Why cloud computing could be the key to education’s retention crisis

James McDonagh, director of EMEA at tech recruitment company Nigel Frank International, discusses how cloud technology could be the first step in keeping teachers happy

Cloud computing is transforming the way we live, the way we work, and the way we access goods and services. No industry is going untouched, the education sector included.

More than a third of UK universities have adopted cloud computing to date; a higher rate than any other type of public body. Clearly education institutions are well on their way to digitally transforming their operations, but there’s still work to be done. A policy paper published by the Department for Education earlier this year, the government recommended that “all education providers actively consider and evaluate the benefits of moving to a cloud-based approach for their IT system”.

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The benefits of the cloud to the education sector are obvious; serverless computing is often cheaper, more secure, and facilitates greater collaboration and enhanced learning opportunities. Many of today’s students are digital natives, well-versed in digital services and used to having unencumbered access to the information they need, and the ability to communicate in real time.

Bringing their services in-line with student expectations and using tech to improve outcomes is now a no-brainer for education institutions of all levels and sizes – but it’s not just students who can benefit from the adoption of cloud computing.

A new weapon in the retention battle?

The modern workplace has changed drastically in recent years. Professionals in every sector want to work for companies that move with the times, and invest in technology to make their jobs easier. Flexible working, real-time collaboration, and instant access to data are now the minimum expectations that employees have of their organisations. Companies need to operate at this standard in order to compete and to attract great talent—and nowhere is this more important than in the education sector.

Given that around one in four teachers quit within the first 12 months on the job, retention is a huge consideration for schools and colleges. The majority of teaching professionals who throw in the towel cite excessive workloads as a key factor pushing them out of the door and out of the sector.

Automation is just one example of the tools the cloud can offer overworked educators. Using AI and machine learning services to automate repetitive tasks boosts employee satisfaction, freeing them up to concentrate on big-picture stuff, like focusing their attention where it’s needed most.

Flexible working, real-time collaboration, and instant access to data are now the minimum expectations that employees have of their organisations.

One area where automation can make a big difference to education institutions is administration. Even for the smallest of schools, enrolment, scheduling, and ensuring access to services can be a huge undertaking. Syncing the agendas of students and teachers to a cloud-based calendar and automating updates can relieve pressure on staff and make sure everyone gets where they need to go.

By taking tasks like these off their plates, automation helps education staff be more productive, achieve a better work-life balance, and carve out more time for learning and development – all of which are core pillars of job satisfaction.

Teaching is a tough – and immeasurably important – job. No amount of technology is going to remove the challenges faced by today’s educators, but embracing cloud computing can go a long way toward smoothing the road.

With big tech names getting in on edtech and levelling the playing field, teachers have greater access than ever to flexible and affordable cloud tools. Platforms like Microsoft Classroom and Google for Education are enabling teachers to generate and dispense lesson plans, tests, homework, and learning materials through a single platform. They can work from anywhere, freeing them from the shackles of their desks at all hours. This streamlining of admin and freedom to work outside of the classroom will inevitably pave the way to lower stress levels and greater job satisfaction, meaning lower turnover.

Upskilling for the future

As useful as cloud platforms can be, they still require their users to know what they’re doing in order to have a positive effect on productivity. If you’re rolling out new tech, you need to provide training; teachers need teaching too.

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Where new tech fails to provide a return on investment, lack of user adoption is usually to blame. Not only does inadequate user training severely dent the benefits you’ll get from using cloud-based edtech, but the frustration it can cause among users can increase workloads and drive staff out.

It’s clear that having smart, accessible systems in place to help staff spend time on impactful and valuable tasks is essential for keeping staff happy, particularly in high-pressure sectors like education. Institutions that embrace the cloud will enjoy better outcomes not only for their students, but their staff too.