How the cloud is transforming education

Learn / education

Teaching may not seem that it has changed much over the years, with lectures, classes, and tutorials as important as ever, but behind the scenes cloud services are transforming education.

Where students used to have to check noticeboards for updates and print-outs were handed out at the beginning of class, Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Blackboard, Lore, eCollege, and MyEdu now let students check details of their class and access videos, guides, and other resources from their laptop, tablet, or phone.

These centralised cloud-based systems also offer students and private space where they can discuss their course and assignments with their peers and teachers, and makes even out-of-hours learning a more collaborative process. When before a number of students may have visited the teacher after hours with the same question, now that same question and answer and be made public and available as a point of discussion. They also let teachers set online assessments, so they can check on the progress of their students (and provide instant feedback) without wasting face-to-face class time with a quiz.

Outside the specific learning environments, education institutions are much like large companies and need large-scale IT infrastructure to connect all their students to the various services they offer and the web at large. These systems can be complex and unwieldy, and just like many companies – schools and universities are increasingly moving to the cloud for services like storage and email.

By moving to the cloud, schools and colleges are reducing IT costs as they no longer need such large teams of IT technicians to manage thousands of servers, but more crucially the costs are more regular and can be better planned as the service upgrades are constant and ongoing. It is no longer necessary for a school to replace all its servers and hardware every five years as the technologies become outdated.

In a recent case study, Amcom’s page on cloud solutions shows how the University of Western Australia (UWE) moved their infrastructure and “hundreds of terabytes of data” to the cloud, which Librarian and Director of Information Management Dr Mary Davies noted freed them to concentrate on value added support for research, teaching and learning.”

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