For those in the education sector, “the cloud” can seem like a nebulous and unattainable technology goal, used only by large enterprises and corporations. But the cloud has the power to drastically advance the goals of the educational system: to make it easier for institutions to empower their students to succeed while at the same time cutting costs and expanding accessibility.
As Walter Bailey writes on CloudTweaks.com, the entire educational system is suffering from a lack of resources: small classrooms, staffing cuts, shortage of qualified teachers and constantly changing standards. But, as Bailey points out, the cloud is a valuable tool that can be used to improve accessibility to quality education and to boost achievement.
The cloud can help address these challenges in a number of ways, Bailey said, including by capitalizing on economies of scale. The problem of outdated, too-small, overcrowded classrooms can be addressed by virtualizing the classroom environment, he said.
“Students can actually log onto a space online and attend classes outside of the classroom environment. As such, the lecturers do not have to deal with overflowing classes and students packed like sardines; instead, they can focus their attention on creating content students will understand, developing their students’ skills and helping students pass their exams.”
Bailey also notes that distributed work management systems can reduce the workload created by paper-based record keeping, thus boosting administrators’ efficiency.
The cloud can also improve collaboration among teachers, administrators, students and staff, Bailey said. Sure, many schools already use computers in the classroom, but cloud computing platforms can increase collaboration, enhance team-building initiatives and improve group- and team-centered project success rates. This is a great way, Bailey said, to address the needs of students who may not be great at face-to-face interaction, public speaking and/or small discussion group work.
Accessibility is another incredible benefit of the cloud when applied to an educational setting, Bailey said.
“The nature of the cloud also allows students to share not just ideas, but education infrastructure and tools,” he said. This can reduce schools’ overhead expenditures on quality learning materials like books and software, and can equalize access to these scarce resources. The end result is that students’ academic performance should increase along with the quality of education, he said.
The cloud also allows for “information durability,” which means information can be placed in cloud storage for as long as needed, according to John Omwamba, also writing for CloudTweaks.com. Omwamba notes that many schools have moved their libraries online, allowing students to access hundreds of thousands of books, periodicals and other resources at any time. He adds that the advent of online video has made the idea of cloud in education even more exciting, providing universal access to teaching videos and demonstrations on almost any topic.
Omwamba reiterates what Bailey noted; that the cloud is expanding access to education across the globe and bringing resources to populations that, for one reason or another, didn’t succeed in the “traditional” educational systems.
“If a student never finished their degree or received their diploma, they now have a second chance to do so through cloud learning systems,” Omwamba said. In addition, he notes, immigrants who began their education in their country of origin can easily continue to do so while making a move to another country.
The cloud is poised to revolutionize the educational sector, and schools and learning institutions would be wise not to write off the cloud as just a business tool. The future opportunities for success or failure of students could rest in the cloud.
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