Why Cloud Computing provides Flexibility for Online Learning in Higher Education

“Cloud computing” is a relatively new term for many people who are inexperienced in IT and all the latest technologies and devices that help us in our everyday work and play. What is it?  “It is software. It is hardware.” It is technology. It is one of the newest forms of technology and is used in many different ways. One of its main features is its flexibility. For example, a young student in a low to middle-class school district can have access to the same educational tools through this technology as a student in an affluent, well-equipped school district. Online, university students have the same access to learning materials, instructors, labs, and libraries as students in top-ranked campus universities.

Cloud computing is now used in virtually every sector of business, industry, agriculture, education, and personal life. Individuals are using it without even being aware as they share Internet accessibility to obtain the information they need, when they need it. People at top levels of school administration are beginning to see the wisdom of using cloud computing during our current recession to get more value for the amount of dollars spent on investments for educational improvements. Through Internet-based resources, students of all ages from the very young to the more mature university student have access to “the most advanced educational materials, software  applications, and computing resources.” 

Cloud computing creates shared service centers. For example, North Carolina State University now gives access to advanced resources to students from Kindergarten through 12th grade via their Virtual Computing Lab, “a cloud computing technology developed in partnership with IBM” according to recent reports. IBM, working in tandem with local nonprofit organizations, is providing special technology centers for the youngest students in the state “by donating and distributing another 100 KidSmart learning centers.”  New technological methods are introduced to the very young using innovative technology to “integrate interactive teaching and learning activities into pre-K curricula,” says Stanley S. Litow, president of the IBM International Foundation. Litow was formerly Deputy Chancellor of Schools for New York City and has valuable insight into methods of improving learning in schools and universities while cutting and saving costs. Cloud computing is one method of reducing costs associated with all education, including higher education.

In the field of education, cloud computing is being used from pre-kindergarten through college, and especially in the area of online learning. Innovative new technology for gathering information quickly and easily is what the cloud computing infrastructure is all about. Educators point to cloud computing as a solution for instructors’ obstacles in preparation and development of courses and strengthening curriculum. Instructors and students who have universal access to the material they need are several steps ahead of traditional teaching and learning methods. Where material used to be taught and learned using textbooks and chalk boards, it is now gathered and absorbed much more quickly and easily through Internet access, using technology in the classroom. 

According to PRNewswire-FirstCall from IBM in New York recently, educational solutions “implemented by IBM” allows teachers to “more effectively work with different levels of learning in the classroom. Students with a higher level of learning can progress to additional learning activities, allowing teachers to focus more time and attention on those students who require additional assistance.” Learning through cloud computing is a much more satisfying way of learning for most students these days. At middle school ages, the individual pace made possible through cloud computing spurs students on to learn more and learn faster through technology. Higher-level students are not held back while waiting for all students to grasp material.

The same innovative teaching techniques can also be used at the college level, especially for online classes, as a platform for learning. The same benefits are realized as students can proceed at their own pace, work ahead, complete assignments, use all the information they can find through their own research accessed through cloud computing. Jeff McNaught, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer for Wyse Corporation, the global leader in the world of technology, states that today, 10 out of the top 15 universities worldwide use Wyse to make technology a better tool for administrators, teachers, and students.”

The use of cloud computing in schools and universities substantially increases availability of necessary educational computing services and applications to students and educators through the infrastructure it provides. It is not just about having services available upon demand, but it is also about students in all types of educational settings, including online schools, becoming part of a driving force in a global economy, which is “vital to America’s long-term economic health.” The flexibility of cloud computing is just one of the ways funding to educational institutions can be used wisely to ensure brighter futures for all students as they strive to reach for the clouds.