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Schools Move to Cloud-Based Platforms to Provide Timely Data to Educators
By: Patrick Cozens

As the person who oversees marketing activities for a company that provides online assessments, I have a unique vantage point in that a huge part of my work is to understand the needs of teachers, and identify pain-points, so that my companyís product offerings can alleviate day-to-day frustrations. 

One of the things I hear over and over again is that developing an individualized approach to teaching and learning is crucial to both schools and students, helping both to thrive.

Providing an individualized learning path for every student is starting to become a reality as teachers and administrators have better access to student testing data through cloud-based programs.

The benefits are many:

Instant Access to Data
When students are using online platforms for things like formative and benchmark assessments, educators have instant access to data on those assessments. They can see immediately how students performed, and they can use this information to group students, which can inform future curriculum decision-making. 

For instance, those who understood the concepts can be compared to those who missed one concept, or multiples. By grouping students by need, teachers can provide additional instruction for students who are lagging on conceptual development while providing enrichment activities for the more advanced students.

Easy Sharing of Data
By moving data to the cloud, educators can share student data so that they can collaborate on educating the whole child. This is becoming much more important as schools look at non-academic skills and traits that can affect a studentís ability to learn. Most prominently is social and emotional learning (SEL). The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) describes social and emotional learning as the process through which students learn to understand and manage their emotions. It includes learning how to set positive goals, show empathy, make responsible decisions and maintain positive relationships.

Having strong social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student, citizen and worker, says CASEL. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it says, students who lack SEL competencies may be more prone to risky behaviors, violence or bullying, all things that can have an impact on learning.

A study by the Social Development Research Group at the University of Washington evaluated several SEL assessments and recommended 10 of them. Among the strengths it cited for many of them was the availability of a secure, online portal for results. By having data accessible in an online portal, all teachers in a school can have a complete picture of a student and work together to help that student have academic success.

Cloud-based solutions also provide administrators with unique views of data. Administrators can see how students are performing as a group or individually, and they can see how teachers are performing based on student outcomes.

Secure and Affordable Storage Thatís Scalable
Individual schools can take advantage of the expertise of cloud-based companies to provide the security they might find hard to implement on their own. Companies that specialize in cloud-based solutions spend a sizeable amount of time and effort to ensure that student data stays secure. Also, schools can add storage on the fly vs. having to purchase new hardware and then configure it in order to increase capacity. 

Ease of Use
Companies that develop cloud-based solutions for education have a lot of staff dedicated to the user experience. They work diligently to ensure that their dashboards are easy to use and do not get in the way of educators accessing and using data. They are also constantly improving the experience, which benefits schools.

Flexibility
Good cloud-based solutions should offer platforms that provide built-in flexibility. Hybrid solutions, such as the ability to administer paper-based assessments while scanning results directly into the cloud, help schools grow their technological footprint at their own pace.
Tracking student data, and morphing that data into actionable information, to better meet the needs of individual students is becoming the norm in classrooms throughout the country.

Online, cloud-based systems make this task easier, faster and more efficient. Districts and schools should leverage this technology to individualize instruction for each student. Doing so will help them provide the optimal learning environment in which students will thrive.

Patrick Cozens is marketing manager for Apperson, a leader in providing K-12 assessment solutions, www.apperson.com.







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