Understanding The Cloud: Education Experts Discuss The Pros and Cons of Cloud Solutions and Classroom Management Software

Wayne D’Orio

By Wayne D’Orio, a freelance journalist who writes frequently about education, equity, and rural issues. His education stories have taken him from backstage at Broadway’s Hamilton to crisscrossing the country on a bus trip with then Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Follow Wayne on Twitter @waynedorio.

In the best of times, cloud computing is like a utility few people think about. When it’s effective, it’s invisible. When it’s not, like when a breach spills personal information where it shouldn’t be, it can be impossible to try to undo the damage.

For school leaders, these worries are multiplied. Deciding whether to use the cloud isn’t a simple yes or no question for most administrators. They need to factor in the safety of student information, cost, ease of use, and understanding of what apps and content management systems their districts are using. On top of those concerns, these days it’s imperative that whatever system schools use allow an easy transfer from remote learning to in-person instruction, potentially with a helping of hybrid mixed in.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” says Monte McCubbin, a systems engineer for Simi Valley Unified School District in California. Small districts are probably better off using a cloud solution, but larger districts, like his 17,000-student unified school district, have the option to build a private cloud, he adds.

The benefits of not being cloud-based is local control and security, says Al Kingsley, the CEO of NetSupport and a longtime education technology expert. Districts can also control data flow and capacity by relying on its own local area network. But there are just as many, if not more, benefits to using cloud computing, he says. Cloud benefits include flexibility, scalability, and redundancy. Because maintenance is the responsibility of the provider, schools can have a leaner IT staff, saving on personnel costs.

Even considering the pluses and minuses isn’t a zero-sum game, McCubbin says. Simi Valley has what’s best described as a hybrid cloud solution. His district uses the cloud for some services and keeps other information in-house.

“We feel like there are inefficiencies in having 17,000 devices go into the public cloud and then back,” he says. Also, because California law says districts have to keep personal student information from leaving the state, it’s easier to accomplish this with a local system.

While security is a major concern for all school IT administrators, McCubbin says he thinks his local network is less of a target for hackers than if he were part of a huge system with a 100 or more companies.

School officials have to remember that their choice of building their own network or choosing a cloud solution needs to work best for all their teachers, students, and in these remote learning days, parents, too.

It’s this last reason that the cloud has worked so well for her district, says Erica Smith, a sixth-grade teacher at Ready Springs School in Penn Valley, California. With students learning remotely and schools using a variety of tools, officials quickly realized that the district was overwhelming parents by expecting them to keep up with multiple apps and learning management systems depending on which schools their children attend.
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Cybersecurity Crisis: How Education Bore The Brunt of The Pandemic

Shannon Flynn is a freelance blogger who covers education technologies, cybersecurity and IoT topics. You can follow Shannon on Muck Rack or Medium to read more of her articles.

Shannon Flynn

By now, it’s hard to imagine a part of everyday life that the COVID-19 pandemic has not upended and altered for the foreseeable future. Working from home, quarantines, and vaccinations — these factors have captured a lot of the public’s attention. However, education has been hit uniquely hard over the past year and deserves more focus.

From kindergarten to higher education, remote learning is now the norm. Though some schools are attempting in-person learning and others are integrating a hybrid model, technology is now a central element. It connects students, parents, teachers, and staff. Unfortunately, not all students have these same resources or access.

Around the world, students struggle with rural connections, low incomes, and humanitarian crises. War and digital illiteracy are still significant issues in many countries. Now that the pandemic has turned people to technology as a resource, the burden is clear. A lack of digital resources is an issue, and a lack of protection for all that data is the second obstacle.

Education faces unique challenges ahead. To solve them, one must first unpack each setback.

Inaccessibility of Virtual Education

As the pandemic reached each country at the end of 2019 and throughout 2020, many schools closed down and switched to virtual learning. Some schools had to shutter completely, with no virtual education resources available. Even with the schools that offer this learning dynamic, not all students have access.

In rural areas, and for students from low-income backgrounds, virtual education may not be a tangible resource. Of New York City’s roughly 114,000 students living in a shelter or with other families, access is not always possible. Slow or insufficient internet connectivity will cause the student to fall behind or not be able to participate at all. Finding a device to begin with may also be a challenge.

