Today, cloud computing is a term that is frequently being used every now and then. But what does this mean and what role does this play regarding education; specifically higher education?
Broadly speaking, cloud computing can be simply described as computing gotten on a need basis by anyone who has access to a network connection. Now the desired outcome here is to gain entry to data, and applications anywhere at any time. A good example to use in illustrating this is the likes of Facebook and Flickr, which function as digital repositories that can be accessed anywhere at any time from internet-enabled devices that include laptops, iPhones, etc.
Three IT technologies of cloud computing
Cloud computing is still emerging and it essentially stands on four legs or if you like four IT technologies that are described below:
- Virtualization: This refers to virtual creation as opposed to the actual creation of the required IT resource. Such IT resource for example can be a server, storage device, etc. It allows for consolidation of data center among others;
- Grid computing: This is a technology that enables task execution over several computers distributed over a number of geographical areas, and so creating a somewhat supercomputer;
- Utility computing: The best way to describe this is a pay-as-you-go or pay-as-you-use service provision of computing resources. This means that services can be provided when needed or on-demand basis;
- Web services: Now with this technology it is possible not only for software to be delivered remotely, but for other IT-related capabilities.
Cloud computing in education
A number of universities or higher education institutions in different parts of the world have recognized the potential as well as the efficiency of making use of cloud computing when it comes to higher education. This is because it offers such institutions the benefit of paying more attention to their core areas of competence, which is teaching as well as research rather than the somewhat complex or challenging IT configuration or software systems. Also, cloud solutions offer higher institutions the possibility of collaborating with respect to teaching or instruction as well as learning.
There are many benefits attached to the use of cloud computing in higher education. This includes the following:
- The opportunity of accessing applications from everywhere.
- Access to content as well as infrastructure on a 24-hour basis.
- Free software use or availability of same on a pay-per use basis.
- Possible environmental protection due to the use of green technologies.
- Opening in the area of advanced research as well as to the business environment.
- Increase in students’ openness regarding new technologies.
- Reduction in cost and efficiency.
Just as there are many benefits with making use of this technology paradigm. It also has several limitations that include the following:
- Not every application runs in the cloud.
- There are risks related to security/data protection as well as management of accounts.
- The speed of the internet as well as the internet service itself can be hampered, thus affecting work.
- There is also real or perceived danger to intellectual property.
- For now it seems there is no set standard for operating cloud computing.
Cloud computing is certainly here to stay at least for now. And, the education sector can benefit from this paradigm shift in technology even though there is need for working on the areas of limitations identified above. Of important mention is the issue of establishing a standard regarding the operation of this system as far as every stakeholder is concerned. Such standard should be one adhered to by everyone.
Author Bio: Jason Phillips has authorized this post. He is a freelance author who has written about everything from top education apps to mba application essays. When he’s not writing, he is often found attending events within her community and having coffee with friends.
Image from Gartner