SIMtone's recent announcement that it will deliver low-cost, virtual desktops to students and faculty at an "online" high school in Minnesota grabbed me, so I did a little digging. Minnesota's "Online High School" (MNOHS) is a public, state-funded school open to any Minnesota resident age 20 or younger. Not too exciting at first read, until I found out that teachers and students at MNOHS connect via a cloud computing infrastructure. MNOHS is using the power and flexibility of cloud computing to prepare its students for college, jobs, and life in the digitally connected world. Curious about how effective the system was, I asked the school's Executive Director, Ned Zimmerman-Bence, a few questions about the impact cloud computing was having on his students and faculty.
[ In an earlier column, whurley suggested a national computing cloud for higher education | Keep up on the latest in cloud developments with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing newsletter and Cloud Computing channel. ]
whurley: What was your impression the first time you heard about cloud computing as a potential option for delivering services to students and faculty?
Zimmerman-Bence: There are two significant problems that our school needs to solve in order to ensure our students have reliable and timely access to their course materials. Solving these two problems are crucial to our school and mission success.
All of our students and faculty work offsite. In addition, our faculty use several different applications that require that us to manage rights -- turning access on or off depending on whether a student is enrolled in a course. These two factors create a nightmare scenario for delivering software -- and required significant staff time mailing out CDs, managing our Key Server that serves up the license key, collecting deposits, and remembering when to turn off access to remain within the license agreements. Despite our best efforts, often times students had a week or longer lag before they had their software properly configured.