Nelson’s Nayland College has transitioned to a digital life lived almost completely in the cloud. Principal Daniel Wilson says teachers and students are both enthusiastic about the benefits.

According to a press release, the college has saved over $150,000 on hardware that they now don’t need, given the complete lack of servers onsite, and the maintenance they no longer require.

Nayland College made the decision to go with Microsoft’s Office 360 suite of software, which of course includes the tools that so many in the post-school world are familiar with, for better or worse: classic software like Microsoft Word and Excel. Nayland College is in fact now a Microsoft Showcase School, meaning that the College has been recognised by Microsoft as being a great exponent of digital learning and the use of it’s products.

Principal of Nayland College Daniel Wilson says that the main benefit of living in the cloud is equity of access.

“I guess it’s that access to learning anywhere, any time. As an example we’re using OneNote quite extensively – which is like a digital binder, I suppose, a way of grouping information – and recently we’ve had a biology class doing some ecology work in the field. They’re taking photos, videos, and all of that is immediately put up on their OneNote pages. They come back to school and everything is ready for them to analyse. Everything is shared with their teacher, and with their parents, and with each other, and it can be personalised.”

Daniel says that OneNote has been something of a revelation for teachers and students at Nayland, as it allows for lots of collaboration opportunities.

“Teachers using OneNote can have private pages that they can send information out to their students on, they can host discussions, they can have online forums, they can do all the stuff that various websites can do, but it’s all build into the [Microsoft] framework. I’ve seen teachers using OneNote for their own appraisal and portfolio work – so when they’re working with students they might take a little video of it, and they can add it very easily to their portfolio for their registration and enquiry work. It’s a powerful way of pulling learning into one place.”

There are of course other cloud platforms that every school making the switch typically considers; one of the most prominent is Google’s offering. Daniel says they went with Microsoft for several reasons: one being the fact that parents are able to download the Microsoft software suite, which if purchased off the shelf can be expensive.

Secondly, says Daniel, the student management system software that’s in use at Nayland College is compatible with Microsoft’s products, but not with Google’s.

There are savings to be made in efficiency terms too, says Daniel. When Nayland moved onto the cloud, they were able to away with all the student profiles that were previously loaded onto the school’s computers. Any teacher knows that these can sometimes be fairly cumbersome to manage, and can take a long time to load. In contrast, students now log onto the Microsoft ecosystem using a browser, saving time and administration effort.

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