The second problem centers around training and standardization. All of our students supply their own computers. While a number are "computer literate," many are using computers for the first time as the primary interface for learning. The multiple platforms and emerging skill base create a host of support issues. A single desktop with controlled configuration greatly reduces the potential for students to "get lost in the technology" and limits the support variables we need to address. Again, support issues will now diminish thereby enabling faculty to concentrate more on teaching. There are undoubtedly other benefits that will arise -- we just haven't had the opportunity to identify those yet in our pilot.
whurley: How has the move to cloud computing affected your budget? Is there a demonstrable positive impact?
Zimmerman-Bence: Moving to cloud computing will generate near-term costs for us, but these will be short-term pain for long-term gain. SIMtone's solution was by far the most attractive option, especially considering it hit that sweet spot of scalability, reliability, and cost. The fees are entirely reasonable and in some instances a fraction of the quotes for other options.
I believe the ability to deliver our course software and instruction through a cloud will be a driver for growth for the long term. Currently, students become quickly overwhelmed with technical issues and fall behind. The SIMtone cloud will dramatically reduce that frustration and consequently help us retain more students, providing a crucial link for growing out program. Retaining students is the key revenue driver for the school -- more students retained -> more revenue, more revenue -> more options for serving students.
whurley: Do you think the idea of "PCs in the cloud" will spread to other school districts?
Zimmerman-Bence: Where schools will find value is in the promise of stable and affordable access to information and tools. This will allow schools to expand learning much in the same way corporations are able to extend productivity by providing access outside of the office. For instance, students without access in their homes might be able to access their cloud computer at a public library -- where they can grab all of their curriculum.