IBM’s New Academic Cloud Initiative for Colleges

Did you see the article last week on The Chronicle of Higher Education about IBM’s new Cloud Software for colleges?  Before I even provide a link to the article you should probably check out the IBM press release.  They also have an informative video posted on YouTube about the initiative.

From the release, IBM claims the following:

Using the new IBM Academic Skills Cloud, professors can help students:

– learn the latest technology skills, such as software development and practical use of information management, Web 2.0 and cloud computing and how they can be applied for decision-making;
– access IT curricula and courses from anywhere using their laptop or netbook;
– differentiate themselves from other graduates by gaining key IT skills to better compete for jobs.

On paper, this and everything else promised sounds really interesting and promising.

Now back to The Chronicle article.  IBM Pitches New ‘Cloud’ Software to Colleges.  But Some Say It’s Corporate PR.

Reading through this short article they claim this IBM initative is simply a PR stunt similar to what Microsoft did around their Microsoft University program.  One of the main purposes of Microsoft University is to help students get Microsoft Professional Certifications.  My criticism of the article is that I don’t necessarily see students and recent graduates getting certified in popular software systems as a bad thing.  As someone who actually is a MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) maybe I’m a little biased.  It is true that the things that I was certified on have nothing to do with nuCloud or any of the current projects that I work on, but this only helps my credibility, right?  Individuals getting certified that they are competent in a skill is an extremely efficient way to sort through resumes.  Although just because someone doesn’t have a certification in a certain area doesn’t mean they do not have the necessary skills, but having that certification shows that they also have the initiative to get the proof to say they know what they are talking about.

The same holds true for any of these IBM cloud skills.  Obviously at nuCloud we are HUGE proponents of the cloud module as the future of not just the web but technology in general.  The more educated students can be the better,  getting on these core competences and better understanding of the way the technology works.  In many respects the cloud is a new way of thinking about resource management and programming.

So maybe this IBM Academic Cloud does have some PR reasons behind it, but the knowledge and resources they are providing should not be simply dismissed.  For better or worse major players like IBM and Microsoft lay the foundation that much of our technology is built on.  The better we can educate the future on this the more successful they will be.  Not simply so they can be “experts” on these specific platforms, but so they can learn from them to apply the core concepts in “out of the box” formats.

So what are your thoughts?  Is this just a PR stunt or is free cloud education good for universities?

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