Learner Focused Applications in the Cloud. Case Study

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1 Learner Focused Applications in the Cloud Case Study

2 Colleges and Projects Barnsley College Blackburn College Grimsby Institute Leeds City College North East Worcestershire College Oxford and Cherwell College South Devon College Warrington Collegiate Institute Cloud Computing Hub Core, Hub Metro, Hub Mobile Blackburn College Virtual Desktop Service GIFHE Zone Classroom in the Cloud Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Using Software as service to deliver cloud based and office tools Video Production and Editing for Flipped Classroom Online Cloud Access and backup Summary This set of applications based projects includes a wide range of learner and teacher focused applications and different Cloud related approaches. These applications include; making software and communication/collaboration tools available across colleges, to mobile learners and learners at home, making software widely available to those with learning difficulties, making self-directed learning videos available to vocational students and making college software available at remote college locations. The different Cloud based approaches include remote and college based Cloud servers linked with virtual desk top structures, use of Google apps, docs and mail for education, including Chromebook, Microsoft 365, and the Kaltura open source online video platform used in the Cloud. Key Drivers Software licence costs. Potential of collaboration. Limitations on server capacity. Constraints to learning approaches. Limitations of buildings, Limitations of bandwidth and room utilisation issues and student software costs. Need to integrate information systems. Intended Beneficiaries Learner. Prospective learners. Partners. Staff. 2

3 Impact to date and anticipated The impact of these projects includes increased accessibility to applications software by learners and staff within college, at home and on mobile devices. This increased flexibility is enabling efficiencies in learning and support. In one project learners are able to access some specific software for those with learning difficulties at any time or place. Another project enables students in Hospitality and Hair and Beauty to engage in self- directed learning from videos on how to practice their vocation. A number of projects enable learners to use their own devices both in and out of college. Some of these projects enable collaborative working through document sharing. Barnsley College: By bringing this project into the College and making available externally, it will offer Staff / Students a mechanism of sharing, developing of information and communication tools previously unavailable within the College. The College have developed an understanding of how we can use and develop the collaborative aspects of the social and group spaces that Cloud Computing and this project will bring. This project will have the most impact in September 2013 when all of the new Students return and will heavily use the system and resources, the project needs to fully test and stress test the system to ensure that it will meet the needs of our Staff and Students. Blackburn College: Blackburn College has designed and created a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) which allows students to access the MindView software anytime, anywhere without the need for a laptop. The software supports students, particularly those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities to brain storm ideas enabling them to structure their essay plans using diagrams, words or images. This method of studying can also be beneficial to any students so we aim to extend the service beyond the initial pilot and promote it so that any Blackburn College student can access it. In addition College staff can now access internal software such as Microsoft Office and SPSS externally to the College. Session based desktops are also available which enables software to be accessed via the student network in classroom settings. Over the next year, the College will look at any additional software packages which can be included in the VDI service. Grimsby Institute: As part of our ILT and IT strategies we have identified the need to support the bringing of learners own technologies into our College network environment. This has generally been through the provision of internet access on their devices. Taking this a step further we are now going to provide access to full College resources on their device or home PC via a 'Cloud' desktop infrastructure. This would allow the same experience on these devices as College owned devices, and supplement considerably on the VLE which gives access to learning materials to radically enrich the learner access and control. It would give access to the full College experience from home or mobile devices. Student experience has generally been positive. Leeds City College: IBM Virtual Desktop Infrastructure has been delivered to a trial group of staff and students, allowing access to desktop resources and applications from a range of mobile devices. Leeds City College students are now gaining a rich mobile learning experience gaining a technologically immersive experience using both College and their own devices, interacting during a lesson in a controlled environment. Global accessibility, allowing learning on demand -accessing college systems and software when and where they choose on any web enabled device. 3

4 North East Worcestershire College: A key feature is Single sign on to allow access to Google and all web based resources. This is currently in pilot. Staff and students have reported ease of access to files and ease of sharing with others. Students use features such as forms for research tasks. Oxford and Cherwell College: The Kaltura open source online video platform was installed and configured to OCVC platforms. Presentations were given to prospective curriculum areas to pilot the project with their students. Pilots were run in Hair & Beauty and Hospitality. Students engaged well with video content for learning and flipped learning and good practice was identified. The Platform allowed control and a managed environment for specific selection of video sharing and keeping students focused on tasks. Peer-to-peer learning was taking place and students collaborating on techniques and experiences. Demonstrations were arranged to re-enforce effective methods of engaging, motivating and supporting student progression. South Devon College: The project delivers applications, resources, data storage andcommunication to remote locations to enable staff and learners. It also enabled back up for disaster recovery purposes of some of our critical servers. We have allowed all of our staff and students at our seven remote sites to access all the software and resources, to enable them to complete their studies. The staff and learners have remote access to software and resources which they have never had and they are finding this invaluable to the curriculum. Supplier engagement experiences Some projects experienced very productive supplier experiences. JISC has proved helpful in informing supplier selection. Some colleges used their own services rather than an external supplier. Others were naturally limited in their supplier choice by the specialist nature of their project. Renegotiating bandwidth provision within a context of supplier constraints proved to be a challenge. There are some valuable hints and tips that have emerged for dealing with suppliers. Blackburn College: The College consulted with a number of suppliers but found their services to be expensive and lacked the flexibility to support our project and current college systems and infrastructure. It was decided that in order to gain the most value from this project, it should be designed in house using the expertise of the Colleges Computer Services team. Leeds City College: We have had an extremely positive experience in selecting IBM as a key technology partner. No issues were identified - both Leeds City College and IBM worked together to deliver the cloud solution. North East Worcestershire College: There were issues finding a reliable and reputable provider to work with. Using the JISC Community of practice - helped find a supplier based on recommendations and real life project work completed. Oxford and Cherwell College: Identifying the Cloud provider was fairly straight forward as we were looking for video production in the Cloud, so the search was specific. There were a lot of companies that could provide the platform but not the cloud facility, but that was identified early in discussions. Suppliers are very forthcoming with information but I have learnt about the 'sales' pitch. The larger 4

