By Wim Steelant and Lu Wang
A lot goes into getting students excited about science and technology. One key way to do this is to get students involved in hands-on projects and be a part of environments where technology is at the center, so that they can see it at work and use it to solve problems, other than updating one’s social network status from a smartphone.
At St. Thomas University in Miami we are focusing on bolstering our School of Science, Technology and Engineering Management capabilities. Our strategy rests on the promise to offer students innovative classroom curricula and collaborative research opportunities utilizing a cloud infrastructure aimed at getting them excited about the capabilities and potential of cloud computing within and outside university walls.
For this, and many other reasons, we have been investing dramatically in IT to create a technology center that will inject technology into the center of our university. A cornerstone of the this center is a cloud computing lab, based on IBM’s Softlayer which gives our students and faculty the ability to launch initiatives in scientific research, mobile banking, sports administration and electronic medical recordkeeping and to collaborate with other students and professors from disciplines across the university.
Another key piece of our strategy is for IBM to help educate and train our students on how to utilize cloud computing, provision servers, and move workloads; then giving those students the ability to work on real industry projects, creating hands-on experiences in applying technology to specific industry challenges using a myriad of case studies from the world of IBM. We are already planning on giving our students the analytics tools to analyze sports stadium statistics and operations for Sun Life Stadium, and IBM customer, during our coming annual Summer Research Institute.
The cloud computing lab at our newly minted technology center is a trove of insight into how technology works in the real world, by providing lab capabilities for all students regardless of major including the use of technology-based white papers and other teaching materials through the IBM Academic initiative portal, which helps get our students excited about figuring out how to solve problems with technology.
That excitement is translating to more engaged students, which is translating to an influx of new enrollees in physical sciences, which has increased by 30 percent. Moreover, the cross-university collaboration that an open cloud platform presents our students helps their research come to life and validate their interest in the sciences, which helps us retain more students as well. In a single year, the retention rate across our science disciplines has increased by 30 percent.
Cloud computing is definitely one of the major innovations of recent past, and it’s time we let it into the classroom as well. With the ability to cut IT costs and at the same time create a modern, collaborative education environment, the benefits of moving to the cloud are undeniable in the higher education sector. Modernizing learning and teaching processes by including the latest technologies directly into the classroom, encourages students to develop skills necessary for better academic and professional outcomes. And that’s something everyone can get excited about.