A step-by-step guide to the cloud in education and blended learning
The cloud has been an almighty buzzword in education over the past decade and during its infancy fears of security and dependability were rife. While the initiative was there, secure, reliable and high-speed Internet connections were lacking or cost-prohibitive. Over recent years, this has all changed.
Yet many institutions are still hesitant to make the leap to the cloud. So our new blog series is designed to ‘break it down’, explaining what the advances in tech mean for educators, how to embrace them for both operational gain and to improve Student Experience, and providing some ‘real world’ examples of the cloud in education and how it enables effective blended learning.
For those unfamiliar, cloud computing (as defined by Amazon Web Services / AWS, 2013) is:
“The on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the Internet with pay-as-you-go pricing. Cloud service platforms provide rapid access to flexible and low-cost IT resources. You can access as many resources as you need, almost instantly, and only pay for what you use.”
The three distinctive categories of cloud computing are:
- Software as a Service (SaaS) – Any type of software program that is managed remotely and delivered via the web.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) – A set of application infrastructure services such as platform and OS rented from a vendor.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – Compute resources outsourced on demand.
And just so we’re all on the same page, here is a concise definition of blended learning:
“Blended learning provides a combination of face-to-face learning and dynamic digital activities and content that facilitate anytime/any place learning.”– Jisc, 2017
So what happens if we combine the two?
As you can see, it’s easy to draw distinct parallels between the benefits of cloud computing and the benefits of blended learning, including:
- Reduced physical infrastructure and hardware
- BYOD mobility
- 24/7 access to synchronised materials
- Increased availability of high-performance applications from the user end, such as analytics
- Improved reliability and accessibility (single point of data)
- Reduced costs of operation
- Quick deployment
And now, more than ever, we need these benefits in education.
In 2017, a global learning crisis was declared by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Only half of the world’s children achieve minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics by the time they leave school.
"many institutions are still hesitant to make the leap to the cloud"
Meanwhile, in the developed world where international competition is on the rise, funding and financial structures are making institutions stumble through hurdles – so recruitment and retention are more important than ever.
At the same time, students are becoming more aware of, and questioning, the value for money of their education: Student Experience and wellbeing are under scrutiny as learners seek alternative routes and delivery modes of education.
There is also a concerning skills gap beginning to emerge, with other skills voids left by impending automation, meaning unexpected demographics – who are notoriously hard to reach - will require skill adaption and refreshment.
"it’s easy to draw distinct parallels between the benefits of cloud computing and the benefits of blended learning"
And for this, educators need to embrace ‘the cloud’.
As you’ll read if you follow the rest of this series, ‘the cloud’ doesn’t advocate ‘throwing technology at education to make everything better’. Many studies have illustrated that you can’t just thrust a phone and a quiz into the hand of a learner; they need to be engaged with a good curriculum and guidance. It has been proven, and repeatedly that in-face contact, supplemented with digital resources, is an effective way of learning, but for those not able or fortunate enough to engage with in-person pedagogy, digital learning via the cloud will assist them with minimal resources.
For more on this subject, tune in to the next blog in this series