If one were to calculate the percentage of students that are being enrolled in distance learning programs in universities in India on an annual basis, the results would show an addition of millions by the year. This might be looked upon as a much-needed boon for the nation as a whole with a new-age Digital India that is educated, forward-thinking and an outreaching innovator.
At the same time, however, it does present a multitude of challenges for Universities to allocate a humungous amount of budget on hardware and software services. The demand for such has increased to such an extent that the cost of server hardware, staffing and procurement of software licensing to support 50,000 users is projected to be more than $9 million per year. Compared to the above figures, the costs incurred on a Google Apps Edition, thanks to the Cloud, amount to practically negligible.
Need for Cloud Computing
Who invented the Cloud has been a bone of contention among observers (it oscillates between Marc Benioff and Larry Ellison), but the useful and modern classic method of delivering services over the web has been around for quite a while now. The technology created a buzz during its inception, and now every business, from the tiniest startup to a large MNC, from schools and colleges to government and non-government organizations, has adopted it for good reason. It has taken precedence in storing data and docs at a location that can be easily managed, retrieved and shared by anyone deemed suitable to view the good work.
The three main business models for the Cloud, namely Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as Service provide the users a virtual server on the Net where they can host their web or stand-alone applications, include basic infrastructure and other library software for hosting, or even sell a software-like mail using a subscription model.
A Few Shining Examples
There is a reason why the floppies, CDs and even pen drives are becoming obsolete to use in universities when you have the universal Gmail to hold unlimited storage on the cloud.
Now we have docs, spreadsheets and companies such as Dropbox.com allowing you to store files which can be edited, altered and saved at the very instant. There is the Amazon Web Services, a very affordable option for building database storage and delivering content through a highly sophisticated yet user-friendly and flexible setup. Another good example of SaaS is Microsoft Office365, others being Salesforce, Workday, and WebEx.
Cloud Scope in EdTech
Education in cloud computing has become one of the most sought-after fields today. Apart from full-time regular programs, universities are coming up with several short-term online programs to make students cloud literate. Besides, the service isn’t merely a cost-effective solution to our formal education needs: it enables faculty members to wirelessly share lessons, enabling an LMS-based flexible online education system. Here they can adopt the anytime, anywhere study access where they can plan and customize their learning in a much better way than a regular classroom.
This leads us to why the Flipped Classroom method has become so popular in education groups around the world, apart from the Bring Your Own Device initiative where Universities can spend less on physical setup and utilize the investment in research and development purposes to enable technology advancements. With knowledge and access of the cloud, students as well as working professionals enrolled in any online university are thus “empowered” to learn and groom themselves beyond the physical confines of the classroom. Now they have “multiple access points” to the same information that was earlier restricted to just one source.
While there are many advantages of the major tech advancement, there are some bottlenecks and challenges that we must not turn a blind eye against, the major one being data security. Most Cloud providers still provide a very secure environment, but technology is moving at as rapid a pace as cyber criminals devising newer and advanced ways to breach into security systems. We are expected to become even more vulnerable to attacks and data breach in the upcoming future, and this is going to cost millions to industries. Can we afford investment on data safety even as business needs grow?
The Future Cloud
Despite the limitations of data breach and security and fluctuating network connections which need a permanent fixture, the Cloud is here to stay and grow in the digital education space. Cloud business looks very promising and has been growing at a rapid pace, with universities have already invested a great deal of their spending on its applications. A recent research indicates this shift is estimated to reach $ 216 billion by 2020.
The future effects of Cloud in digital education are already visible, with lectures being delivered through Holograms. The Imperial College, London recently hosted a “first of its kind” event with speakers interacting with students through their 3D life-size images. The need for Data Analysts, Machine Learners and Digital Marketing professionals has reached an all-time high in a high-speed connectivity era, at a time when some Cloud models are still in the deployment stage. What we are looking at is a constant influx of new-age systems designed by future professionals who must be trained now to deal with tomorrow’s workforce challenges.
Technology through Cloud isn’t going to merely affect how companies go about business. It is soon going to affect every aspect of our lives, changing our lifestyle choices and refashioning the ways in which we generally operate. By making inroads in the education space, it’s giving back to the sector what it owes: a need for specialized learning, for individualized education that is custom-tailored to one’s needs.