Section 4.5 learner focused applications in the cloud
The Progression of Cloud Computing
in Further Education Colleges
Learner-Focused Applications in the Cloud
A study based on Cloud Technology projects managed by the
Association of Colleges and funded by the Skills Funding
Agency - 2012 - 2013
Detailed outcomes from Individual Projects
4.5 Learner-Focused Applications in the Cloud
Needs and Opportunities
There is an ongoing and increasing need to make software and communication/collaboration tools
available across College sites to mobile learners and to learners at home. As part of this there is a
need to make software widely available to those with physical disabilities and learning
difficulties. There is also a need for good quality multi-media learning materials to progress
Cloud computing has the potential to enable access to learning applications anytime, anywhere
and on a range of user devices.
Barking and Dagenham College: This project has focussed on the use of Google Apps and docs in
embedded learning primarily in eILPs. This approach is being used in learning across the College.
Barnsley College: This project has provided a robust, innovative system to enable collaborative
learning to take place within and external to the College and targeted information to be provided
groups, students and Staff. It is based on cloud hosting of learning applications through Hub
Metro and Hub Mobile, a tailored set of web applications.
Blackburn College: This provides Virtual Desktop Services to all College learners and specific
services to those with learning difficulties or disabilities. This project uses Microsoft as a software
Grimsby Institute GIFHE Zone: As part of the College’s ILT and IT strategies it has identified the
need to support the bringing of learners’ own technologies into the College network environment.
This has generally been through the provision of internet access on learners’ devices. Taking this
a step further, the College is now going to provide access to full College resources on learners’
devices or home PC via a ‘ cloud ‘ desktop infrastructure. This would allow the same experience
on these devices as College-owned devices, and would supplement considerably the VLE which
gives access to learning materials to radically enrich the learner access and control. It would give
access to the full ‘College’ experience from home or mobile devices.
Leeds City College: This large project is focused on provision of ‘Classroom in the cloud’ through
the use of a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure which enables access to applications by learners on
mobile as well as College devices. It utilises a private cloud and is currently being trialled on one
site of the College. The strategy partner is IBM Global Services working with Vissensa. The IBM
server runs Hypervisor and Linux. It includes access to Collabco’s MyDay product and a
Windows 8 App. This effectively means that ‘the tablet is the College’. The integration of a wide
range of College services is accessed through a single sign-on facility.
North East Worcestershire College: By utilising cloud-based applications North East
Worcestershire College have enabled collaborative technologies and mobile working options to
help support the work of all staff and students. The funding from the AoC has allowed the
College to dedicate time and resources to supporting staff and students to use these technologies
and explore avenues for reducing costs by working with partners to develop our cloud-based
systems. Single sign-on has allowed staff and students access to over 40 resources, not just the
cloud-based storage and email. This has reduced the amount of training required to access
resources and removed some of the pressure off LRC staff in helping users locate usernames and
passwords for the various tools.
Oxford and Cherwell College: This project involves the use of a video platform to pilot flipped
learning in Hair & Beauty and Hospitality at the College.
South Devon College: This project, which was part of a wider project, was to set up a remote farm
of servers to allow students, teaching staff and remote workers to access all College systems. The
College worked closely with Deverills, an IT consultant, to implement a farm.
Warrington Collegiate Institute: This project involves the use of VMware to enable all College
learning applications to be available across the College and at remote sites.
The common characteristic of these projects is the use of the cloud to provide increased
access to learning applications across College sites, at remote sites and at home. A variety of
approaches have been used to achieve this and a range of benefits have been derived. The
majority of these projects are longer term in that they are evolving to add further learning
applications, support different groups of learners and on an increasing range of devices.
All projects have achieved some early impact with strong potential for more.
There are a range of different delivery methods:
Barking & Dagenham College, Grimsby College and North East Worcestershire have used
Google Apps. Barnsley College has used SharePoint to deliver bespoke web solutions.
Blackburn College, Leeds College and Warrington College have used different forms of
virtual desktop approaches. Oxford and Cherwell’s project is focused on video learning
resources and uses Kaltura.
Some Colleges are using public cloud solutions whilst others are based on private cloud
solutions, based in a College but serving other sites, remote locations and home access. In
some cases the use of a private cloud is an interim measure prior to using a public cloud.
