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New Mexico State University

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NMSU takes leap into cloud computing, creates new collaborative learning environment

As of July 1, New Mexico State University is officially "taking it to the cloud." NMSU is joining the growing number of universities across the country adopting cloud computing to expand its students' online learning environment.

New Mexico State University student checks out the new myNMSU email system, one of a number of changes students will see this fall as part of NMSU's conversion to cloud computing. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

For Shaun Cooper, NMSU associate vice president and chief information officer, the change means two things: service and savings.

"The university is moving to an email system that includes Microsoft Live," Cooper said. "For our students, it also means they have 25 GB of storage they don't have to carry around in their pocket on a thumb drive."

The new system also saves money for students, who no longer have to pay $90 for the software license for Microsoft Office products they use for their coursework.

"As school gets started, I plan to use this as a resource for myself and any group work," said Austin Graham, an NMSU senior in the pre-veterinary program. "We will no longer have to rely on forwarding emails or worrying if a jump drive will work."

"I think it means that students will be able to have easier access to their information," said Jessica Payne, an NMSU senior majoring in graphic design. "Mobile access is available and makes everything available at the touch of their fingertips."

The shift to cloud services comes at a time when funding for higher education is at an all-time low across the country and universities are looking at a variety of ways to realize savings. Cooper estimates free access to cloud computing will save NMSU about $300,000 over the next four years.

More importantly, Cooper believes the new system will make it easier for students to work together remotely in real time through online services like SharePoint.

"They can collaborate. I think that's the coolest part of the cloud," Cooper said. "Let's say they're doing a PowerPoint with their teammates. They can log on, two or three of them can all log on to the same shared space and can make updates to that same PowerPoint. They can actually share the mouse. And the cost to the university for that collaborative: zero dollars."

Graham, who serves as president of the Associated Students of NMSU, believes access to "the cloud" will make a difference for students at the university.

"These services mean students have the opportunity to really change how they study and interact with each other," Graham said. "The educational system will be much smoother and collaborative learning will be easier to do."