Cloud Computing: Helping Virtualize Education

by Vivek on June 23, 2016

by Kunal Bhatia & Pranav Kumar
M.B.A. (Batch of 2015 – 17), National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli.

For years, Cloud computing has been widely accepted by businesses as a revolutionary technology that reduces infrastructure costs, increases accessibility, and fosters collaboration. It is no surprise then that Cloud computing comes to the Education sector, helping solve critical challenges of massive scale and complexity. Cloud makes learning accessible and affordable by bringing learning platforms to the people at anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Gone are the days of traditional learning, when lessons were restricted to classrooms and knowledge was locked in the dusty shelves of libraries. Cloud computing has brought about a paradigm shift — with the emergence of the Cloud, learning about anything, from how to build rocket to how to speak English, can be accessed at the click of a button. What’s more, the method of delivery has shifted from the four walls of a classroom to our desks and in our pockets.

Here are some of the ways Cloud computing is rewriting the story of education:


  1. Increasing reach through Massive Open Online Courses: As the name suggests, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are courses with massive content and a very wide reach. These courses are made available over the Internet, open to all, and mostly consist of lecture videos and webinars to be viewed online. Dynamic Cloud computing has enabled eminent professors from top global universities — such as MIT or Harvard — to deliver content to learners who may be situated halfway across the world. All this in the comfort of their home, without any additional hardware for storage, or investment in terms of textbooks and substantial tuition fees.



  1. Revamping the modern classroom: Textbooks, formerly our primary sources of knowledge, have severe drawbacks. For one, the world changes virtually every day, and textbooks just aren’t able to keep up. As a result, what students learn is already outdated even before they study it. Secondly, the cost of updating textbooks regularly is prohibitive for most educational institutions. With Cloud computing, books are transformed from physical, heavy objects to digital entities that are always available to be read and saved for future reference, making updates easier and more efficient. The most important aspect of Cloud-enabled education is the ease of having the data at one’s disposal 24X7, anywhere, and from any device — right from entry-level smartphones to a desktop, tablet, or laptop.



  1. Breaking down educational barriers in the rural sector: With Cloud computing, applications, storage, processes, and platforms can be accessed via the Internet, thus eliminating the need for physical data centers and local servers to a great extent. Thus Cloud computing can help in rapid penetration in rural areas, with minimalistic costs and infrastructure. What’s more, the Cloud utilizes pool-sharing of resources and minimal infrastructure, making it quite energy efficient — a desperately needed feature in the rural Indian context. Its ‘Plug & Play’ approach reduces configuration and maintenance requirements, while ensuring that information can be accessed anytime on most devices, be it desktops, entry-level smartphones, or tablets. The purchase of expensive licenses for educational software is eliminated by its pay-as- you-go model. Further, the Cloud makes resource sharing very easy, giving students access to thousands of up-to-date study materials at minimal costs. Callout: (Microsoft has teamed up with the Indian government to provide Cloud services in India, to help realize the government’s Digital India initiative).



  1. Facilitating educational solutions for students in war-torn zones: More than anything, education is a critical requirement for students in war-torn zones. It is the tool that can help them better their lives. As a part of the ‘Connect to Learn’ project, the International Rescue Committee is helping Syrian teachers in refugee camps get access to resources, via Cloud, to meet the complex requirements of children in such camps. This initiative enables teachers to access the resources from anywhere, helping them chalk out all-round educational products for the children in difficult circumstances, who are often traumatized and require a different curriculum. Closer home, the Child In Need Institute (CINI) launched GPower (Girl Power) in 2014, which tracks trends in rural girls’ health, education, nutrition, child labour etc. via mobile and Cloud technologies, and helps take timely and corrective action to solve these challenges.



  1. Empowering educational institutes: Like most businesses, educational institutes too are rapidly adopting Cloud technology to deliver better and more cost-effective IT services. Powered by the Cloud, institutes are able to satisfy the needs of students with the latest technology on campus, using pan-campus compatible software for specific departments, easy file sharing etc. Advantages for staff include better monitoring, enhanced choice (using models such as BYOD), setting up up-to- date curriculum with less investments, setting up smart classes, better collaboration with students over projects etc.

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