ICTpost Education Bureau
The Economist, a well known journal in global circulation, once said that Cloud computing is something that will ‘get geeks excited.’ According to the journal, cloud computing will definitely affect the lives of everyone. Cloud computing and education sounds ambiguous on the face of it. Naturally, it’s because, very few individuals, publishers and users alike come from the education sector. In most cases, cloud computing is only associated with businesses and how they can leverage their efficiencies.
Just to introduce how the cloud deserves a place in our current education institution, it’s important to reiterate the education philosophy. Its essence is knowledge. It’s this knowledge which brings advancement, achievement and success. However, there are several things which make these parameters unattainable. In blunt language, this is failure. Small classrooms, lack or resources, short-handed staff, lack of adequate teachers…the list is endless. One way or the other, cloud computing can be utilized to improve education standards and activities. The end result will be to curb the above problems and instead, boost performance.
The Indian education sector is constrained by cost but demand has been rising for cost-effective, robust software applications to deliver services for learning and administration. Existing systems are not scalable and require huge capex (Capital Expenditure) and IT staff to maintain the system, which has shifted the focus from the core education business to managing the overheads of IT operations.
The Cloud Computing paradigm has emerged as the optimal solution to meet the requirements of cost effective, scalable, and secure systems. The Indian government has set a target of achieving a GER of 30 percent by 2020. That means the number of student enrolments in higher education will double. In other words, India will need at least 500 more universities and 50,000 more colleges in the next 7 – 8 years.
While it may not be possible to set up infrastructure for 50,000 colleges, what’s more likely to emerge is a blended model, as is prevalent in the US. Students go to campuses for education and also take virtual courses to complement that education.
HP India has created a prototype “Lab-in-Box” classroom that offers students in the country’s most remote locations access to classes taught by some of the nation’s finest teachers. HP took a shipment container, painted it, made windows on it, installed a DG set, provided for cooling, provided a VSAT connection, and set up 13-14 student desks and one teacher desk with computers, all inside the container. NCERT courses can be obtained online. Since schools don’t have space to have a computer lab, we created this compact lab for NCERT as a pilot. They are using it for teacher training. But if a school says it needs a lab, NCERT can just ship one.
Capitalizing on economies of scale
Problems like those in which students cram into a class room can be solved with virtualization of the class environment. Students can actually log onto a space online and attend classes outside of the ineffective class environment. As such, the lecturers do not have to stress themselves out with outflowing classes beaming with crammed students. Instead, they can focus their attention to creating content students will understand, develop their skills and pass their exams.
There are also other ways colleges can leverage on economies of scale outside the classroom. For instance, if the paper systems are replaced by distributed work management systems, the workload can be reduced substantially. This can boost the rate at which they achieve efficiency needed to work optimally, just to name but, a few.
Improve collaborations and assignments working
Whereas many schools already have in place computer based learning, enough has not been done yet. With the adoption of different cloud computing platforms, students can collaborate more. They can work on assignments together as a team on the cloud.
This process is not only efficient for time saving qualities, but it also promotes understanding in students who are not great with face to face tutoring or discussion groups. As a result, more progress can be recorded among these students, compared to scenarios where traditional methods apply.
Improved access to education resources and sharing
The nature of the cloud also allows students to share beyond ideas. They can share education infrastructure and tools. With this in mind, colleges can spend less on new software, text books and latest-expensive quality learning material. This ensures that students and schools have it easy sharing quality resources. This will not only help colleges leverage tight budgets, but will also enable students to access vital information. Eventually, this will boost their academic grades, learning experience and enforce collaboration, all of which will boost the quality of education.
In general, education is wide. It has many functions, individuals and processes. Innovative tools like those hosted in the cloud can help optimize their functions, effectively. The above are broader aspects. There is a greater potential colleges can achieve with the cloud. However, adequate planning and investment need to be invested to enable this transition.