Two projects at Leeds City College and North East Worcestershire focus significantly on
single sign-in facilities.
The Blackburn College project has a specific focus on making learning applications available
widely to those with learning or physical disabilities.
A number of projects at Barking & Dagenham College, Leeds City College and North East
Worcestershire have significantly involved development partners.
Warrington College experienced significant challenges with upgrading JANET bandwith.
Some Colleges such as Barnsley College expect minimal savings but a much improved service
whilst other such as Leeds City College, Grimsby College and North East Worcestershire
College are experiencing and planning significant savings. These savings include PC
replacement where thin clients are used, server replacement and staff savings.
Some Colleges, such as North East Worcestershire College, have included email facilities.
A number of projects, such as Barnsley College and Leeds City College, integrate student
relationship management with Learning Support.
Leeds City College made significant use of formal project management
methodology – PRINCE2.
Barking and Dagenham College: Google cloud hosting of Google Apps.
Barnsley College: Cloud hosting of College learning applications for College, home and mobile
access (Hub Core, Hub Metro, Hub Mobile) using SharePoint.
Blackburn College: Using Microsoft Remote desktop services to provide access to remote
applications and remote sessions for full desktops.
Grimsby Institute: This includes a Remote Desktop Protocol. There is use of thin clients in College
with the desktop available on students’ mobiles and other devices. It includes the use of Google
Apps and Google Mail. Students may use their own devices in College, which is supported by
North East Worcestershire College: The work has centred around the implantation of the system
to allow single sign-on access to a number of resources and email management system.
“This was broken down into two phases – phase one saw the creation of a shibboleth solution
alongside a cloud-based single sign-on applications server allowing all users access to a variety of
resources including the Colleges VLE, Intranet and library resources. Phase two saw the
integration of our Google Apps domain with the shibboleth server to allow for complete single
sign-on to all resources. This now enables users to collect email, upload, create and share
documents from any internet-enabled computer or device and have transparent and speedy
access to the College’s other online resources”.
In terms of development internally the team has worked to support the creation of a number of
resources to help staff adjust to the new document management tools, this included handouts and
online video guides showing the features and benefits of the Google Apps suite.
“As we rolled out the offer to College leadership we spent a good deal of time organising
one- to-one training sessions to show how their mobile devices (primarily iPads and iPhones)
could be used to access and create content on the move. This has now been expanded across the
College with departmental meetings being used as informal training sessions to launch the new
features within departments from late February.”
“There is still some work to do around the creation of the staff intranet such as some issues
around ownership and who can edit what. Unlike the previous intranet which was ‘static’ by
utilising the site’s functionality within Apps, we now have the ability to allow users to interact
and take responsibility which is really helping drive improvements in the accuracy of the
information now shared.”
Oxford and Cherwell College: Use of the Kaltura video platform in conjunction with Moodle.
South Devon College: Remote desktop server.
Warrington Collegiate Institute: Private cloud.
Barking and Dagenham: The College linked
with a Google Education partner, Damson
Consulting. The College lost connection to the
internet due an issue with JANET and – this
made access to Google Apps not possible via
our internal network for around 14 hours.
Barnsley College: Worked with a software
North East Worcestershire College:
“There were issues finding a reliable and reputable provider to work with. There were some
horror stories out there. Using the JISC Community of Practice helped find a supplier based on
recommendations and real life project work completed.”
Oxford and Cherwell: Kaltura video hosting system.
Be aware of the sales pitch for the product – you are promised the earth and then you may
find not yet developed in platform
Identify if IT Services can install, configure and have resource capacity to support project
Test usability on all browsers and devices to ensure anytime, anywhere access is available
Project plan with consideration of ‘testing’ on each phase of implementation
South Devon: Deverills.
Warrington Collegiate Institute: The College experienced considerable difficulties with the timely
securing of upgraded bandwidth and the necessary routers.
Project and Change Management
Barnsley College: The system was developed in consultation with students and includes access to
MyDay, timetables, e-payments, VLE and email. Promotion and training to all staff of the
functions and abilities took place in June / July. The following activities have been achieved:
Promotion to students of the site in September, and the eLearning tutorial on how to use; to
date (1st October 2013) 48% of full-time students have viewed this tutorial.
