E-learning SaaS Ecosystem
E-learning is learning through the use of technologies. It is widely accepted as an effective training method to develop employees’ skills and knowledge in Small-to-Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs). According to Pollard and Hillage, e-learning is defined as “the delivery and administration of learning opportunities and support via computer, networked and web-based technology to help individual performance and development”. E-learning in SMEs can be used for formal training and vocational training. Formal training is “a training that is organised and packaged to cover a given subject, with clearly defined topics, eventually leading to the delivery of a certification” whereas vocational training relates to “the training costs are supported by the company and the topics are related to the job of the individual”. Despite the numerous advantages of e-learning, many practitioners believe that the cost and complexity of integrating these systems with content and with other business systems are important factors affecting the effective implementation of e-learning in organizations.
Cowley and her colleagues ( 2002) stated that several contextual elements (e.g., environment, tech skills, subject matter skills, study skills, support, content, learners' characteristics, instructors' characteristics, and technology ) should take into consideration to make e-learning more effective and successful and to facilitate learning in complex situations. This idea leads to the emergence of a new generation of e-learning which is called e-learning ecosystem (ELE). This model is comprehensive and consists of three components which are Infrastructure (Learning Management System, Tools, Content Delivery System), Content providers (Brand, Custom, Commodity), and Consultants (Strategy, Compensation, Implementation, Information Technology). All these components must integrate and work harmoniously and there must be a balance in the utilization of each components.
Nowadays, majority of companies employ e-learning ecosystem which is integrated with cloud computing. In fact, e-learning ecosystem has some problems in “optimizing resource allocations, dealing with dynamic demands on getting information and knowledge anywhere and anytime, handling rapid storage growth requirements, cost controlling and greater flexibility”. Moreover, e-learning ecosystems’ infrastructure which provides computation and storage resources as services, needs improvement. Cloud computing technologies can run applications as services over the Internet on a flexible infrastructure. Cloud computing provides a low cost solution to academic institutions for their researchers, faculty and students. Dong et al. (2009) reported that contribution of cloud computing to an e-learning ecosystem offers many benefits to organizations. They are as follows:
- Cloud provides QoS-guaranteed infrastructures, e.g., time, cost, reliability, and hardware performance like CPU bandwidth and memory size, and sustains SLA-oriented resource allocation.
- Cloud provides the support for variety of applications, making it convenient and rapid to get the required computation and storage resources.
- Cloud provides real-time configuration information and resource utilization information, allocates resources on demand, and improves the usage rate of resources.
- Through the automatic resource management, emergencies can be solved rapidly, and labour-intensive jobs can be achieved. Therefore, the cost is cut down.
As discussed above, an e-learning ecosystem based on cloud computing can transform education and guarantee the teaching and learning activities. Teachers and students can access information at anytime, anywhere, from any devices. E-learning ecosystem based on cloud computing enables students across the globe to acquire the 21st century skills and training they need to succeed in global information society.
By Mojgan Afshari