypted and safe in off-site enterprise data centres. Both Office 365 and G Suite give you complete control over who sees and can access your data in real time. They also alert you when something suspicious may be happening with your data or user credentials.

RM Education is a supplier of software, services and systems to UK education.


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