The cloud is not just a passing fad. For those not technology-savvy, the cloud sounds like a nebulous concept but it’s really simple. Cloud computing is a metaphor for the Internet. It lets you store and access files and programs over the Internet instead of your own computer’s hard drive.
But should you care, definitely! Use of the cloud is spreading quickly. Almost all critical human activities, from doing business to learning new skills, are now taking place on the cloud. Instructional design and technology is undergoing sweeping changes as well. Here’s how.
Better and More Efficient Educational Organizations
Before the cloud, schools, universities and other learning institutions relied on on-site technological infrastructure. They bought, installed, managed and maintained learning applications and courseware. It’s an expensive process, made much more expensive by frequent technological hiccups.
With cloud computing, organizations no longer worry about running their learning infrastructure. All or some of their learning applications and courseware are hosted on the cloud. They no longer need to hire nor train in-house experts. They can focus, instead, on what they do best: education.
The outcome of a cloud-based education technology is quite obvious. It turns organizations that struggle with the old technology into highly efficient ones.
Reduced Education Technology Costs
Cloud computing significantly lowers costs associated with managing education technology. Organizations no longer have to spend time and other resources on running and managing applications in-house. They can rely, instead, on cloud-based services offered by trusted companies such as Google or Amazon. Or they can have their own applications built and hosted on the cloud.
Take Google Apps for Education as an example. The Oregon Virtual School District adopted the platform three years ago and hundreds of school districts have followed suit. Using Google’s cloud-based applications, these schools no longer have to worry about hardware costs or expensive software.
Engaging and Personalized Learning Models
Educational content, thanks to the cloud, is becoming more personal and engaging. Educational software developers—and developers in general—are eager to deliver highly customizable applications. Why, because there’s a huge demand for it.
Professionals who study the intersection of technology, learning and human behavior all agree that an effective learning experience should be both personal and adaptive. Knewton, a company that provides cloud-based learning platforms, uses student data to personalize content. The software tracks every keystroke, drop-off, speed, score and other moves a student makes. It then uses such data to motivate students to learn based on their learning style.
Knewton is not the only company that heavily invests in student-centric learning platforms. Many startup companies such as Edmodo and Class Dojo are also making some headway.
Extended Classroom Learning
Cloud computing, especially when coupled with mobile technology, extends the classroom by giving students opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere. Students are no longer tied to school-owned computers. They can access files and collaborate on school activities through smartphones and tablets. Electronic readers and portable laptops also enabled students to carry their own personal library or data bank.
Besides mobile devices, there’s another fast-growing area in educational technology that deserves mention. It’s the mobile app marketplace. There’s an app for almost any learning subject or task you can think of. What’s more, many learning apps available on Apple’s and Android’s mobile stores are cheap and readily accessible.