“Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire.”
– William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) Irish poet, dramatist.
Whenever we talk of cloud computing, we always talk about its impact on business. In all my previous articles, I have done the same, speaking about how cloud computing can improve efficiencies, cut costs, save time and in general, give businesses a great return on investment. However, today I am going to speak on something quite different – how cloud computing can help in the noblest human pursuit of all, education.
The worth of human society is not in how much it earns but how much it knows. For it is knowledge that drives advancement, and ultimately, human comfort. And is not comfort the ultimate aim of increased earnings? However, the worth of knowledge goes far beyond the limitations of material wealth. It is knowledge that makes man, Man.
That being said, I believe that cloud computing has a prominent role to play in the classrooms of tomorrow. Let me provide a few examples. Many of our nation’s schools suffer from low graduation rates directly attributable to insufficient infrastructure – shorthanded staff, tiny classrooms, lack of teachers. Cloud computing solutions can solve many of these problems.
For support staff, a distributed management system can substantially reduce their load, leveraging efficiencies across the nationwide or statewide school network. The problem of tiny classrooms can be surmounted through virtual classrooms, with students attending class in their own homes on their own computers, with the teacher being present hundreds, even thousands of miles away. This can also help address the issue of inadequate number of teachers. With computers getting cheaper by the day, this does not seem unfeasible. And why stop only in America? With cloud-based education tools, the whole world can learn from the best.
Now that we have explored possibilities for the future, why don’t we take a look at the present? Many schools in the United States already enjoy the benefits of computer-based learning; how can cloud computing improve the process? Well, for one, maintenance and upgrades will become a whole lot easier. The service provider will take care of all the nitty-gritty, leaving schools free to devote resources towards what they do best – teach our children.
Also, think how convenient homework assignments will become. The students can work on the cloud, cooperate with team members and share knowledge, and be sure that they won’t leave behind their homework assignments when they go to school. Since they are on the cloud, they can access them anywhere, be it home or school.
From schools, let’s move to colleges. Many colleges do not have sufficient hardware or software to give students a complete learning experience. This problem is especially pronounced in the technical fields. However, with SaaS and IaaS, a limited budget will still allow students access to the latest technologies on offer. Simulating those complex weather patterns and running those complicated algorithms will no longer be something that only students at the top-of-the institutions like Stanford and MIT can do. In other words, cloud computing can democratize education.
Some countries are already moving in this direction. Earlier this month, the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced a plan to allocate £12.5 million to a new program that will fund shared services in cloud computing at colleges and universities across the country.
Sarah Underwood, magazine and brand editor of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) for Education, said, “Some of those schools and academies are already working groups and have shared managed services, and those managed services could very easily be put in the cloud. It saves them from downtime, maintenance, upgrades, it has shared costs and they don’t have to run it for themselves.”
Ms. Underwood believes this represents a great opportunity for ICT professionals to promote cloud computing in general. “You need ICT people who are going to champion it – people still have quite a lot of questions about security, data security in particular. Some will embrace something like that and some people will find that quite a difficult concept to work with,” she opined.
By Sourya Biswas