Like most of the world, and for the greater good, I have been self-quarantining. My standard home office, once a place of relative calm, has become an office for two, with my son and I using cloud-based technology to work, communicate and be constructive under the new ‘normal’ that we now call life.
Numerous digital tools have enabled us to adapt to this new set-up quickly. To start with, I’ve used PTC’s Chalk to show my ageing parents how to work Zoom, which has resulted in vital face-to-face conversations with their very much missed grandchild.
Those very same grandparents can still order important weekly food and medication online, while Joe Wicks is streamed into our house in the mornings for a daily 30-minute exercise workout. I’m still undecided on whether the latter is a good way to start the day or not!
My biweekly social event with the ‘girls’ still happens, and we are still able to enjoy wine, albeit it is now in the sanctuary of our own homes, from our own glasses and in a virtual room, not the local pub. Moreover, to my son’s pleasure, I now actively push him toward his gaming console so that he can still enjoy talking to his friends. Just a few weeks ago it was on a strict weekend use only, now, as the cricket nets remain empty, there is a link to the team and his friendships are still in place.
Technology runs through all of the above and I, for one, am grateful that it has come so far in a relatively short space of time. Had this pandemic happened a few years ago, much of the above simply wouldn’t have been possible.
BBC technology correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, recently wrote an article on the same subject, “Coronavirus: What if this had happened in 2005?”. Within it he mentions how cloud computing has made it easier for any business to scale up quickly and he’s right. Businesses, schools, parents et al have all embraced cloud computing for its benefits, replacing what was once reservations and fear with a willingness to maintain contact – there’s nothing like a baptism of fire for accelerating the leap of faith and it’s going well.
A simple demonstration of SaaS, to show how accustomed we are to it in our lives, is web-based email, such as Hotmail or Yahoo.
Emails are opened from a web browser on any internet-connected device, as it all sits on the service provider’s network, removing the need to purchase, install, update, or maintain any hardware/software. There’s also no IT infrastructure to administer and maintain.
As I watch my son work in Microsoft Teams, I am reminded of this – so adept is he to the concept that he would find it hard to understand there being any difference. The World Economic Forum (WEF), recently published an article that talks about the four ways COVID-19 will change education for future generations.
It said educational institutions across the world are being compelled to suddenly harness and utilize the suite of available technological tools to create content for remote learning for students across all sectors. Educators across the world are experiencing new possibilities to do things differently and, with greater flexibility, comes potential benefits in accessibility to education.
Very few teachers are IT specialists. With large classes and limited time, installing software into students’ machines and getting licences becomes an unnecessary drain on valuable time. Furthermore, constant updates require further organizational problems, but with cloud applications, students are always running the latest software.
Worldwide, tens of thousands of teachers and students already use SaaS in education through PTC’s Onshape Free Education Plan. Those teaching or studying STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) can access CAD design SaaS technology over the internet to collaborate on design and engineering projects.
It works inside a web browser thus eliminating the need to purchase top-of-the-line desktop workstations powerful enough to run installed CAD and it can be operated on nearly any device with no cost.
The next generation of designers and engineers can interact with one of the world’s most modern CAD package without the need for downloads, installation, or licenses. Upgrades automatically happen in the cloud every few weeks so STEM teachers can focus on the job they love and thrive as educators and resist the need to become the IT department.
As we come to terms with a world none of us ever expected to have to deal with, Onshape also allows students to not be tied to the classroom - they can log into their accounts on any computer or mobile device and enjoyed the benefits of virtual learning.
We’ve opened our eyes and homes to SaaS, and it’s given us a welcome avenue to work, educate, and play.
COVID-19 will undoubtedly change the way we work. Organizations will realize that employees can be just as dynamic at home, as they are in the office and teachers will come to recognize that students can work remotely on joint projects without a drop in grades.
Will my son get more game console time? That’s doubtful, but I will at least dust his games console with care instead of a grimace.