Cloud adoption in K-12 school districts is expected to increase more than 26 percent a year until 2021, largely because a significant number of educators are realizing greater efficiencies, reports EdTech Magazine.
Improved efficiency is certainly a priority for educational tech teams, but flexibility is perhaps a greater one. After all, delivering cloud-based resources presents a significant challenge for the ed-tech pros, who have to manage technology resources across multiple locations. That’s why, as they explore how to best deliver cloud communications across their districts, they should consider the benefits of hybrid deployment.
There’s no doubt that cloud-based software is transforming the classroom. Both staff and students benefit from access to productivity tools like Google’s G-suite and Microsoft Office 365. As mobile devices proliferate, the ability to integrate them with a district’s communications technology provides the campus community with a more collaborative learning environment.
“Cloud computing reduces the overall cost of ownership and improves staff productivity,” says Jhansi Mary, a lead analyst for educational research at market research firm Technavio. “The use of cloud-based resources in education helps all the stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, and faculties by providing access to several learning avenues and possibilities for students, in turn enhancing the learning experience.”
Managing multiple systems presents a challenge
One issue ed-tech teams face is the age and quality of communications platforms, which often varies widely among individual schools and increases the difficulty of delivering a consistent standard of services.
For example, an established building may have upgraded its on-site communications system just a few years ago. In this case, moving services to the cloud isn’t an attractive option since the district wants to fully maximize its investment. At the same time, districts are deploying cloud communications as they build new schools.
For district IT teams, the biggest issue with this situation is that it could put schools on unequal footing. Newer facilities can add productivity tools with ease, but schools that aren’t connected to the cloud will require help from IT.
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Hybrid deployment offers flexibility
What ed-tech teams need most, then, is flexibility. A hybrid approach allows them to deploy both on-site and cloud communications, allowing staff and students across the district to take advantage of productivity and collaboration services.
This was a key reason the Cooke Center chose a hybrid deployment when it needed to replace an aging and unreliable Verizon system. The ease of configuration made hybrid an attractive option as they evaluated the best approach to deploying new phones at two of their locations. With a hybrid deployment, they could add new sites via the cloud while leveraging the existing initial investment in on-site equipment.
“All the systems support each other, and Mitel Connect HYBRID gives us a clear idea of how to plan for future growth,” said Lisanne Norman, Director of Technology, Cooke Center for Learning and Development.
Hybrid adds budget and security flexibility
Hybrid deployments also offer flexibility in budgeting. Some districts may have to spend all their funding (such as E-Rate) within a specified timeframe. With a hybrid approach, they have the option of making a capital purchase of on-site hardware, while taking advantage of an OpEx model for additional cloud communication tools. Thus, hybrid allows school districts to more flexibly manage their budgets.
Another area in which flexibility matters is data security. Some schools are required to maintain sensitive information on-site to comply with rules and regulations. Here, hybrid offers yet another advantage. Ed-tech teams have the option of maintaining on-site equipment to ensure privacy and confidentiality, while deploying cloud tools elsewhere to gain the advantage of collaboration and productivity applications.
Without flexibility, IT teams would find each of these challenges difficult to overcome. But a hybrid deployment expands their options and provides the flexibility they need to meet the sometimes contradictory demands of individual school buildings. It’s a strategic decision likely to pay large dividends for the ed-tech team and the district, enabling them to benefit from the best of both on-site and cloud communications technology.