How the cloud will support colleges and universities post-pandemic

Even before COVID-19, education technology experienced high growth, with global edtech investments reaching $18.66 billion in 2019. The overall market for online education is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025.

But these numbers are now being “reimagined.” Language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, on-demand courses, or online learning software—there has been a significant surge in remote-learning tech usage since COVID-19 began.

The challenge is that while a few colleges and universities have been slowly moving to remote learning, most have not invested in technology. Even those that made investments prior to the crisis have done so with a mix of expensive traditional and SaaS-based technology, not really leveraging the full potential of public cloud computing. Typically they also use traditional data centers for the notion of “security,” which is not necessarily a guarantee.

There is an upside. Successful online transitions at universities and colleges are already appearing. For instance, Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, was able to get more than 5,000 courses online in just two weeks using DingTalk ZJU, an on-demand education platform and app. The Imperial College London began offering a course on the science of coronavirus; it’s now the most-enrolled class launched in 2020 on Coursera.

The trouble is that despite a few successful examples of online learning, most colleges and universities are not as flush with resources and cash as the institutions with billion-dollar-plus endowments. This is not to mention those that have received government assistance.

Some schools are already in the red, and without the ability to transition to a remote learning model quickly to collect tuition, they will be toast very soon. Indeed, much like some undercapitalized small businesses worldwide, they may find themselves shuttering dorms, student unions, and halls—even universities that have existed for more than 100 years and have millions of alumni.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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