It is time to revamp the old style of teaching and learning. Teaching is no longer confined to the four walls of the school or to the limited capabilities of the teachers. Boring classroom sessions are giving way to exciting technological phenomena that enables better learning and improved capacities in children.
There is no doubt that changing education trends would improve the economy of a country, and slowly schools and colleges are changing their budget scenarios to accommodate a cloud based learning.
Positive outcomes are already being noted all over the world. For example, in Portugal, significant economic benefits were observed and enjoyed in just two years of introducing cloud induced teaching.
The fact that cloud has made a significant impact in education is not a surprise because it has already made a tremendous effect in profit making industries and healthcare. It was only a matter of time before it entered the field of education too.
The immediate perks of having cloud computing in organizations are impeccably obvious – saving time, infrastructural costs and implementing better business plans.
Benefits of cloud computing in education
- Both the government and other private institutions can revamp the old challenges that hampered the quality of education in traditional classrooms and online courses by making use of the cloud.
- The worry about lack of infrastructure, maintenance of existing infrastructure is no longer there.
- No more maintaining and storing a wide range of hardware and software solutions.
- The skills to manage the cloud will be handled by the cloud staff
- Very less ongoing investment
How cloud computing changes the teaching and learning scenario
Let’s examine the different ways in which cloud computing can accelerate the needs of the students and teachers, and improve their education:
- Education breaks wall barriers
Education is no longer confined within the classroom or the computer lab. Students can do their assignments wherever they are – in the classroom, at home, while travelling. Mobile classroom technology is becoming increasingly popular as the bridge between classroom learning and home learning is diminishing rapidly.
- Collaborative classrooms
Collaborative classrooms improve student’s learning experience. It means the teacher can send the lessons to students depending on their learning capacity, and send notes when they are sick or absent.
It also means, there is constructive discussion among the students in the classroom. Thus, a student never misses a lesson or loses the opportunity to ask his doubts.
- Curriculum aligned lessons reach the students
With optimum use of cloud technologies, it is possible for schools to teach according to curriculum. The curriculum itself can be shared across different platforms with new inputs, examples and ideas making the learning process perpetually engaging and informative.
- Improving student productivity
Cloud technologies can improve the students’ performance in class because the child can now learn his lessons at home as well. It is not that he doesn’t have to go to the classroom; he will have to, because that’s where the maximum productivity will take place.
The classroom will be utilized for constructive discussions, debates and problem solving. Virtual classrooms enable the students to gain through online lectures.
- Institutions can prepare students for jobs in technology
With cloud computing, students get direct experience in a lot of things related to technology, including enterprise-scale architectures. And many educations institutions and universities use HPC or High Performance Computing for academic research. Universities can also employ successful enterprise scale application to focus on individual requirements.
- Teaching is personalized
Through personalizing education, it is also possible to improve learning outcomes. In fact, cloud computing can actually predict the student’s future grades with an error margin of two percentage after just two weeks of course.
Institutions can use this data for timely intervention and give particular attention to students who need more guidance. Through analysis, cloud based applications can provide teachers with real time insights into students’ performance.
- Differentiated instruction is possible
As teacher collaboration has increased dramatically, teachers can use their time more effectively. They are able to develop better lessons plans, explore new teaching strategies and implement new approaches to using the cloud.
Teachers’ peer collaboration behaviors have improved through cloud use and a good percentage of them can use these interactions fruitfully.
- Students have begun to demonstrate commendable levels of engagement
Through cloud learning, students have begun to exhibit greater levels of engagement as they are exposed to technology at a very young age.
They have learnt to locate/access relevant information regarding their curriculum, be more articulate in their verbal and written communication skills, enhance their creative skills and collaborate with their peers.
- E-books with TTS function can help students with learning problems
The quality of teaching can be improved when e-books are incorporated with Text-to-Speech software. This helps students with reading challenges, visual impairments and those with dyslexia. TTS is a great way to learn for students who find reading and learning a boring endeavor.
- Environment-friendly style of teaching
Students no longer have to carry huge stacks of books, or update their books whenever there is a curriculum change. Not only would this reduce the burden of carrying heavy books, but it would also ensure that children learn updated lessons. That and the added attraction of reducing carbon footprint make it even greater.
- There is no need for extra infrastructure
If sufficient training is given to teachers, there is no need to spend anymore money. No need of labs, buildings or extra computers for using cloud technology. Colleges and universities can focus on their goals without worrying about extra infrastructure.
- Increasing data capacity as per requirement
With cloud computing, it is possible to increase your data capacity without making any heavy infrastructure investments. This can be done without compromising security and by balancing cloud services and on-premise requirements.
To make the best use of cloud computing in education
The choice of moving to the cloud is wise, but to know which of the three offerings would be perfect for your institution would be the ultimate brainer. The three main offerings of the cloud are:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – Softwares and applications like email
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – On which platform the software functions
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – On demand data centers
Most of the academic institutions are relying on SaaS because students can make use of free collaboration tools (like email, for instance), so they can work and collaborate together. This is an easier and cheaper option.
Through SaaS, the future workplace is also changing. The desktop applications that the students are using today can be aligned to work with Web services in the future.
For example, there is a program Microsoft Live@edu that allows students, faculty and staff to have primary email addresses and other communication tools to collaborate online and help them prepare for jobs in the future.
Barriers to cloud computing adoption
A few barriers exist to cloud use in teaching. If you look at these barriers, you will know that choosing the right cloud provider would solve them all because these are mostly technical issues that can be easily resolved. Of course, external factors do exist.
- The skills barrier
While implementing the cloud, teachers must be proficient with the internet and learn how to use the cloud, especially Google Drive, Google Docs, Excel, Presentations and similar tools on a basic level.
- Wireless access problem
Missing an often unreliable wireless access is a major impediment in the usage of cloud, as this could affect teaching done through portable devices. The signal may not be captured properly or it may not reach the classroom making wireless technology unreliable and slow.
It is not feasible to use computer lab rooms all the time as students would have to share their devices, or, significant expenses will have to be put into buying more computers. Improving the wireless signals in schools can alleviate this problem.
- Unreliable cloud software
When the cloud software is unreliable, things could turn risky when the software shuts down. This can happen when cloud services are hacked. If the security level is upped and upgraded constantly, this can be avoided to a great extent.
Wrapping Up – Taking the Jump
While on the brink of a huge technological innovation through cloud technologies in teaching, there is one mandatory fact to be considered – that technology cannot teach a child; teaching can only be done by people. Investing in an iPad for all the children in the school will not ensure teaching and learning quality.
While schools and colleges invest in these infrastructures, it would also be advisable to discuss with the teachers, pupils and other staff, what better outcomes could be created through cloud.
And depending on the desired outcome, the institution can select a service provider who would not only offer consultation, but advice too. The idea is to make the best use of cloud to improve learning.
Sunu Philip is the Inbound Marketing Head for Cabot Technology Solutions – an IT consulting firm specializing in web and mobile technology solutions. Cabot offers progressive end-to-end business solutions, blending a solid business domain experience, technical expertise and a quality-driven delivery model.