Let’s Study Online; the New Ways to Learn

Study in the Cloud

Alice Jones teaches Math to students from grade 6 to 8. She says, “All my students have smartphones. Hence, we do not depend on the school anymore to access education apps that follow game-based learning techniques to make learning fun. Many of my students love to use these apps beyond classrooms – which has improved their results outcomes considerably.”

Two most desirable features that cloud computing in Education has are virtualizing resources and dynamic scalability. Today, various educational apps and resources are available on-demand – making education more accessible to students, allowing them powerful functions that were not available earlier, and reducing the expenses of schools, colleges and universities on IT infrastructure and its maintenance.

Instant global platforms reduce the need for maintaining hardware and software capabilities in schools and colleges, and also make it easier to recover data in case of disasters. Hence, they make it easier for the educational institutes to scale up or down their projects quickly.

Here are some of the critical features how studying in the cloud opens up new opportunities for learners and educators:

Maintenance-Free Infrastructure

The survey by Intel and Project Tomorrow revealed that 42% K-12 educational institutions are using the cloud. Thus, digital learning has made it easier for districts to standardize certain educational products, services, and processes centrally.

The tech leaders are happy that the need of maintaining school servers and updating device-dependent technologies is decreasing; and teachers are delighted that they do not have to worry where a specific application is, if it is the latest version in the market, and whether students can access it or not.

The teachers and students can store any amount of data in the cloud. It means they can be more creative, and classroom innovations can easily be implemented.

Easy-to-use Technology

83% teachers use technology to teach their class today – even though they may not know much about cloud computing. It is so because cloud technologies are easy to use, generate real-time data that helps in offering individualized support to students, and allow unlimited experimentation in the classroom.

Students can access the study material anytime, anywhere now and can easily collaborate, communicate, and share resources and documents with their peers and teachers online. Jane, who works as an online assignment help provider, says, “When students need help with their homework or online tutoring assistance, they google it up. Then, they approach us with their projects, and we provide them the required academic support as per their needs. I haven’t met any student yet who has ever had difficulty in reaching us. Being born in the digital age, (what we consider as) advanced technology skills come to them naturally.”

Secure Environments

One of the biggest worries that schools and colleges have while using cloud computing technologies is the security of sensitive data. The cloud vendors rule public clouds, and they allow many customers to run multiple virtual machines on their clouds – posing a data security threat to all of them. Private clouds enable an organization to have its dedicated hardware and software, but then, they cannot share the resources with other clients of the vendor or use their resources.

The hybrid cloud model works best in such conditions. In this model, one can keep highly sensitive student data, and other information on a secure private cloud and less sensitive data can be shifted to a public cloud system. This can allows schools to have greater control over the security of their data, comply with regulatory requirements, and still let them to use public cloud infrastructure and services.

Broad Range of Services

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines the Cloud Computing as an on-demand self-service platform with broad network access that allows learners (or users) to pool resources. It is quite elastic and can offer measured services. The best thing it is that it provides:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): You can use software apps in the cloud instead of having to install them and run them locally.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): Hardware and software tools to develop an application are available on cloud systems – complete with infrastructure and operating system.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Virtualized computing resources (or servers) on demand.
  • Source: Wikimedia Commons

The cloud services range from productivity apps one uses daily (such as word processing apps, spreadsheets, emails, and presentation apps) to student information systems, administrative software for educational institutions, and grading and assessment apps to creative applications that allow online collaboration and analytics.

Improved Efficiency

Cloud technologies are easy to develop or deploy. You do not need advanced hardware and software skills to use them. Hence, institutions need fewer people to handle more tasks when they use cloud technologies.

Cloud computing draws its power from several computers. It means that cloud systems have enhanced computing and data processing capabilities. Hence, many institutions of higher learning think that cloud computing is a useful tool for research.

Already, several higher learning institutions in the US use Microsoft’s live@edu package which offers their students access to the company’s customized email, office package, and SkyDrive for free. Similarly, Google App Education (GAE) gives students Talk, Mail and Docs facilities to enhance their learning experience and make online collaboration easier. M-learning facilities, which allow online collaboration through mobile devices, is also playing a more dominant role in quality research work.

There are several other benefits cloud computing offers to the world of education. Learning management systems, such as Blackboard and Moodle, are hosted in the cloud. A range of e-learning solutions is also available online – from open-source to paid ones. Such solutions allow students to access course material, practice papers and tests online and do assignments online too. They can also do team assignments online and relay them to their teacher on time.

Trainers and educators can manage courses, evaluate homework and assignments, and grade tests online as well as analyze the student data to offer better academic support to them. The possibilities are endless, and the innovations in teaching and learning methods are still riding high on the cloud.

By Aditya Singhal

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