Cloud technology is not just for the world of big business. A growing number of higher education institutions are also embracing the cloud’s many advantages, especially for its data gathering and analytics capabilities. When the timing is right—and used to its full potential—colleges and universities that step up to the cloud will ultimately create a better experience for their students, faculty and staff.

Let’s consider the following examples of cloud technology in higher education.

Students are more successful

On any given day, students have multiple touch-points with their colleges and universities. These contacts range from attending lectures or online tutorials, visting the library or dining hall and purchasing course materials. Institutions that use cloud technology can easily aggregate and analyze this data to see important patterns and trends.

This can be a game-changer for institutions. How? With actionable data, the institution has insight into the multiple factors affecting students’ performance and can manage those factors to help them. For example, institutions can forecast students’ academic success, whether they’re on track to complete their course work and graduate on time, whether they might be better served in a different major or if they’re showing signs of dropping out altogether.

But cloud technology in higher education is about more than grades. Cloud data can also reveal invaluable insights about students’ overall wellness, a key factor in academic success. Are they swiping food cards? Going to the gym? Attending social events? Paying tuition on time? Showing up for class?

While this may sound Orwellian, it’s no different from what we largely now accept from consumer-goods companies that track our online behavior or the “smart” devices in our homes that know our preferences and voice patterns. The difference in higher education? It’s how they use the information to fulfill their mission of providing a great experience and graduating successful students.

Colleges and universities that use cloud data will have a comprehensive view of their students. They’ll see patterns, predict outcomes and be able to intervene early to change the trajectory of a struggling student. Institutions that move to the cloud are able to act strategically in response to the data they receive.

Data is protected

Data protection is mission-critical for higher education institutions. Just as it does for multinational corporations, the cloud secures student and employee information in a world increasingly besieged by hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, as well as cyber threats such as ransomware attacks. Unfortunately, not enough higher education institutions have taken steps to protect themselves from these risks and minimize potential damage to their operations.

I recently had a conversation with an IT leader at an institution that had all of its on-premise data held hostage in a ransomware attack. The institution was in the terrible position of either paying the attackers to release the data or trying to rebuild the data slowly and arduously from backups.

The cloud would have prevented this from happening. That’s because of the cloud’s inherent fail-safes and constant backups. The cloud is always on and highly redundant, which protects data during catastrophic events. If needed, data can be restored in a matter of minutes.

Just like big business, a higher education institution’s ability to get up and running again after a problem depends on how quickly it can recover mission-critical data. For example, we’ve had customers impacted by natural disasters who were able to continue operating because their institution’s data was secure in the cloud.

Higher education is more agile and efficient

A college or university still managing its data and systems on-premise falls further behind peers in the cloud with every passing day. This is especially true in the age of Covid-19, when institutions quickly pivoted to remote learning and implemented new and best practices for business continuity. It is more important than ever to be able to connect with students, keep them engaged and ensure they don’t drop out.

Institutions that embrace the cloud are in a much better position to do this—if they have the right cloud solution. That means a solution with the enterprise resource planning tools to build a true digital campus and connect all members of their community—from people to processes to technology. And it means a solution with the constituent relationship management tools to engage all stakeholders, from alumni to faculty to student recruits.

No matter the size or type of institution, those using a full-service cloud solution can seamlessly transition to remote management of their campus—and instead devote their time to improving the learning experience for students and faculty, remotely. These institutions aren’t just keeping the lights on; they’re focused on innovation and a data-driven approach to education.

All of these examples show how cloud technology is applicable for higher education. Just like big business, the potential applications of the cloud are enormous and are fundamentally transforming how services are delivered.

By Chris Collins, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Ellucian

Chris Collins

Chris Collins is a Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Ellucian, the world’s leading provider of software and technology services to higher education.

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