Recently, the Department of Education released a paper offering advice on how schools can move to the cloud (colleges can obviously follow the guidance too). I think that that schools should heed the advice and make the move. At Leeds City College we moved our teaching and learning platform to the cloud around 6 years ago and this is where I will focus my blog.
When we were looking to move a number of years ago, the choices for the move were not as plentiful as they are today, and it was the range of benefits that meant we chose G Suite for Education (Google). The choice meant that we would be truly device agnostic, our learners and staff could collaborate in real time and oh yes it is free too. Over the past few years, other platforms have developed and now there are more similarities between the cloud-based platforms.
Anyway, as I said, I will focus on the benefits, which are mentioned in the image above and which we have seen clear impact of. These are costs savings, efficiency savings (for staff and learners), and being able to access and deliver learning from any place, any time and on any device.
The cost savings for the college have been substantial for 2 main reasons: firstly all learners and staff now have access to Google Drive (totally unlimited and totally free) and no longer do students save to a drive space stored on premises (on the college’s systems). This has led to a saving of £750,000 over the years as we have over 20,000 learners. This saving comes from the reduction in the need for storage on site, as well as other additional costs attributed to this (air conditioning, cost of the boxes and so on). The other significant cost saving has been through the purchase of devices when existing ones came to the end of their shelf life. Our model generally has been to create flexible learning spaces and this has been done through the purchase of Chromebooks. When we compare our purchase of standard Chromebooks (11 inch HP device) to a traditional laptop we were purchasing before the move, when we hit 4500 Chromebook purchases, we saved a massive £1.3million, which I think you will agree is a hell of a lot of money.
The other main impact for us is efficiency. The first thing around this element was the time we spent waiting for old PCs to boot up in a morning. Moving to the cloud has meant that we have been able to move to devices which take 5-10 seconds to load up rather than the 5 minutes which we had before. This is massive for an organisation of our size but not only that, there was nothing worse as an observer being in a lesson at the beginning of the day and having to see the frustration of learners and staff having to create extended starter activities due to the fact it took so long for PCs to start. Another efficiency is that now staff can all work on collaborative shared documents rather than our old practices of, at times, not being able to access a document as people were using it! It also means that staff can quickly work on a Doc if they are between offices and campuses. They can use a mobile phone or device to access and complete a task rather than having to find a space and PC to do so. The last thing I will mention is around the efficiency of the devices themselves. We can now charge the devices overnight and know that they will last up to 10 hours on a full charge. Yes, obviously, people have to remember to plug them in to charge but we do not have to consider them having to be recharged mid-day ,meaning staff can focus on actually having a break during their lunch.
A massive impact when moving to the cloud is that learning is now accessible to our students on any device. For a college like us where over 50% of our learners come from the most deprived backgrounds in the UK (and we are not alone in this), being able to access learning on a mobile, tablet, Chromebook, PC, laptop or Mac is massive. This means they no longer have to buy a new device to be able to progress and learn or download a product. As long as they have access to the internet on a device then learning can happen. This also helps when learners cannot make it in to the 4 walls of the college building due to illness, caring responsibilities or whatever, then they can still make progress against an intention and access from home or a wifi hotspot somewhere locally.
All of these reasons to move to the cloud are applicable to you and your organisation too so why not check out the guidance document here, and if you need any help from a college who has been through it and made the move then feel free to contact me.