Cloud Computing- Revolutionizing the Education Industry

Nelson C. Vincent, EdD, VP for IT and CIO, University of Cincinnati
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Nelson C. Vincent, EdD, VP for IT and CIO, University of Cincinnati

Benefits of cloud computing for the education industry          

Cloud computing allows students, faculty and staff to easily store, share, manage and access important documents and systems online anytime, anywhere, from any device. The decision to move to the cloud, however, is as much a financial conversation as it is a technical and security conversation.

 Cloud providers are maturing their security to meet the needs of the research extensive university. At the University of Cincinnati, we are incrementally—and securely—building our way into the cloud.

We are in the early phases of rolling out university-wide cloud storage, powered by Box. Students, faculty and staff securely store, share, manage and access files anywhere, from any device. The university also recently implemented a cloud-based, online system for recruitment management, recruitment marketing and on boarding. This new system’s efficient workflow means fewer stops for review and approval, allowing for the faster posting of job opportunities and building of a candidate pool.

University leaders know that at some point, the economics will flip, and cloud services will be more cost effective because the cost-leadership of on premise offerings will not compete at the scale of cloud providers. At each refresh or upgrade, the university performs the due diligence to compare the benefits of cloud to the benefits of offering services on premises.

Consolidate, integrate and use data to drive business

Collaboration and partnership are the keys to unlocking the power of university-owned data. IT is in a unique position to build these relationships and build a forum for shared data governance. Data governance facilitates the development of application integration; reduces the amount of time needed to develop business requirements for IT projects; and enhances the effectiveness of business intelligence and analytics efforts. Combined with investments in best-in-breed tools such as Tableau, shared governance provides generates a ‘big answer’ to the questions of managing ‘big data’.

The “UC Research Hub” emerged from a commitment to shared governance. The ‘Research Hub’ is a network of expertise, resources, programs, and tools, developed and supported by a partnership between the UC Office of Research, UC Libraries and IT@UC. It is designed to streamline research support for investigators (faculty, staff and students) throughout the complete research lifecycle and amplify the impact of the university research community.

The Research Hub connects the newly created Institute for Analytics Innovation (IAI) to a host of essential research tools, including infrastructure support through the dedicated high-speed research network (UCScienceNet); the proposed central high performance computing cluster; big data storage and high-speed transfer solutions; and data visualization tools. Other hub components include:

• Digital Repository that makes accessible and preserves the university’s intellectual output.

• UC Libraries’ research support programs such as assistance with developing data management plans, digital curation services, metadata consultation, and informatics and analytics support.

• Department of Biomedical Informatics, which provides academic excellence in data science, application development, collaborative data services, and sophisticated scientific computing capabilities.

• Research Directory, a keyword-searchable database of UC’s research assets, which is also being piloted by industry partners. This resource showcases, shares and promotes the faculty expertise, research facilities and intellectual property generated by UC researchers. It connects these assets to other researchers and to industry partners who can aid in commercialization. It is an engine to solve real world problems and support innovation.

The Research Hub, unified by the Research Directory, and in the context of the complete research lifecycle, provides access to pre- and post-award support, research and IRB protocol systems support, and assistance with technology transfer and commercialization through the UC Office of Research.

The way to disrupt education market

The need to be nimble and agile is a constant. IT is a driver and a partner for all of the core verticals in higher education and our partnerships with business and industry. UC serves as a leader in eLearning across the State of Ohio. Cultivating a comprehensive and sustainable eLearning ecosystem is a central goal of the institution. A dedicated group of university educators, instructional designers and technologists partnered to advance the eLearning and launched Canopy, the eLearning ecosystem. The people, processes, systems and tools in Canopy create an innovative and collaborative ecosystem that adapts to an ever-changing educational environment to ensure student success. Some of these tools include a modernized Learning Management System (Blackboard), media streaming (Kaltura), and lecture capture and tools (Echo360).

At the University of Cincinnati, we are fortunate to have a shared services agreement with the State of Ohio. This partnership gives the university access to the State of Ohio Computer Center for secure hosting of and reliable backups for massive amounts of data, and warp speed business continuity in case of local outages – core systems could be up in moments, not hours.

The State of Ohio partnership also set the foundation for other innovations. New initiatives, such as the dedicated, high-speed network UCScienceNet propel the university’s academic and research mission forward. This new network went live in June 2015 over the state of Ohio’s 100 Gbps research network. UCScienceNet will facilitate the transfer of large data sets or fast data transfers for real-time visualization and analysis. It will also enhance STEM research already funded by various academic, public and private organizations.

Internet of Things is changing campus life and learning for students

It’s not just the Internet of Things—it’s the Internet of Everything. Universities are challenged to develop and deliver enterprise-level, secure and extensively personalized digital experiences and resources to students that effectively complement the educational experience.

At UC, students are part of the IT enterprise.

• Student Government appoints representatives to join faculty and staff on university-wide IT Governance.

• IT@UC signed collaborative agreements with two colleges to jointly support information technology initiatives. IT@UC professionals serve as adjunct professors, sharing their expertise in IT infrastructure, cyber security and software development.

• Other components of these partnerships include senior projects, research, and onthe- job experience as IT@UC student workers and co-ops.

Digital content and mobile devices need to ensure their infrastructure is ready

Students, faculty, staff and visitors have high expectations for campus networks. Much like electricity, they believe the network should simply work, and be as easy as flipping on a light switch. The reality, however, is that education institutions are constantly challenged to ensure 24/7 network availability.

Each day, there are more than 54,000 unique wireless devices connected to secure wireless, our nearly 4,300 access point wireless network. UC supports a long history of enterprise eLearning. University leaders believe cultivating an innovative eLearning ecosystem that supports student and faculty success is essential, and the university’s network serves as the backbone to tools that make that eLearning possible. These tools include the learning management system (LMS), video streaming and lecture capture.

Partnerships and collaborations are essential to sustainably funding infrastructure that is reliable, secure, and up-to-date to meet student expectations. 

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