July 2, 2018
Higher Education is Bound for the Cloud

It wasn’t long ago that “distance learning” was just a buzz phrase.  But the concept of learning while being tethered only to an internet connection anywhere in the world was so utterly compelling that detractors, if any, were nowhere to be found.

Distance learning was just one of the early phenomena to prove the value of the cloud to enterprises.  The cloud, in a sense, became the engine for second-generation distance learning – Rev. 2.0, essentially. Not long after the proliferation of the cloud, the ultimate goal of the cloud in education – to bring together personalized learning experiences with transparent, ubiquitous and on-demand access to distributed learning resources – had largely been achieved.

Cloud computing provides value that is unlike that of any traditional IT environment. It offers economies of scale through aggregating computing resources and virtualization. Cloud computing ensures a global reach of information and services using a computing environment that offers on-demand scalability, performance guarantees, minimal initial investment and ongoing cost containment.  In short, the cloud provides educators an architecture to offer pre-built educational services and solutions together with the required skills for running and maintaining them. 

Cloud computing also exempts learning institutions from data management, and reduces costs and requirements that come with data security.  Institutions also report that the elimination of costs for licenses and for managing hardware and software allow them to contain costs, even while scaling to accommodate increasing numbers of online learners.  The majority of colleges and universities (roughly 69 percent) cite cost savings as their primary driver for cloud adoption,.

Democratizing Education 

Perhaps democratization of education is the paramount value the cloud brings to institutions, teachers and students.  Cloud-based learning can be deployed rapidly, everywhere, and in the form that best suits individual learners.  It allows instructors to monitor students’ progress closely via online course access, test and offering personalized feedback.

Students gain innumerable benefits, given the freedom to study and to take tests on their own schedules. Group projects are substantially easier for connected students, as they can meet online at any agreed-on time, and without concerns for their physical proximity to each other.  Chat apps make that possible, and conferencing apps bridge the limitations of distance, providing students with a near in-person experience.  Perhaps most importantly, the cloud is the ultimate enabler of mobility, allowing students to focus on learning, and allowing educators to focus on teaching, in an environment that suits them best.  

What these advantages highlight is the tremendous value of apps as part of the cloud experience.  New apps can quickly be melded into an online learning platform, via APIs for quick integration – and, in many cases, data sharing – with other apps on the platform.  Still other long-time mainstream apps, such as for simultaneous group editing, allow all group members to contribute in developing term papers, theses, or special projects.  

While early distance learning platforms helped to democratize education, newer learning management systems (LMSs) took those early developments to new heights.  It was only a matter of time: while developers were at work creating every conceivable app to improve online learning, the challenge became that those apps had to be designed for easy integration, not only with the growing number of software platforms, but with other compatible learning apps.  The LMSs effectively became a new weapon in the battle to make online learning easier – providing an amalgamation of compatible tools that are pre-integrated to form a single application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of educational courses or training. 

An Aid in Digital Transformation

Ultimately, educational institutions see their move to cloud-based learning as a prime contributor to furthering their efforts for digital transformation.  Still, recent report revealed that universities see digital transformation as a way to enhance their current model, rather than change it. University leaders across the board said that, while they expect higher education to be disrupted in the next 10 – 15 years, few are planning to fundamentally create a new “digital model” for their university.  

“It’s not a matter of how to use new technologies within the current educational structure, it’s a question of how the digital revolution is requiring a change in the structure and educational model,” said one educator quoted in the report.

Clearly, the cloud has created a profound change in the way education is delivered, and in how students learn.  And, having the means to scale cloud-based education with little impact on cost containment, has been key to cloud adoption by educators. A summary of the report noted that “vice chancellors and presidents, anticipating a future with reduced public financial support, understand that it is no longer an option to keep doing things the old way.”

Customer Use Case

OVHcloud™ delivers hybrid cloud capabilities, allowing educational institutions to move a VM without re-IP’ing back and forth between on-premises and the cloud through a customized approach to network extension.

A well-known, premier research university that prides itself on innovation and forward-thinking vision found success in their usage of OVHcloud. The university’s willingness to embrace the new, and live on the leading edge of technology, extends to their approach to server infrastructure. The legacy server systems in place were over 90 percent physical HP Linux and Sun Solaris servers, and a decision was taken early on to adopt virtualization as their transformation strategy with an emphasis on agile methodologies and cloud technologies. 

This prestigious university adopted a hybrid cloud approach in order to support the existing legacy system and business critical applications while providing flexible infrastructure for future applications. Utilizing OVHcloud, they took a reality-based IT approach, investing in the Hybrid Cloud with a Lift and Shift methodology until a replacement SaaS offering was available, enabling the extension of their networks using unique SD-WAN technologies. 

OVHcloud worked closely with this institution to ensure that their systems were migrated with as little disruption to users as possible with the end result being a better system for working, researching, socializing, collaborating, and studying. With 50 percent of VMs migrated, and a clear strategy for migrating the remaining systems, the research university has taken solid infrastructure as a basis for transformation, enabling faster adoption to new advances in technology.

Learn more about OVHcloud higher education cloud solutions.