Saturday, February 9, 2013

Into the Cloud

Like it or not, most of our server-based systems will soon be moving to cloud-hosted systems. This means software enabled database systems such as SARS and even newer student tracking systems like Tutor Trac - programs that are used to schedule student visits to counselors and track student contact hours with tutors and academic support - will all be completely operated away from the campus. No more expensive, complicated server systems to maintain, no more IT staff who's main job is restoring physical connections to lab computers - it will all be gone.

So what are the ripple effects of all this? When will it all happen? I think a more important question is how are we positioning ourselves for this inevitable shift. Not surprisingly, when we look at what the vast majority of colleges and universities are doing in this regard, the answer is nothing at all - in most cases they are continuing to invest resources in technology that is decades old and not nearly as agile and functional as systems available now. We know the main drivers of this phenomenon.

  • Institutional Inertia: the political and budgetary environment at most colleges and within most districts that limits innovation or agility to adopt new practices
  • Technological Proficiency Gap: many IT personnel are trained in, and familiar with the older systems
  • Aversion to Risk: if it is different it represents an unknown quantity; staff, faculty and administrators are often uncomfortable with attaching their name to anything that could reflect negatively on them what do we do? Stay tuned as I participate in demo's of traditional and cloud-based software systems and attempt to plot a course towards using existing technology to empower the success of our students.