Cloud computing is an internet based service in which applications and data are accessed from a provider instead of being stored on the client’s computer. Google is a familiar example of a cloud computing service. For universities, this is a cost effective way to allow students to access learning materials and communicate with one another and their professors. I can also allow universities to collaborate more efficiently and to charge fees for their services to other schools.
Unlike standard internet services, cloud computing can be a user-defined experience. The consumer rents only those services that are used instead of having to pay for a large infrastructure. Services are fluid, able to be added to or reduced, and therefore cost effective.
Cloud computing supports mobile learning. A student can access the resources both to read and to write to applications from virtually anywhere, using devices such as a laptop computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant, tablet PC, digital camera or fusion device. This provides great flexibility for the student and professor in creating a unique learning experience.
Students are able to progress at their own pace, review material, upload comments to class boards, send assignments digitally, and check updates on assignments from any location that has internet access. They can multitask, easily moving between applications. They can digitally tag objects on a geodigital grid and ask questions about them, take pictures, post notes, and receive answers.
This is true learning on demand. Collaborative learning among class members is accommodated by use of the network for study sessions and work on projects. One student could be at the library gathering materials while another can be at a separate library or lab, and a third can conduct interviews, all while sharing notes and findings.
Students can “swarm” to locations of interest when one member uploads a message that an even of interest is happening in real time. This further enhances collaborative learning.
Instructors who embrace the technological advances will profit from the increased ability to communicate with students outside the classroom. They can conduct research on various subjects by deploying multiple interconnecting sensors and sifting the information in real time. They have greater access to experts in their field worldwide.
Universities that specialize in a particular area of inquiry are able to upload information and receive payment for their services from other schools. Instead of investing in expensive stationary laboratories, they can access virtual labs for their students as needed.
Though cloud computing brings with it many innovations and opportunities, it is not without disadvantages. Chief among these is the difficulty of securing intellectual property and personal and financial information. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the freer access does not lead to increased risk.
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