However, the pandemic worsens inaccessibility. Due to health precautions and the need for social distancing, shelters may have limited capacity. Additionally, if a student from a low-income background can’t afford health insurance, they may not feel comfortable learning in-person due to COVID-19 risks.

The pandemic heightens these existing cycles and creates a domino effect. One issue leads to another, and the lack of technology perpetuates each movement.

A Lack of Resources

Tech, health, and legal resources are the most important during this pandemic. Technology provides access to education, jobs, and family. Health care is essential for treating the virus if you contract it. Laws and regulations at local and nationwide levels are also necessary to ensure students and staff stay safe.

However, schools and students may be missing one or more of these resources. While learning from home, a student may not have cybersecurity systems in place to protect their information. Educational aid is another obstacle — bringing learning to the student is difficult when the virus is still affecting millions. Tutors and in-person guidance are necessary for some. Students with disabilities may have a harder time learning from home without proper accommodations.

Faculty and staff are under immense pressure as well. In the United States, the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) helps eligible employees balance their work and personal life. Other countries may not have these resources, though, and instead, teachers may be out of a job if they don’t have the right technology.

In China, the total time of lost learning results in billions of added yuan in the country’s deficit. The same phenomenon is happening across other countries, too. Resources are going to waste, costing teachers, students, and nations dearly.

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Cleveland Institute of Art Selects Transact Payments For Complete Electronic Payment System Solution

Transact Payments | CrunchbaseTransact, a provider of payment solutions for a connected campus, announced that Cleveland Institute of Art selected Transact Payments for its electronic payment system solution.

The Cleveland Institute of Art is one of the nation’s leading accredited independent colleges of art and design, with approximately 600 undergraduate students from across the globe.

For more than 130 years, the CIA has been an educational cornerstone in Cleveland, Ohio, producing renowned graduates who become studio artists, designers, photographers, contemporary craftsmen, and educators.

“We are eager to simplify the student experience by automating some of the functionality that is currently a manual process,” said Stacy Fitchette, student acounts administrator, Cleveland Institute of Art. “The alignment of our organizations’ visions — as well as Transact’s higher education focus, sterling reputation, and proven past performance — made them our ideal partner. Transact aggressively and progressively invests in the development of business office solutions, and that will allow us to evolve with the changing needs of our students and our institution.”

Transact will provide CIA with payment processing and payment plan solutions. Transact will simplify and support the processing of payments with web-based, multi-layered security and privacy features designed for higher education. The addition of electronic bill presentment functionality will eliminate CIA’s use of paper and position CIA for easy adoption of touchless services in the future.

In addition, Transact’s cashiering capability will strengthen back office efficiencies, centralize reporting, and provide flexible and instant information on demand. From a system standpoint, Transact’s real-time integration with Jenzabar EX, a longstanding partner, means CIA will have access to comprehensive administrative functions all in one place.

Implementation of Transact’s full-service payment plans solution will enable CIA’s ability to accept credit cards, ACH, 529 plans, or IFT. It eliminates CIA’s cost of accepting card payments, enabling 100% retention of billed tuition & fees from card payments.

“Creativity matters at The Cleveland Institute of Art, and our creative payments solutions provide simple interfaces, seamless integration, and mobile functionality,” said Dan Glass, senior account executive, Transact. “We respect CIA’s heritage of excellence and innovation and we are proud to be their partner in transforming the student experience so that it is easy, mobile and seamless.”

For more information, visit www.transactcampus.com.

Students’ Needs Change Throughout the Year: A Campus App Should, Too

University of Southern Mississippi | TheBestSchools.org

By Valerie Craig, manager of technology applications and services, The University of Southern Mississippi.

Our students’ needs change during the course of a semester. They don’t remain the same. And yet, the mobile campus app used at many colleges and universities looks exactly the same on Day One of the semester as it does at the end.

At The University of Southern Mississippi, our mobile campus app is dynamic, not static. When students open up the app, the information, links, and resources they see on their screen changes to meet their shifting needs and priorities throughout the semester.

