Modernize, learn from data and stay secure in higher education


Raechelle Clemmons leads the Higher Education Public Sector Strategic Business Development team at Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS is the world’s most comprehensive and widely adopted cloud platform. In this question-and-answer session with the Center for Digital Education, Clemmons explains how cloud technologies are helping colleges and universities modernize their infrastructure and make data-driven decisions while staying secure. To watch the video chat, click here.

How are cloud technologies helping colleges strike a balance between the need to modernize and the need to stay secure?
Traditional campus computing environments are limited by space, data center capacity, number and type of servers, and their ability to regularly update technology. Their infrastructure is susceptible to disruption from natural disasters and cybersecurity threats such as ransomware. The move to the cloud helps institutions strike a balance between increased security, agility and resiliency. Cloud providers like AWS manage cloud security, providing an additional layer of protection. Users can scale resources without worrying about their capacity.

How do cloud technologies contribute to better decision making in higher education?
Institutions are often rich in data and poor in knowledge. This is mainly because the data is not centralized – it is often found in multiple applications, databases, spreadsheets and under people’s desks. It is not accessible throughout the organization.

Executives at Maryville University in St. Louis recently launched an ambitious data collection and analysis project with the goal of improving student outcomes. They have created a centralized repository for student data, which they can tap into for holistic information.

Executives at Maryville know that students who succeed in their first semester are more likely to graduate. So we worked with them to review and bring together their data sources. Within six weeks, they began to tackle the problem of who was at risk in the first semester. They created textual nudges to improve the results of these students. In a cloud environment, you can start small and scale. You don’t have to bet on a solution that could take months or years to implement. You can get started quickly.

How does the cloud help colleges create a smooth user experience?
The cloud can play an important role in enabling continuity of teaching and learning, as well as equity and access to resources. For example, virtual computer labs can allow students to access applications from anywhere. And cloud-based call center solutions can make the student experience much better than ever before. At the University of Texas at Austin, AWS helped implement a contact center solution with voice and text communications and an integrated chatbot. In a follow-up survey, 84% of students said it was easy to get technical support during the pandemic. They reduced the time it took for a student to reach someone live from 15 minutes to less than 30 seconds, without changing their numbers and cutting costs by 30%.

How do cloud technologies support research capabilities in higher education?
Researchers operate in an interesting environment with rigorous compliance standards and growing security concerns. And they are under pressure to quickly deliver research findings while reducing costs. But the researchers are

not often technologists. In the cloud, researchers have almost unlimited access to resources such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. These resources can allow them to focus on new knowledge and discoveries without worrying about technology.

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