Cloud Education: Using the Cloud in Schools
The cloud, and the benefits of that come with using it, are often associated with the business sector. Many businesses are choosing to develop and integrate the cloud into their existing IT structures and are seeing a great deal of positive change in the way that business is carried out day-to-day. The cloud is also being adopted fairly quickly by individuals for personal use, many people are utilising the cloud for storage or as part of their entertainment systems. What may be slightly more surprising is that the cloud can be particularly advantageous in the education arena. The advancements in technology have not just affected our personal lives and the way we do business, but also the ways that we take in information and the ways that we learn. If schools, universities and colleges embrace the cloud they will be able to adapt teaching and learning to modern ways of living and may be able to provide a better education as a result.
There are many different ways that the cloud can be used in the education sector - it can be used by big universities or small local schools, by students and by teachers. The cloud can, of course, solve the difficulty of storing large amounts of data and making it easily accessible. It can also provide infrastructure and software as on demand solutions (IaaS and SaaS). The time-consuming task of installing software on every computer in the school, such as an email programme, can be avoided through simply choosing to utilise cloud-based email clients that are accessed through a browser. Servers no longer have to needlessly take up space in school buildings and can be housed off-premises. There are many advantages to using the cloud and it should not be overlooked.
The cloud is beneficial in the workplace because it gives employees the ability to collaborate and work together - this is also applicable in the education sector. Students can used cloud-based word-processing and presentation applications to work with each other on group projects in real time. Students no longer have to send email attachments or pass flash drives back and forth in order to share the document they are working on. Instead, it is all available at any time and completely up to date in the cloud. Teachers can also use the cloud in this way to deal with administrative tasks that require the input of several different members of staff.
As long as you have an internet connection, you can access the cloud. No more excuses that homework was ‘eaten by the dog’, instead files and documents will be available from any location at any time. The accessibility and flexibility that comes with the cloud means that it is much easier for students to work with continuity. They can do their school work at home in the same way that they would at school. All the resources they might require can be made available through the cloud and they can access software and applications that they may not have had at home otherwise. School trips can be enhanced with access to relevant school resources and students can work on projects while they are still immersed in the sights and sounds of the trip.
As a result of tough economic climates many schools are looking towards saving money and cutting down on cost. Often the focus of cost-cutting falls on the IT departments of the school. With the cloud schools can reduce spending without losing important technology and functionality. Individual licences are no longer a necessary requirement instead a pay-as-you go plan can be implemented. Most of the existing infrastructure required for the cloud, i.e. a good internet connection, is already in place and there is very little need to spend more on new equipment. In addition, utilising cloud servers can, in many circumstances, reduce the cost of electricity bills. Work can also be shared within the cloud, a more environmentally friendly option that can cut printing and paper costs.
4. Data Storage
As mentioned previously, the cloud is a great option for data storage. Many big educational institutions, such as universities, will need to store large amounts of data and information. With the cloud, this is easily possible. Records and administrative documents can be stored securely in the cloud, reducing the risk of information falling into the wrong hands if a flash drive or a laptop is lost or stolen. Information can also be made available to the wider school community. Educational resources can be accessed by students to help them with their school work and parents can also access useful information such as newsletters, contact details and information about events and activities. Data can be stored centrally and securely and it will remain in the cloud for as long as it is required.
5. Lack of Complexity
The idea of implementing the cloud may seem slightly daunting to many schools, especially those without an extensive IT department. This is not the case, however. Much of the setting up of a cloud solution is done by the provider and there are many managed options available. Many cloud hosting providers will also undertake the updating and maintenance of the cloud solution. This helps to reduce the burden place on the IT departments in schools and universities. You can often choose the level of management that you require, it can involve updating the software, organising licensing or managing the security.
The cloud can also provide opportunities for different people to start or continue their education but who may not be in a position to attend school full time. Students that need to take an unavoidable leave of absence from their school can stay up to date, submit assignments, work on projects with their peers and hand in homework through the cloud. People that want to take a university course from home to learn new skills can do so through the cloud and people who have come from overseas or gone overseas and wish to continue their education can do so. Adults who did not complete their education, dropped out of school or did not get their qualifications can also complete their education through the cloud.
The cloud is not just useful to individuals and businesses but can hugely benefit schools, colleges and universities. It can be used as a ‘virtual classroom’ where students can learn from anywhere and at any time. Schools should make sure that they are able to keep pace with the developments in technology as it is important students are not disadvantaged and unable to understand the modern world. It is highly probable that the cloud will become fully integrated into many educational institutions in the near future and will provide them with a host of advantages.