As a result, students are always just one click away from the resources they need to navigate their college experience successfully.

We’re constantly looking at our analytics to learn as much as we can about how students, faculty, and other stakeholders are using our iSouthernMS app. In perusing the data, we’ve learned two important lessons.

The first is that students don’t come to our app to play around. They don’t consider it a form of entertainment. There are plenty of other apps they can use for that purpose. Instead, they rely on our app to help them succeed at the business of being a student.

The second lesson we’ve learned is that the features of our app that are used most frequently change during the course of a semester.

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Education’s Biggest Challenge: Tech Is Making Cheating Too Easy

By Scott McFarland, CEO, ProctorU.

Scott McFarland

Technology has unquestionably made teaching and learning better in many ways, accessibility and scale most notably. But it’s also made cheating, or academic dishonesty, incredibly easy and incredibly common.

Many people, even those employed in education, probably don’t fully realize exactly how common cheating has become. Three different, independent academic research studies on cheating, all released within the past year, separately described academic misconduct today as “widespread” and “commonplace” and “likely a common occurrence.” One recent academic research paper by professors at Radford University for example, says directly, “studies are increasingly reporting that academic dishonesty – in perception as well as self-reported behavior – is more common in online environments.”

It’s probably common sense that sending millions of students into online learning due to Covid-19 has turned that smoldering problem into a brushfire. In the past few weeks alone we’ve seen cheating scandals break out at West Point, the Air Force Academy, Texas A&M, the University of Oregon, University of Houston, and on and on. Based on our own data from millions of online exams, clear violations of test rules have increased 800% since the spring, when the pandemic set in.  

Honor Codes and Good Intentions Won’t Curb Cheating

As schools continue to realize that honor codes and good intentions alone won’t curb cheating, they’ve increasingly invested in tools and tactics to limit dishonesty. These include randomizing questions, setting exam time limits and using applications that limit or “lock down” Internet browsers to keep students from using Google or other sites. 

Those are a good start, probably mostly because they send a message to students that instructors take academic dishonesty seriously. Research shows that taking action to prevent cheating changes student perceptions and reduces the incentives to take shortcuts. Unfortunately, research also shows that even with lock-down browsers and time limits, students still cheat.

The Radford study found that “Despite a series of mitigation measures that were adopted without direct proctoring–such as the use of a special browser, a restricted testing period, randomized questions and choices, and a strict timer–it appears that cheating was relatively commonplace. Cheating apparently also paid off handsomely, at least when it comes to exam performance, often raising scores by about a lettergrade.”

That study found that even a recorded and reviewed proctoring solution, on top of those other techniques, significantly cut down on cheating. It seems the more risk involved in cheating, the greater the likelihood they could be caught, the less inclined students were to attempt misconduct. Again, this is logical. It’s the very reason why places such as banks and convenience stores have security cameras.

That’s a good analogy in that security cameras can deter bad actions but they cannot stop it in real time. It’s the difference between a security camera and a security guard. That’s where live test monitors add even more value, whether in person or remotely.

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How Are You Raising Awareness and Educating Students To Protect Personal Data Inside and Outside of The Classroom?

Response from Russ Munisteri, CASP+, CEH, assistant director of education, MyComputerCareer.

Russ Munisteri

Personally identifiable information (PII) can be defined as any representation of information that permits the identity of an individual to whom the information applies to be reasonably inferred by either direct or indirect means. In other words, protect your data and protection involves knowledge and skill.

As an educational leader we need to provide the necessary training and skillset to raise awareness and educate students in information technology. Through IT certifications, students learn how to secure PII, harden networks and servers, learn the concepts of social engineering, and the importance of security. This can be provided to students through instruction, curriculum, and hands-on labs.

Social engineering needs to take the spotlight. The days of brute-forcing passwords and physically bypassing security are not as popular with threat agents and cyber-attackers these days. There is a faster way! According to NIST SP 800-61 r2, social engineering is an attempt to trick someone into revealing information (e.g., a password) that can be used to attack systems or networks.

