One of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. is how to strengthen our schools in order to maintain our competitiveness in the global marketplace. And to do so in an increasingly tough economic climate. Fortunately, a growing array of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Cloud Computing vendors are demonstrating that they can significantly improve the effectiveness of our schools and the quality of education being provided.
The declining quality of U.S. schools has been an issue of concern for years. Plenty of innovative programs have been initiated to combat these issues, like the one profiled in the terrific new movie, “ Waiting for Superman ”.
However, our schools need more than just extraordinary teachers and innovative educational programs to overcome today’s challenges. They need more efficient and cost-effective systems to permit the teachers, administrators and even parents to focus more of their time and energies on these exciting initiatives.
The good news is that an increasing number of secondary schools and universities are turning to SaaS and Cloud Computing alternatives to meet their escalating needs. Nearly half of the schools who participated in a 2009 survey conducted by SchoolDude.com and eSchool News were already using one or more SaaS solutions.
I've been watching firsthand how new SaaS and Cloud Computing solutions are becoming more prevalent through the experiences of my three sons; I have one at the middle school, high school and college level.
The most prominent example of this phenomenon is Google Apps, which has become pervasive at both the secondary school and college levels. A growing generation of Google Apps users, often prodded by a new generation of young teachers, is becoming exposed to the power of these online collaboration tools. These tools change the way teachers and students interact.
A recent deployment of Google Apps in New Yorkillustrates how various school districts are seeking to leverage this SaaS/Cloud service. To quote the press release:
New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), in partnership with the New York State Teacher Centers and associated Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), the New York State teacher unions and New York State professional organizations, will offer Google Apps access, training and support to 697 public school districts, as well as all non-public and charter schools, across New York.
Twitter and Facebook, which have been seen as needless distractions in many schools, are now increasingly being used as educational tools by savvy teachers who recognize their information dissemination and collaborative powers.
Salesforce.com has been showcasing its success in the education sector for years with case study examples, like the Bronx Lab School, which demonstrate how SaaS-based customer relationship management (CRM) systems can be employed to instill greater accountability and better communication between teachers, students and parents.
Last week, SuccessFactors announced its own initiative aimed at improving the quality of education. The SaaS vendor is teaming with a public sector consulting firm, Evergreen Solutions, to bring its corporate performance management solutions into the K-12 education market. This is essentially a value-added reseller agreement aimed at, "instilling the tenets of business execution in the public sector: [including] organizational alignment and people performance."
These initiatives are not only attacking a serious social issue facing our country today, but also cultivating a new generation of SaaS and Cloud Computing users for the future.
The success of these initiatives will not only help to improve the quality of our education system, but also cement the movement of the software and technology industry to SaaS and Cloud Computing alternatives.
Jeff Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the SaaS Showplace (www.saas-showplace.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.