Cloud Collaboration Platforms Help Higher Ed Reach Even Higher

Cloud collaboration platforms have proven perfectly suited to the needs of colleges and universities.  The combination of security, collaborative capability, and deployment flexibility means that universities, their students, and faculty have dozens of new options on how to work, protect sensitive information, and access files and data necessary to academic and business success across multiple devices and locations. Especially for large universities, where administrators working on multiple diffuse campuses must often work in concert, cloud platforms such as Box, Dropbox, and Office 365 offer a new system by which university staff can centralize important information while providing access to that information to crucial personnel who might be spread out city, or state wide.

These capabilities provide a new standard for consistency, productivity, efficiency, and ease-of-use. Prior to the evolution of cloud collaboration platforms universities relied on expensive and feature-lacking on-premises file servers. The cloud offers the perfect alternative. Now, faculty spread over multiple campuses and departments can easily share crucial information. Students can communicate with faculty easily, and have their work critiqued in a secure, entirely efficient way. For universities containing tens of thousands of students and faculty—often spread over campuses miles apart—cloud collaboration can prove invaluable.

Worldwide, higher education institutions are ceasing on the potential of the cloud. Let’s take a quick look at how a few individual industry powerhouses are doing so specifically!

Arizona State University Uses Dropbox to Make Five Campuses Into One

With roughly 59,000 undergraduate students and 13,000 graduates spread across five campuses, it would be fair to say that Arizona State University has a lot on its plate. With some of the most extensive research opportunities available to students in the country, ASU has long been a leader in information technology as much as it has been in academics. However, with so many students and campuses to manage, faculty at ASU realized they needed a better way to communicate, collaborate, and access files. Email proved insufficient, as large files shared between professors and administrators could often clog the pipelines or simply fail to send. Should the servers crash due to volume or basic maintenance issues, 72,000 students and roughly 4,000 academic staff would find themselves upstream without a paddle: sensitive and necessary documents inaccessible for an inexcusable amount of time.

In the cloud, the Sun Devils found a solution: centralized access to files that put ease of sharing and collaboration first. With Dropbox, faculty can now share important documents and folders without having to worry about file size or server issues. All staff can access the files they need to keep administrative structures running smoothly and to ensure their students receive the high quality experience that ASU is known for.

After it was revealed that the current system wasn’t working ASU knew what it had to do to ensure the success of all its users. Many faculty, it became clear, were using Dropbox on personal accounts and with Dropbox’s enterprise platform, ASU was able to quickly and simply consolidate all those accounts so that staff could retain all their files and maintain the interface they were comfortable with, while the organization could guarantee enhanced security, and increased administrative oversight of the collaboration among all five campuses.

If that’s not a win-win, we don’t know what is!

Northern Illinois University Gets a Lesson In Consistency and Collaboration With Office 365

For a while, Northern Illinois University—located in DeKalb, Illinois, and home to just over 20,000 students—found itself struggling to adopt the perfect cloud solution. Different schools within the university used different tools, which often led to collaborative chaos. With departments scattered across multiple platforms, cross-departmental collaboration was a massive headache, something only compounded by the fact that professors were often on different platforms than their students.

Needless to say, it was a bit of a mess.

When NIU discovered Office 365, however, all of that changed. Office 365 offered a veritable onslaught of tools that were powerful, efficient, and adaptable. As such, the diversity of tasks in different departments no longer required a whole legion of different platforms. Everyone—faculty, students, and administrators alike—could all use Office 365, confident it would meet their needs!

In adopting a major cloud collaboration platform, NIU learned how cloud services can revitalize and evolve how users work and communicate. With students and their professors, faculty and their superiors, administrators and undergrads all on the same wavelength, NIU was able to function like never before.

University of Michigan Uses Box to Help Fight Cheating

Cheating can be a major issue on handwritten exams, especially for courses with massive enrollments, as a professor at the University of Michigan discovered when a chemistry student got hold of an answer key, photoshopped it to resemble the exam, and handed it in for a regrade opportunity after graded exams were handed back to students in their mailboxes. Luckily, the professor was able to recognize that the falsified exam was printed on a different paper stock than the legitimate exam, but such a lucky catch can’t always be counted on.

Cheating jeopardizes the reputations of professors and institutions alike, and–in classes that are graded on a curve–can even hurt other students who haven’t resorted to taking the easy way out. That’s why, with the help of Box’s cloud collaboration platform, University of Michigan created ExamScan, a way for professors to catalogue and store exams securely in the cloud with unique barcodes that students can’t falsify with tools like Photoshop. After an exam is complete, the unique barcode, student name, and professor name are recorded by IT and stored in the cloud. Students are notified online when the exam is graded and viewable online, but because of that barcode, cannot simply falsify a new exam to hand in for additional credit.

With cloud collaboration platforms, universities have new ways that they can ensure honesty amongst students, and a host of tools and functionalities that allow them to build the structures they need to do so, just like UM did with ExamScan. By working in the cloud, universities can take unnecessary burdens of professors and faculty, and optimize academic tasks and regulations.

Indiana University Uses Box to Give Students the Very Best Tools, No Matter Their Major

Different classes require different tools, but the flexibility of the cloud ensures that no matter the class, department, or major, students have everything they need to take full advantage of their academic experience.

At Indiana University, Box has provided students with untold opportunities, no matter their major. With over 100, 000 users, including students and faculty alike, Box has provided a service that suits everyone’s unique academic and administrative needs!.

Taking a screenwriting course? Access and edit screenplays in real-time alongside other students with comments and notes that are viewable based on who you think should see them! Access that document via your mobile devices, as well, so that you never feel disconnected from your work! Studying Spanish and concerned about pronunciation or grammar? Record yourself and store it where other students can listen and comment, so that–whether in writing or via audio–you feel certain you’re not making those small mistakes that stress us all out!

IU quickly realized the cloud’s capacity for empowering their students, and wasted no time figuring out how they could seize on that wide range of functionalities to ensure that every student enrolled in the university had every tool available, catered specifically to their field of study. Leading the way, Bob Flynn—IU’s Cloud Technology Support Manager—found the most effective and versatile way to implement Box to benefit all students. The result is a university unified, empowered, and propelled by the cloud!

Cloud Collaboration is Helping Universities Graduate to New Levels of Efficiency

University administrators face a host of problems and concerns: the tools available to faculty and students, consolidating massive amounts of information across multiple locations, ensuring consistency and security, and the sheer cost of running a large educational institution.

Cloud collaboration platforms address each and every one of these concerns.

Secure, flexible, cost-efficient, easily-maintainable, and rooted in a storage strategy that allows perpetual, safe, and extensive access and communication, platforms like Box and Dropbox are giving colleges and universities new ways to fulfill their mission statements, and are transforming how many, industry-wide, are conceptualizing the goals and potential of higher education. With so many opportunities available in the cloud, it’s not just the popular thing to migrate. It’s just what’s smart.