Site heavily used by both students and staff - 358,978 page views to date (1st October 2013).
Barnsley College have undertaken a series of meeting with the software provider to discuss
and to agree the planning and finalising of the software specifications for the development of
the HubMetro V3.
A development and build timeline is in place and work is on time.
Blackburn College: The team have worked with all concerned to find a solution which best fits
all the staff and student needs rather than adopt a piecemeal approach. The VDI system has been
complex to develop in order to manage both the staff and student areas and ensure that they are
both given priority.
Grimsby Institute: There were initial issues based around setting up of remote desktop
infrastructure. Best practice guides did not work for us in practice. Issues around printing set-ups
caused a big performance issue to start with.
“Some internal pressures meant we could not dedicate enough time to the testing phase so ended
up having to ‘test’ in a live environment which was not ideal.”
Leeds City College: Planning, communication and detailed project management (PRINCE2
aspects) were identified as extremely important. Engaging stakeholders at an early stage is also
North East Worcestershire College: Change management was done through a series of pilot
groups focusing on different features of the product. This information was then shared with the
whole organisation to allow all to see the pros and cons of each tool; this was also then linked to
training and support materials.
“Staff were initially wary of using a cloud-based service to host files and were worried about
issues of access - could they get them all the time etc. Initially we did Google Apps training as
one thing but realised quickly we had to break down each individual element and work on
supporting staff on each element of the app family.”
Oxford and Cherwell College: The development of materials using Kaltura and Moodle has
been delayed due to technical issues and support for installation of the plug-in. This has delayed
the roll out of the platform to the whole College. However the evaluations and discussions with
curriculum areas has highlighted the importance of visual learning and a managed platform for
delivery of the content. The emphasis of the project outcome changed to reflect this technical
problem and development focused more on teaching and learning pedagogy rather than platform
delivery to the whole College.
Warrington Collegiate Institute: Having finalised a Dell VMware View Centre, there has been a
progressive roll-out of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Licences and Virtual machines. This includes
on-site and off-site use. Users include Finance, Exams, Autocad and Multimedia students. Staff
and students are using virtual machines from home. The project has been particularly successful
in supporting students and staff at Orford Park, a new College centre on a site shared with
Warrington Borough Council. Users at Orford Park can access virtual machines as if they were on
College premises. New starters think that the system is fantastic.
Barking and Dagenham College: See entry in Section 4.4 – Employment-/Business-Focused
Applications in the Cloud
Barnsley College: The project is expected to have greater impact in the 2013-14 academic year
when students will be heavily using the system and resources.
The project needs to fully test and stress-test the system to ensure that it will meet the needs of our
staff and students.
Blackburn College: The service will support our wide range of students who all have different
needs and widen the facilities available beyond designated classrooms and IT suites. In particular
the VDI will provide additional support to students who require specific software due to a
learning difficulty and/or disability.
“Student experience has generally been positive. Using the thin client technology we have been
able to reduce log on times in our Learning Centre by 75%. We are also able to provide access
to the latest software through a single point of deployment ensuring we can respond to changing
curriculum needs. Further feedback will be provided when the external access part of the project
Leeds City College: Positive initial feedback has been received already, with students accessing a
‘virtual desktop’ and ‘applications housed on a virtual desktop from College-owned devices and
their own mobile devices. Students are now gaining a rich social learning experience gaining
a technology immersive experience using their own device, interacting during a lesson in a
Global accessibility is allowing learning on demand accessing College systems and software when
and where they choose on any web-enabled device.
North East Worcestershire College: Cloud-based storage is now available for students and staff
to upload, create and share documents. This approach extends to mobile devices and is enabling
paperless assignment submission and feedback both within and outside the VLE. With storage
being at 5GB and accessed through single sign-on, there is a reduction in the need for user training
The use of cloud-based email storage has enabled the College to remove the exchange server, use
Google Vault for back-ups, reduce the storage requirements by 600GB and back-up times by two
hours each evening.
