Cloud computing in education is on a roll, according to a new report on the future of the technology in schools.
"In the past few years, classroom teaching has changed, and students have become more technology oriented. Due to this varying environment, educational institutions need to integrate the most up-to-date technologies into the learning process," the report noted.
The cloud model has proved to be flexible and efficient for schools, driving down the costs and maintenance traditionally associated with on-premises networks. The collaborative nature of the technology also makes sense for educators, who often share data and work together on projects.
This has led to widespread adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms such as Google Apps for Education, which offers a package of educational tools ready to use in the classroom. The platform's latest offering, called Classroom, is a cloud-based organizer designed to take the clutter out of everyday class assignments.
More than 70 percent of learning platforms are expected to be cloud-based or SaaS moving forward, according to the report.
But like any new technology, cloud has its skeptics. The Port Arthur Independent School District in Texas uses a cloud-based notification system that contacts parents in case of emergencies. But the district’s former chief technology officer, Ramiro Zuniga, told EdTech: Focus on K–12 in July that some data is too sensitive to store in the public cloud.
Instead, Port Arthur ISD’s staff uses a private cloud to ensure security. Using a private cloud also allows the IT staff to troubleshoot issues on the fly instead of waiting for a third-party solution from a public cloud host, Zuniga says.
There are also concerns about data privacy and the cloud. Though many districts have adopted cloud-based solutions, most haven't updated their policies to reflect educational privacy laws. This leaves the door open for data exploitation.
Fewer than 7 percent of districts surveyed prohibit service providers from selling or marketing student data, according to a 2013 report by the Fordham Law School Center on Law and Information Privacy.