May 16 2013

What Adobe’s Move to the Creative Cloud Means for Schools

Popular software maker shifts from box sets of its popular Creative Suite in favor of subscription-based cloud service.

Software maker Adobe surprised the tech world last week when it announced that it would stop selling box sets of its popular Creative Suite design software, including Acrobat and Photoshop, in favor of a subscription-based service available through its Creative Cloud.

The announcement was big news for magazine publishers and graphic artist types. But it also stands to have significant implications for K–12 schools. Thousands of K–12 teachers and students use Adobe’s Creative Suite products — the vast majority of whom own licenses for traditional off-the-shelf software boxes.

What does the decision mean for schools? 

Though the company will continue to sell the latest iteration of its Creative Suite — CS6 — in stores for a limited time, it has no plans to offer upgrades and fixes for the boxed product. Instead, all of its resources will be funneled into a cloud-based subscription model that allows users to access the tools online for a monthly fee.

Teachers and students can access the company’s Creative Cloud, which houses Photoshop, InDesign, Acrobat, and other tools formerly boxed in the company’s Creative Suite, for a discounted rate of $19.99 per month, or roughly $240 per year per seat. 

What are the advantages?

Adobe says the switch will allow it to more quickly update and debug its software, posting the newest upgrades and features to its cloud for consumption as soon as they are ready. 

For schools, the cloud-based model means students and teachers should be able to access the software tools from wherever learning is happening — whether it’s in the classroom, in a design lab or at home.

The Verge, a technology publication, reported that a subscription-based model also could help stem software piracy, reportedly rampant among the company’s more popular off-the-shelf products.

That all sounds great, but…

Does our school have the bandwidth to run these cloud-based applications? The short answer: Maybe. In preparation for the Common Core State Standards, many K–12 schools have upgraded their IT infrastructures to support more data-intensive online assessments. If your school has completed this overhaul or some other upgrade, it might be ready to adopt more cloud-based services.

At a minimum, the nonprofit State Educational Technology Directors Association says school networks should be capable of processing 100 megabytes per second per 1,000 students. Though those recommendations increase with the number of cloud-based services in use. Within five years, the same report suggests that school networks support speeds of 1 gigabyte per second per 1,000 users.

A recent article on Forbes notes that cloud users will likely still have to download the software to their desktop machines, as most of the applications are too data-intensive to run straight from the cloud. Though that could change as the technology improves.   

What options are available?

Schools can continue to use Adobe’s boxed software products, though upgrades and services will eventually be discontinued. Adobe is clearly an early adopter of the cloud-only model, but it’s hardly the only educational service provider to consider such an approach. Google has launched many of its services in the cloud. Longtime educational publishers such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson have also experimented with cloud-based tools and offerings for schools. 

As more software and service providers migrate to the cloud, the question increasingly becomes not if cloud computing will become a necessity in K–12 schools, but when.

(Update: Want to learn more about the Creative Cloud and what it means for your school, don't miss our chat with Adobe Worldwide Education Manager Johnann Zimmern.)   

Does your school support the adoption of cloud-based services? Tell us in the Comments.