This concept is very low-tech, quick, and inexpensive to execute. If an attacker can earn your trust, the attacker will bypass most layers of security. Throughout my IT experience and education, social engineering is a topic that I stress on. Phishing, Vishing, Smishing, Whaling and Impersonation attacks is one side of SE, but what about the other side? Identity thieves, scam artists, governments, salespeople, disgruntled employees, and the list goes on. What about parents and children? The list below provides ways to reduce the likelihood of a social engineering attack:

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In New Age Learning, Legacy Tech Is Not An Option

By Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar, vice president and regional head—services, Americas, Infosys.

Mitrankur (Mit) Majumdar

Education has been caught between the tectonic plates of digital technologies and the once-in-a-century pandemic. The industry has been forced to transition to a virtual engagement model that it was unprepared for. But even before the pandemic, the advent of Massive Open Online Courses was driving growth in higher education and reskilling with enrolment in traditional postsecondary institutions declining.

Massive generational changes in technological and workplace trends are changing the definition of education itself transforming it into a multi-dimensional and pervasive opportunity, open to people of all ages and socioeconomic strata. The definition of the ‘student’ is also changing, who now expects anytime, anywhere, and lifelong learning.

Leave legacy behind

In this new paradigm, outmoded approaches to teaching and learning just don’t support the new demands and changed expectations. Even educational institutions that use technology, utilize legacy systems that work in a monolithic fashion and don’t support the new age learner’s journey. They are difficult to integrate with modern Software-as-a-Service applications required for the learning solutions of today and expensive to operate.

A vast majority of students are digital natives, which means they expect hyper-personal, imaginative, and on-demand learning experiences that are frictionless. While higher education institutions scrambled to ensure resilience with Zoom user accounts during the pandemic, that comes nowhere close to the user experience that students have come to expect. They are communication platforms and not Education communication platforms.

Another key element is the existence of complex relational databases that make it difficult to obtain the desired data that can be used for competitive advantage. Students generate data at every touchpoint and technology allows the education institution to map this data and create a genome of each student. This provides a 360-degree, unified view of the student by employing data and analytics helping in personalized inputs to drive necessary interventions for student success.

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What Is The Role of The Teacher In A Post-Pandemic World, When Ed Tech Resources Are More Valuable Than Ever? 

Response from Caroline Allams, co-founder and CEO, Natterhub.

Caroline Allams

The COVID pandemic has fundamentally changed our relationship with education technology. New tools and resources that might have taken years to reach schools were, by necessity, developed and released in a matter of months. But while education technology has played a vital role in helping teachers continue to do their jobs, the pandemic has also highlighted the undeniable necessity of a human element.

Even the most sophisticated, cutting-edge edtech tool on the market is just that – a tool. It’s only in the hands of a teacher that these tools can have any sort of meaningful impact on the development of young minds.

While children are very capable of understanding how technology functions, they can often struggle with the impact screen use has on their emotional wellbeing. According to a report by YoungMinds, 90% of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety or stress over the last five years. The most common causes include exam stress, and the pressures of maintaining the kind of ‘perfect’ lifestyle children see reflected on social media; something which has only become more prevalent as pupils spend increasing amounts of time online in lockdown.

Finding a way for children to navigate the digital landscape is crucial if we are to have any chance of keeping children safe online. This was true even before COVID-19, of course, but the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have accelerated the process. While edtech resources can help pupils to grasp the mechanics of online safety – from creating strong passwords to reporting inappropriate content – it’s only when guided by a teacher that pupils can have the kind of experiential learning they need to internalise these lessons. Children might not understand that an online avatar isn’t always trustworthy, but they’re all familiar with the story of the Big Bad Wolf dressing up as Grandma to trick Little Red Riding Hood.

The essential role of the teacher is even more apparent when we apply edtech resources to more traditional subjects in the curriculum. For example, while online resources can help a child to work through the steps of a maths problem, they do so with a one-size-fits-all approach. By contrast, a teacher working closely with a child can adapt their pedagogy – by phrasing the problem differently, or focusing on a particular sticking point – in order to give that child the confidence they need to work out the answer independently.

