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Technology & Innovation

The sky’s (not) the limit with enterprise SaaS for education

Larger education institutions are embracing cloud SaaS technologies as one way to unlock more agile responses to the fast-changing world of learning.


The cloud is nothing new to Australian organisations in general. Moving into the mainstream over the last decade, many enterprises of different sizes and in diverse sectors have moved to realise its advantages, from the ability to scale and be innovative, to reducing overheads.


This has increased through the 2020s. With a global pandemic forcing increased remote work and online collaboration, organisations of all types have been confronted with the need to make the cloud a priority for conducting business so they can innovate and thrive into the future. 


In Australia, spending on public cloud is forecast to reach A$18.7 billion in 2022 according to Gartner, up 17.6% from last year. SaaS now accounts for nearly half of the total local cloud market, followed by Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).


The why of cloud SaaS for education institutions


Technology is managed differently by each education institution. The decision to utilise cloud SaaS depends on a range of factors and will ultimately rest on knowing what the key drivers are for the educator. Here are some of the main drivers we find are common. 


Mobility and flexibility: The cloud enables education businesses, their trainers and their students to access and collaborate seamlessly on the information they need at any time, from anywhere, and on any device. This creates opportunities for managing teams on the go, building training opportunities that are not tied to a specific physical location, as well as creating efficiencies in management through the likes of student or employer portals.


Productivity and impact: One of the main aims of the cloud is to increase productivity right up and down the breadth of an education provider’s operations. For educators, this means advantages like providing 24/7 student self-service access to speed up and cut the costs of administration, and benefitting from automated workflows and mass bulk actions in real-time that gives everyone the foundation of a ‘single source of truth’ for student data.


Integration and collaboration: Integrations between cloud technologies allow the data within different systems to talk to each other instantly. In the context of education, this means the ability to be creative in the use of data and technology right along the student journey, from integrating student management and learning management systems to building multiple connections with other areas of the business like finance software.


Agility and innovation: Perhaps the most cited advantage of SaaS in the cloud, is that educators can scale operations up or down and access upgrades in an agile way without the hinderance of housing physical servers or relying on their own internal IT support teams. This could mean flexibly responding to changes in a provider’s workforce and allow the fast deployment of new features designed for the market in real-time that support the roll-out of innovative student experiences as well as currency with core compliance requirements.


Financial and cost savings: The cloud changes spending on IT from an upfront capital expenditure to an ongoing operational expenditure. This usually means the subscription costs associated with the cloud are less than an education business would need to spend if they continued doing it all themselves, which in the past would mean paying for servers, IT support and maintenance in addition to hosting and storage costs.


Security and infrastructure: Cloud service providers are able to deliver much higher levels of data security. Because their business relies on storing and protecting data, providers like ReadyTech will usually invest more in achieving the most advanced levels of data security, meaning important information like student data ends up being much safer in the bank vault of the secure cloud rather than stashed ‘under the mattress’ at home.


Why cloud SaaS is winning over custom-builds


There has been a general trend away from custom builds towards cloud SaaS for a number of reasons. In the past, large enterprise software builds were the flavour of the day, before the advantages of cloud began to become clear. However, many struck challenges, from the length of the roll-out, to technical and user adoption problems. The reality is now that the world has also only continued to speed up, stepping up the pace of change required for custom built systems. With an exploding ecosystem of EdTech and other technologies, the idea one custom system can support future innovation is fading for many educators.


Cloud SaaS has enabled education institutions where possible to decrease the time taken to launch new technologies and outsource the maintenance of systems to expert technologists (including letting someone else handle regular compliance-related upgrades). These systems are easier for users to adopt, often boasting a consumer grade user experiences. They also lower the initial cost of investment. While seemingly constraining educators who want bespoke solutions, the reality is many of today’s cloud SaaS systems have rich functionality, involve their users in roadmapping development, and have large numbers of integrations.


Interested in learning more about how we help providers with next generation enterprise student management technology? Learn more here.