Cloud in education: Benefits for educators, learners and environment

The cloud technology dramatically reduces the time, funds and infrastructure educational institutions require to reach new markets

education cloud

Author

Shivani is Content Manager at WizIQ – an EdTech company

The cloud has disrupted the education scenario for good – freeing it from the confines of space and time. It also brought a major shift in the focus of instruction. Student interests are taking center stage, and the methodical teacher-centered learning is being replaced by learner-centered instruction.

The cloud technology dramatically reduces the time, funds and infrastructure educational institutions require to reach to the new markets. Not only do institutions benefit from the economies of scale, but they can also channelize the savings towards strategic learning initiatives and other revenue streams. Apart from these, institutions will achieve operational efficiency with the centralized control while the students become more engaged with the options available to them. Teachers focus more on learner requirements rather than on mundane admin tasks.

Already, the cloud in education is a huge market worth $5 billion; it is expected to cross $12 billion in 2019, according to a report, Cloud Computing in Education Market – Worldwide Market Forecasts and Analysis (2014-2019) by MarketsandMarkets. Another report from CDW – 2013 State of the Cloud showed that 48% of the higher ed institutions that participated in the survey saw moving to cloud as a top priority, which shows that the cloud finds its benefits in the education sector.

Incorporation of the cloud in education

Cloud is deployed in education is deployed through three service models:

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS): This model of cloud computing enables educational institutes to use applications and software through a cloud platform. These subscription-based e learning solutions are available in different variants, giving users the flexibility to scale operations as per their needs.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS): The educators can create, and customize self-created or acquired applications through programming languages, services, and tools that the cloud platform providers offer. For instance, an educator can design a customized virtual lab for the students using a PaaS. However, for this, they need to possess technical know-how or hire an IT team for application development.
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): The service provider enables the educators to deploy and run the software, including applications and operating systems. A provision to processing, networks, and storage is also made available.

Why are educational institutes moving to cloud?

There are a plethora of reasons why educational institutes are moving to the cloud, such as:

  1. Real-time instruction in virtual environment

The most significant benefit that cloud offers higher ed institutions and schools is the ability to deliver face-to-face instruction in a virtual environment to dispersed student base. Real-time instruction from anywhere enhances student-teacher collaboration, leading to a more engaging experience. Institutions can utilize their limited faculty and content resources more efficiently by catering to more number of students worldwide.

  1. Self-paced distance learning online

Cloud gives educational institutions the ability to offer distance learning online to a large student base without any admin hassles. In fact, they can create a 24/7 open destination where students from across the world can come and take courses anytime. Besides, the cloud diminishes the need to have a dedicated physical to-and-fro system to access sophisticated learning materials. This encourages education providers to reach out to their audience on a global scale on their devices in a perpetually connected set-up.

  1. Cost Effectiveness

One of the biggest concerns of the education providers is the infrastructure, and IT cost. The cloud addresses this concern by eliminating the need for an in-house IT-supporting infrastructure. The server-based infrastructure that was initially a prerequisite for educational institutes to carry out online learning operations has become a thing of past. This infrastructural capital expenditure is now converted into a nominal operational cost that is an on-demand, pay-as-you-go model.

This is the hardware story.

A cloud platform also enables educators and businesses to opt for subscription-based software. Since cloud-based applications run on internet browsers, the SaaS (Software as a Service) model has made it inexpensive to deploy the technology. This has further benefited the educators in reducing costs associated with servers, data, and applications.

  1. Unlimited Storage

The cloud technology is a boon for educational institutes that offer a large number of courses with tons of learning materials and manage assignments submitted by the students. The SaaS platforms provide practically unlimited and secure storage for courses and student data.Educators are also empowered to share course modules and assignments with the learners across devices. One cloud account can be accessed on multiple Internet-enabled devices that students own from anywhere.

  1. Data Security

The cloud, unlike hardware storage devices, is a step ahead when it comes to data security and data recovery. Hardware failures at either the educator’s end or at that of the learner do not result in loss of data given the cloud backup. Also, the content streamed is end-to-end encrypted, ensuring enhanced security. The expiring URLs and conditional access to data make online learning delivery and consumption secure.

  1. Flexibility of Customization and Scaling

The educators who deploy cloud technology enjoy the flexibility to customize their online learning portals according to their brand as well as their student-base. Alongside, comes the ease of scaling. The subscription-based cloud platforms offer educational institutes the flexibility to accommodate their increasing student base at any given time.

  1. Environmental Friendliness

According to an AWS report, cloud platforms and service providers function on a 28 percent less carbon-intense power mix. Cloud, according to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory case study, also helps to lower the total energy consumption while running software applications by 87 percent.

Conclusion

The cloud has continued revolutionizing the delivery of education and has made it available to even the remote and the less-privileged strata of the society. According to a UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education report, the global demand for primary and higher education through the cloud would double by 2025.

Given such trends, the need of the hour for educators and organizations is to adopt and adapt to a cloud technology platform to deliver online learning. WizIQ is a SaaS platform and, with its simple-to-use and learning-based approach, stands as one such unique cloud-based platform that encourages even technophobes and technology virgins to access teaching and training modules through their smartphones and laptops.

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