We should also consider the emotional role that teachers play as ‘trusted adults’ in pupils’ lives – providing them with comfort and support throughout their school lives. Teachers are often the first to notice subtle changes in a child’s behaviour or attitude; the first warning signs that they need help with something troubling them. In a recent poll by the Daily Mirror, more than 70% of children aged 5-16 said that prolonged absences from school had had a damaging effect on their mental health, with many saying that they missed their teachers as much as they missed their friends.

As the pandemic ends and new innovations are brought more fully into the traditional classroom, we should consider how they can be used to teach children the abstract but crucial citizenship skills such as kindness, empathy, and resilience. These are the skills that will stand them in good stead not just in school but throughout their lives, both online and offline.

Kivuto Announces Availability of Newest Release of Minitab Statistical Software with Cloud Capabilities

UNF - Information Technology Services - KivutoKivuto, a provider of digital solutions for the education industry, announces the availability of Minitab Statistical Software: Cloud App/Windows Desktop from OnTheHub.  

 The launch of the newest version of Minitab Statistical Software now allows users to make better, faster, and easier data driven decisions anywhere with the power of the cloud. Users can securely access the most powerful statistical software in the market from anywhere – whether working from home or the office – to analyze data and share insights with lightning speed thanks to new cloud capabilities. More than 4,000 colleges and universities worldwide use Minitab software to make teaching and learning statistics easy.

OnTheHub is Kivuto’s open online marketplace for academic discounts on software, eBooks, and other digital resources. A top source of student savings, OnTheHub allows students, faculty, and other academic stakeholders to acquire software at a fraction of retail price and saves schools the cost of licensing that software themselves.

Jeffrey T. Slovin, chief executive officer of Minitab, said. “For nearly 50 years, Minitab has been committed to its roots in the academic community by providing best-in-class statistical software. As this market continues to evolve, Minitab is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of academic institutions. Now, with Minitab available on the cloud, administrators, professors and students alike can access Minitab anywhere, anytime and from any device to support all instructional models.”

“Minitab is the market leader in data analysis and data transformation solutions and is the gold standard solution offered by educational institutions worldwide,” said Mark McKenzie, CEO at Kivuto. “We have been offering Minitab to academic institutions through OnTheHub over 20 years and know the latest version will be well-received by the academic community.

For more information on Minitab Statistical Software for the academic community, visit https://onthehub.com/minitab/.

About Minitab 

For nearly 50 years, Minitab has helped organizations drive cost containment, enhance quality, boost customer satisfaction and increase effectiveness through its proprietary solutions. Thousands of businesses and institutions worldwide use Minitab Statistical Software, Minitab Connect, Salford Predictive Modeler, Minitab Workspace, Minitab Engage, and Quality Trainer to uncover flaws and opportunities in their processes and address them. Minitab Solutions Analytics is Minitab’s proprietary integrated approach to providing software and services that enable organizations to make better decisions that drive business excellence.

About Kivuto 

Kivuto has been transforming the way schools distribute digital resources to students and faculty for more than 20 years. Today, Kivuto streamlines the management and delivery of academic software, eTextbooks, cloud licenses, and all other types of digital resources for educational institutions. For more information, visit https://kivuto.com/.  

Luxer One Provides Smart Locker System To Cosumnes River College

Luxer One, the technology leader in smart locker solutions, announced today the successful implementation of a modular locker system for use with the student library at Cosumnes River College. With this installation, Cosumnes River College (CRC) becomes the first college in the Los Rios Community College District to benefit from Luxer One’s safe, no-contact method of picking up library materials.

Conveniently located in the Business and Social Science building, these smart locker systems will be available for to students and staff Monday thru Friday (7:30 am- 6 pm).

Management of a user base this broad is made possible because of Luxer Ones integrates seamlessly with CRC’s library management system (LMS) to provide in-depth tracking on every item that is exchanged via smart locker.

Students can request materials via the library’s website, prompting librarians to check items out of inventory and place them into the lockers for pick up. Once placed in the locker, students receive a notification directly to their phone along with a pickup code. This code enables students to unlock their textbooks or other library materials, completing the contactless pickup process.

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