AICTE will deploy Microsoft Office 365 for education at more than 10,000 technical colleges and institutes throughout India. The cloud deployment will expand students’ access to high-quality technical education and collaboration.
Office 365 for education is a hosted communication and collaboration service that offers email, Microsoft Office Web Apps, instant messaging and data storage to more than 7 million students and nearly 500,000 faculty members in AICTE resulting in a total reach of 7.5 million users — making AICTE Microsoft’s largest cloud customer.
Speaking to The Hindu Opportunities, Professor S. S. Mantha, Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) explained the benefits about cloud computing in the technical education field and to the students in particular. Excerpts:
How is the current job market for technical education students in the country?
Technical Education in this country is on a growth path.
With more than 8,500 institutes in the degree sector, more than 3500 in the polytechnic sector, and more than 2.2 million seats at the entry level in the degree stream, 1.2 million in the polytechnic stream, we have one of the largest technical education systems in the world.
Employability and employment are two different things.
We need to increase the employment opportunities in various disciplines i.e., the employment market potential needs to be enhanced.
We have under employment, or our students do not find jobs commensurate with their education.
This may be partly due to lack of quality and to a large extent due to lack of employment opportunities.
How is cloud computing expected to improve the employability prospects for technical education students?
The classroom is changing. The world around us is becoming extremely competitive and students and faculty needs are changing, and hence the education system needs to keep pace with these expectations from an education infrastructure point of view as well. Cloud adoption is gravitating colleges and universities as it allows students the opportunities to seamlessly integrate digital lifestyle to support the academic work style.
Microsoft cloud platform covering over 11,500 colleges simplifies online collaboration, increases productivity with its ability to participate in online tutorials, collaborate on assignments, interacting with peers and faculty, and helps students build lifelong relationships with their educational institution. This gives them an edge as they enter the competitive job market.
Through the adoption of Microsoft Office 365 for education, what impact do you foresee in the way AICTE evaluates the quality of technical education in the country?
To carry out the charge of evaluating the curriculum and quality of education for all technical institutes across the country, we needed to have consistent and timely communication with these colleges, some of them located in the remotest districts of India. We wanted to deploy a technology system that would provide an efficient platform for students and the institutional framework, and that would foster efficiency and support broader educational reforms.
One of the major factors in the decision to choose Microsoft’s cloud services for education was Microsoft’s comprehensive commitment to education across all the company’s products and programmes, as well as the real value of Office 365 offering enterprise class security, the familiar Office user interface and world’s largest and most experienced partner ecosystem. The council was also impressed by Microsoft’s extensive experience in higher education and ability to deploy a system across geographically distributed locations without adding significantly to the institutions’ IT management costs or complexity.
Getting the world's best technology, which is ‘Office 365 for education’ in the hands of our students and teachers, is critical to improving educational outcomes and ensuring that students are prepared for the future workplace.
Having said all of the above AICTE would also actively engage students, faculty and the IT services professionals to come forward to develop applications that enhance value addition in technical education.
How is collaboration among the technical education students expected to mature through the adoption of cloud computing?
With Office 365 for education, students can engage in real time collaboration through instant messaging or video chats to collaborate on class projects, regardless of where they are working or on what device. They can create documents with Office Web Apps that provide the same features as the desktop version of Microsoft Office, share class notes by synchronising OneNote notebooks, and create digital portfolios.
Alumni network also plays an important role in building contact and resolving student queries about real life job environment. Office 365 for education also would enable our students to connect with their alumni to share and learn from their experience.
How do students in remote areas stand to gain given the fact that such regions have minimal access to technology?
The country is witnessing increasing internet and PC penetration, mobile penetration is at an all-time high in our country. Add to this a great ICT initiative of MHRD and a national mission to connect all universities and institutions through fibre optics providing more than adequate bandwidth at all times you have a recipe for unlimited growth. Given this as the baseline, cloud technologies will not only support familiarisation but also give a boost to adoption of cloud technologies.
Office 365 for education will enable students in such remote locations to access or create documents on the cloud, optimising the requirement of student to PC ratio.
These technologies come at no cost and enable maximum reach enabling schools to broad-base education and provide students with progressive technologies in the real sense and get them ready for tomorrow.
How will cloud computing address the information security and accessibility issues of AICTE?
Microsoft has the most comprehensive approach to cloud privacy and security in the industry, and in the past year, Office 365 has added support for the most rigorous global and regional standards, including ISO 27001, SAS70 Type II, EU Safe Harbor, EU Model Clauses, the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the U.S. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and more. AICTE values its customers and hence the thrust on and the need for secure data.
Office 365 delivers a broad set of built-in compliance capabilities, highly secure access across platform and devices with premium anti-spam and antivirus technologies making it a true enterprise-class solution. Hence, Office 365 clearly delivers far greater value than other cloud offerings from a security, privacy and reliability stand point.
What are the economic benefits of adopting cloud computing?
Institutes today are looking to optimise IT infrastructure costs and also manpower costs for managing a fully scaled IT infrastructure for their respective institutes. Cloud technologies help institutes to optimise on their IT budgets due to easy management and facilitation, maximised reach and coverage for students, faculty and alumni. Cloud technologies are easy to manage; hence institutes can look at freeing up IT resources from day to day management of IT and align them on more strategic programmes.
Also the real benefit comes in using hybrid technologies to manage them on premise and cloud infrastructure to optimise the spending of money and time for their teams.