5 companies will definitely promise all functionality, but when the account is passed over to the account manager you realise that certain aspects are still in development. It is important to see the functionality before purchase, question all scenarios and ask for demonstrations and to also see the platform in use at other providers. South Devon College: We used long standing contacts with years of IT experience to recommend cloud service suppliers and having met several, the decision and implementation was very simple. Contacting them to report issues has been simple. Warrington Collegiate Institute: We struggled to get our broadband service provider to provide our upgraded internet bandwidth. Technical and Security Challenges Barnsley College: There were no major issues but getting the data from all the data streams proved to be difficult at times - contacting all suppliers asking them to provide access and code as required. Blackburn College: Remote Desktop services have many components and proved complex to configure to our environment. As the system was designed in house we were able to create a bespoke system which integrated with our current infrastructure. Grimsby Institute: The only real risk we had was the worry that a full cloud desktop may just not work in a real environment. This risk was mitigated by having a backup plan - of putting back into the FE Learning Centres the 50 full PCs that we were replacing with cloud technology. Thankfully the project has worked really well and will be the backbone for future roll-outs within the group. Leeds City College: One technical challenge was identified in creating the virtual desktop environment and integrating to the college networks, however this was solved pretty quickly. Oxford and Cherwell College: LDAP authentication caused issues as we had not anticipated that this caused delays with implementation. Application of the service certificate through JANET delayed the implementation. Use of devices - we had planned to use ipads but then found the platform didn't support uploads, although you could view the video. We now have the code to install this so that this feature works. Change Management experience The main themes emerging here are the need for well -planned training for staff and students, selling the benefits of the technology to gain buy in and the use of pilot groups to share findings and inform training, In one project change management was informed by the needs of learners as a driver for change against the background of a reluctant IT department. 5

6 Blackburn College: The response to the VDI has been positive across the College and following the pilot it is our intention to showcase the service and encourage feedback from staff and students on what software would support their work and studies. Staff development sessions will also be held to support staff in the use of the service and its further development. North East Worcestershire College: Staff were initially wary of using a cloud based service to host files and were worried about issues of access - could they get them all the time etc? Initially we did Google apps training as one thing but found we had to break down each individual element and work on supporting staff on each element of the app family. Oxford and Cherwell College: With a view to technological advances, it was recognised that we needed to move with requirements of 24/7 access. Students priorities to learn are drivers of change, and with this in mind the decisions to move to Cloud provision was needed. The IT team were the most reluctant to change and needed to be convinced of the need to move services with greater accessibility. Although data security is still very important, IT Services need to recognise that the Cloud facilities are essential for change. South Devon College: To update software we have done these during half term so as not disrupt teaching. Return on investment Some colleges have stated that it is too early to identify savings. Others have identified significant specific and general savings from server, licence and internal application costs. Other savings are identified in saving teaching and technical staff costs. General gains through technology-influenced retention of learners are also cited. Barnsley College: It is too early to provide hard facts in the cost saving, but server and external hosting, text messaging and other communicating systems costs will all be reduced or removed, and we will evaluate and review requirements during 2013/14. Blackburn College: The College estimates that through further investment the VDI service will save the College 150,000 over 3 years. Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities are currently loaned laptops to access MindView until they receive their Disabled Student Allowance. The laptops can be loaned out up to 4 months each time and due to demand there is a waiting list. The current laptops are of considerable age and are all due for replacement. The VDI service will enable students to access MindView, without the need of a laptop, and therefore will save the College 25,000. In addition when each laptop is returned it must be cleaned andreimaged in line with changes to core applications i.e. windows, ant virus etc. This will save the College 1, in staff time. There are also operational difficulties encountered in retrieving laptops and the costs incurred through non returned items (approximately two laptops per year = 2,500) and the associated small claims procedures. 6

7 Leeds City College: If the College progresses with the solution across other departments, anticipated savings of over 100,000 could be achieved with a reduction in hardware capital expenditure. North East Worcestershire College: Reduction in server maintenance and overheads through reduction in reliance on on-site storage and servers potential reduction in printing costs through collaboration tools (students using forms for surveys certainly have reduced the amount of printing needed). Oxford and Cherwell College: Staff time - in re-designing the curriculum, staff have identified the benefits of saving demonstration time, and using that time to 'teach' and test knowledge and understanding. South Devon College: No cost savings but more learners at remote centres have now got access to software. Lessons Learned Barnsley College: We would have liked the project aligned with the launch of office 365 and ended in September North East Worcestershire College: We would have worked on understanding the training needs required to fully grasp the tool sets and features available. Full roll out to everyone was ambitious, but as more people make use of the tools, more are moving towards the platform. Oxford and Cherwell College: We would have Identified the compatibility of the platform to current college platforms. We would have ensured that all functionality of the system, promised by the sales team, is operational 7

8 With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the development of this case study and consultant Chris West Association of Colleges Stedham Place, London WC1A 1HU Tel: Fax: Website:

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