Oxford and Cherwell College:
Students engaged well with video content for learning and flipped learning good practice
Platform allowed control and managed environment for specific selection of video sharing
and keeping students focused on tasks
Peer-to-peer learning taking place and students collaborating on techniques and experiences
Demonstrations to re-enforce learning effective method of engaging, motivating and
supporting student progression
Bank of videos can be re-purposed and used to show techniques for future teaching &
South Devon College:
“Learners at remote sites can access the same software as those in College. Users have now got
access to all applications and resources at the main site which means they can be more efficient.
New or prospective students can take initial assessments at local centres rather than having to
travel many miles to complete and results/advice can be given instantly. Remote desktop
services have enabled us to easily install and deliver applications, access to resources and
information to users at all our remote sites. The implementation was relatively easy and because
of the investment we have put into our virtual environment costs were minimal as far as software
and hardware were concerned”.
Warrington Collegiate Institute:
“Vmware has been crucial to allowing the development and successful usage of Orford Jubilee
Park as a learning site for the Sports Department. It effectively allows students to access their
information, work and emails.”
Having students’ work, notes, assessments and resources available at their fingertips, independent
of location, has made a significant impact on the College’s ability to support them. Furthermore,
students can now access industry-standard specialist software, such as Photoshop or
Dreamweaver, from wherever they are and whenever they need it. Staff are gaining further
advantage by accessing software such as this as wel as student achievement data from outside the
Barking and Dagenham College: See Savings section in Employment/Business area section 4.3
“There will be an electricity saving from not providing a dedicated server (approximately £1000/
year). There will be a saving on support costs as the use of the cloud puts no additional pressure
on IT support.”
This will be updated in June 2014.
“We are the 14th largest College in the country, operating from 14 sites. As we support more
BYOT the costs to the organisation reduce (virtual centres and shared accessible resources) as
we will not be required to upgrade or install more PC-based systems as we will support student’s
own devices. This project would also be a catalyst for looking at Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
solutions to further reduce the total cost of ownership, improve access and achieve step change in
Leeds City College:
“In-house costs in Year 1 to deploy a local virtualised solution:
£140,000 - Data centre infrastructure and running costs
£500,000 - - Virtual desktop licenses
£105,000 - Microsoft licenses
TOTAL - £745,000
Anticipated ‘cloud’ costs in Year 1 = £194,700 - total cost.
COST SAVINGS of £550,300 would be achieved with a cloud solution.”
North East Worcestershire
Cost reduction has been
achieved in server
maintenance and overheads
through reduction in
reliance on on-site storage
and email servers. There is a
potential reduction in
printing costs through the
use of collaboration tools.
Estimated savings of £480
per year have been achieved
through the removal of two
servers used for the through
exchange and intranet platforms. Savings have also been made in removing DR maintenance
agreements and maintenance supplied by the in-house IT Team. Further savings of £3000 per year
have been achieved removing reliance on the current library authentication software.
Oxford and Cherwell College:
“Savings would be made against the cost of additional hardware to store future data, provide a
cost reduction through fewer devices to store data on, requiring less power. Savings against man
hours of managing video data in multiple locations, less searching of systems for videos.
Teachers will be able to re-purpose and re-use materials and use across curriculum areas saving
on development time, which increases quality and standards across the group of a seamless
To be reviewed further in 2014.
Sustainability and Expected Longer Term Impact
Grimsby Institute: There is a sustainable IT agenda: To provide technologies that can reduce
power consumption and reduce running costs. The trial for this is running with 52 thin client
machines in our FE Learning Centre, and 16 thin client machines running in our new Sports
Centre. These machines connect to our cloud desktop. Since September 2012 we have had 8000+
log-ins to the system.
South Devon College: The Remote Desktop Service implementation is highly scalable and has the
potential to be rolled out across not only all our current and future remote sites but also the main
campus which could mean that our present rolling replacement programme of desktop PCs could
easily be extended. This would not only reduce the cost of replacement but would also reduce our
Replicablity for the Wider FE Sector
Grimsby Institute: The College is available for other institutions to discuss the process we
implemented, pitfalls we encountered and general sharing of good practice.
Leeds City College: Information sharing through video conferencing, web demonstration
sessions, and reports made available to the wider audience. IBM have worked on a similar project
at Birmingham Metropolitan College.
With thanks to all project partners who contributed to the
development of this report and consultant Chris West
The Association of Colleges 2013
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