It’s no secret that today’s higher and further education institutions are being forced into a position where they place improved efficiency and cost reduction at the top of their agendas, so it should come as little surprise that the enabler for achieving both of these goals is increasingly technology.

Student recruitment and retention is also a vital part of any FE or HE strategy, driven by the necessity to recruit the full complement of students, improve student experience to achieve better learning outcomes, deliver an improved and more efficient service whilst preparing students for their working lives ahead.

Much has been written about ‘cloud computing’ – essentially it’s the ability to access software, data, storage and other computing resources without owning the hardware infrastructure to run it, instead receiving those services across the internet from a cloud provider.

The key advantages of a cloud based approach for colleges is that they no longer have to install or maintain hardware and software on campus which as a result means they experience a reduction in the costs associated with licensing, operation and hardware maintenance.

 Leeds City College calculates that it has saved around £150,000 over those six months”

In addition to these financial savings there is a reduced impact on the environment as there are no power and environmental costs which would be standard in commissioning hardware in a data centre.

This is also true of access to data storage. Each student can have access to around 25GB of storage – far in excess of the usual college storage provision – where they can create, save and share documents and files without the need to provide hardware for storage or to manage it themselves.

Leeds City College calculates that it has saved around £150,000 over those six months”

Leeds City College, the third largest FE college in the country has adopted this approach having implemented Microsoft Live@Edu six months ago. The college calculates that it has saved around £150,000 over those six months via the roll out which allows students to access email, data storage capacity and collaboration tools at home, on campus or anywhere else whenever they wish from laptops, tablets and even smart phones.

It allows the students to be provisioned with the information and resources that they need based upon their identity within the college and the courses they are on. Students are even able to reset forgotten passwords themselves, greatly reducing the time required by college IT staff to do password resets.

It was a strategic move by the college to help prepare students for their future work environment since the Office online and email available with Live@Edu are familiar to the students and consistent with the commercial workspace.

Taking the decision to move to the cloud has allowed the college to deliver a cutting edge solution promoting productivity, and collaboration whilst reducing costs, providing a safe, secure, flexible and affordable solution.

The cost of delivering a similar system in house would have required an initial outlay of more than £150k and that figure doesn’t include the running costs, training requirements, energy or replacement hardware costs.

There is increasing demand for technology solutions like Live@Edu and Office 365 across academia regardless of the size of institution – it can even be deployed in small schools, preparing secondary school children for life in higher or further education.

Cloud based solutions are affording the colleges and universities the ability to provide each student with an enhanced learning experience regardless of their equipment, what time it is or where they are whilst cutting costs and improving efficiencies; a tick in every box.

Paul Beaumont,
Chief Executive of Salford Software

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