Cloud technologies have created a paradigm shift in how we store, use, and exchange digital information. Rather than rely on costly individual servers or devices, cloud computing utilizes public and private networks to spread data to a multitude of low-cost and even consumer-friendly hardware. Large corporations and small businesses alike can store and share information seamlessly in the cloud. Outside of work, most of us access the cloud everyday to listen to music or save documents at home.
Despite the cloud’s growing dominance in our lives, universities have been slow to add cloud computing degree programs. When we recently caught up with Full Sail University for a series of Q&As, we learned that the school steamrolled ahead with their Bachelor of Science in Cloud Technologies a few years ago. Coupled with the school’s location in Orlando’s thriving tech scene, an industry-ready approach defines the degree that can be completed in as little as 20 months.
Jay Bunner serves as Program Director. Spending twenty years in I.T., Bunner came to Full Sail seeking to create a Cloud Technologies program that could rival any other with forward-thinking courses and projects. Bunner took time out of his busy days to fill us in. Enjoy!
ACR: Jay, tell us about Full Sail’s Cloud Technologies bachelor degree program and its approach to this emerging area of study.
Jay Bunner: We set out to build a hands-on, practical program that not only prepares students with technical theory but also engages students with skills relevant to today’s cloud technology. We noticed that many Information Technology academic programs were rooted in traditional technologies but only offered an elective course or two in Cloud; we wanted something that went a step further. It’s important to employers that today’s grads can hit the ground running with technology companies are building for the future.
ACR: Can you give us a few examples of some of the more interesting courses that allow students to dive deep into the world of virtual infrastructure and storage?
JB: Of course I think every course is important but two courses that stand out to me are Cloud Management Platforms and Automating Resource Deployment. The Cloud Management Platforms course explores everything from in-house virtualization and cloud software (ex. VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V) to public providers like Amazon, Digital Ocean, and Microsoft Azure. Once someone has mastered the concepts on one platform, it’s relatively easy to translate to other environments, but practice on different providers means students are prepared for whatever environment their employer is using.
The Automating Resource Deployment course takes so many technologies from other parts of the program- such as operating systems, web hosting, load balancing, and software deployment- and wraps automation around all these to make solutions that can be multiplied across building tens or hundreds of servers within a matter of seconds. The power of configuration management is what pushes our students to the next level in being able to manage large-scale systems.
ACR: The program’s Project and Portfolio courses strike me as excellent examples of the industry-driven approach that Full Sail takes to education. Explain these courses to our readers and why they’re integral to the curriculum.
JB: Within each of the seven Project and Portfolio courses, students must demonstrate how what they’ve learned in disparate courses can be integrated together into a working solution to meet a client’s business needs. Not only do students have to demonstrate a functional project by the end of each course, but they also track their activities and time, submit project plans and documentation, and present their solution to a panel for feedback. Often, students learn more in their projects from the troubleshooting and problem-solving process when things go wrong. And they learn how to apply critical-thinking skills to reach their goals.
ACR: In a field that’s reliant on evolving technologies, how does Full Sail keep up with the latest developments, and what skills do students need to gain to ensure they can grow professionally amidst constant change?
JB: Keeping up with the pace of innovation is always challenging, and we evaluate and rewrite technical content in courses about every six months. Coincidentally, we meet with industry advisors every six months to listen to their feedback about what technology is up-and-coming and what is here now that we should be teaching. The employer feedback lets us align ourselves with what the industry expects.
Professional growth among IT professionals is part of the working culture, so students are constantly researching new technology and bringing that into their projects. Teaching students continual learning skills and how to survive in the industry is equally important as applying technical skills, because in a matter of a year or two the technology itself will be replaced by something newer.
ACR: Speaking of, what are some of the recent trends within cloud computing that have your attention at Full Sail and why?
JB: Docker, microservices, and containers are major trends in cloud computing that Internet industry risk-takers such as Google and Netflix have used for a while but now enterprises are taking notice. These technologies will shape the pace of innovation for mobile, Internet-of-Things, VR/AR over the coming years. We’re making changes in our curriculum to reflect where the industry will be by the time students graduate. Security has also exploded in recent years, so we’re making adjustments so our students are aware and prepared.
ACR: What software do your students typically use in their coursework?
JB: Our students use the same VMware and Microsoft software and tools that enterprises pay thousands of dollars for. We spend a considerable amount of time with Linux and open-source software as well, because that’s the direction many companies and government entities are going with their technology. Technical students learn best by doing- it’s the best way to solidify that knowledge. Full Sail’s hands-on approach is a perfect match with our students and how they learn.
ACR: To complete their B.S. in just 20 months, students take accelerated courses. How does this timeline ready them for industry?
JB: The schedule and workload can be challenging but not unrealistic compared to what happens in the industry. During my time in industry, I’ve spent my fair share of overnights, back-up-against-a-wall projects, and working outages until the job is done. If you have the focus, discipline and commitment to make it through this program, you’re well prepared for real life. Employers are impressed that our students don’t give up easily and can handle real workloads, because that’s what the industry demands.
ACR: Last but not least Jay, let’s turn a spotlight on Orlando- Full Sail’s home. What does the local Orlando tech hub offer to Full Sail and its students?
JB: In a place best known for theme parks and tourism, silently over the last 15 years or so Orlando has become a tech hub for simulation, technology, and innovation. We host industry meetup groups on campus to provide networking and share what we’re working on to build Orlando tech even bigger and better. Many of our graduates have chosen to stay in the Central Florida market because they’ve found cool, high-tech jobs working with innovative companies right here. I can’t wait to see what the next 15 years brings, and the role that Full Sail plays in contributing to the Orlando tech community.
Check out more interviews at The Animation Career Review Interview Series.