The past fall semester, students in the ecology class at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr College spent time on Lake Vickers learning outside the classroom, according to the college. Instead of conducting research in the lab, they use innovative equipment to test water quality and the amount of dissolved oxygen in the lake. Over at the University of Michigan, creative writing students used the outdoors as their classroom to learn from their surroundings, according to The Michigan Daily.

Elementary, middle and high school teachers may not be that impressed with these innovative lessons, since field trips are more common in the K-12 setting but, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt education, in the higher education world the concept of thinking outside the box means teaching classes outside. And it’s not just traditional classes that are happening in the wild. According to a study from the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, experts in education say that college students can benefit from experiential learning such as field trips, field-based learning, guided discoveries, community engagements, retreats and one-off special events.

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All of these outdoor opportunities require technology support to ensure that students and teachers get the most out of their lessons as they move data to and from classroom laptops and desktops. Solid state drives (SSDs) can support academic mobility and improve educational opportunities across the board.

Data on the move

Most colleges and universities have high-end analytics, specialized systems and processing power in computer labs that are used for research purposes. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities were tapped to track the trajectory of the virus and work on sequencing the genomes, among other tasks, according to Best Colleges. Students needed a way to get data from the field to those high-end systems. For many, the storage option of choice was SSDs.

SSDs are well-suited to post-secondary education needs. Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs) that use an actuator arm to read and write data to a magnetic spinning disk, SSDs have no moving parts. Instead, they use software- or hardware-based controllers to read and write data to columns and rows of semiconductor chips. This ability makes them much faster than HDDs, as well as more reliable and durable. Industry estimates put HDD’s mean time between failures (MTBF) at about 500,000 hours. SSDs MTBF is up to 2.5 million hours, which makes them five times more reliable than HDDs. And, since SSDs have no moving parts, they can handle the movement and bumps that come with being out in the field.

SSDs are also extremely portable and swappable. They’re lighter than traditional HDDs, and they use less energy, which extend the battery life of a laptop. With Samsung’s Portable SSD T7 Touch, for example, you can move the SSD between laptops, tablets, servers and PCs by simply connecting the drive via a cable. This makes it significantly easier to share data between students, teachers, researchers and other school personnel without having to loan out whole machines.

Increased storage

SSDs also allow students and teachers to add additional memory and storage to laptops and tablets whenever the need arises. Students studying science, business, engineering, computing or math, as well as creative arts majors who focus on graphic design, film making or audio often require more storage than a traditional laptop provides. This can be true even though they are using software and services that are processors- and storage-heavy.

College laptops that have 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage are often enough for simple use cases, but as application use and data collection needs expand, so do a laptop’s requirements. Instead of starting over, external SSDs can be used to augment performance and storage needs. Desktop PCs are even easier to upgrade by adding an SSD to an existing configuration (as long as there are open slots) or by swapping out a traditional HDD for a speedy SSD.

Want to learn more about adding SSD to enable academic mobility and outside learning? Read about how the future of education depends on SSD speed and durability, and check out this free guide to SSDs in the virtual classroom.

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Karen Bannan

Karen J. Bannan is a veteran business, health, lifestyle and technology journalist with a wide range of publishing experience. Her tech and business work has appeared in Forbes, BusinessWeek Online, Adweek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, MyBusiness Magazine, Government Computer News, Workforce Management, CFO, AdWeek, Crain's New York and Crain's BtoB.

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