Reach For the Cloud — For College Credentials

Cloud computing enables users to access a dizzying array of applications and resources. So why not use the cloud to earn a postsecondary credential in a trade or business specialty? That's a question the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is asking, and the funder has provided a series of grants to explore the answer.

The Gates Foundation recently awarded more than $500,000 in grants to multiple recipients to develop business plans and proposals for using cloud-based services for online content and instruction leading to the completion of a series of industry-recognized postsecondary certificates. This would enable students armed with laptops to attain certification in career fields including bookkeeping, drafting, network security, and Java programming. With cloud-based instruction, class is in session whenever the student decides, and the classroom can be anywhere— home, the office, a table at a coffee shop, or anywhere else with Internet access.

The marriage of postsecondary education and online instruction delivery is a popular area for higher education funding by Gates and other funders. Through its Postsecondary Success program, the world's largest private foundation has explored numerous ways to ensure that more young people have access to quality higher education with job market "cred." A growing number of jobs require education beyond higher school, and with institutions of higher education looking for ways to serve larger numbers of students at lower costs, projects like this one present opportunities for forward-thinking postsecondary institutions and nonprofits.

Gates Foundation grants include $200,000 to the Manufacturing Institute and $100,000 each to the Business-Higher Education Forum, St. Petersburg College, the National Laboratory for Education Transformation, and the Office for Education Innovation at Northern Illinois University.