It’s been 12 months since lockdown became our reality. Every aspect of our lives has been impacted. Almost every educational institution has faced unprecedented disruption as the pandemic pushed them online much earlier than planned.
As a result, the edtech sector grew by 72% last year, driven largely by cloud computing. At its core, cloud computing refers to running workloads remotely using fully managed computing resources over the internet. These resources primarily consist of computing power and data storage which can be used to run any kind of computer system.
While not traditionally associated with the education sector, cloud computing has helped keep the education market going throughout the pandemic.
1. It opened up education material to the masses
One of the biggest challenges institutions have faced has been making education materials available to students. With libraries closed and no face-to-face teaching since March last year, many students have struggled to access the resources they need to complete their studies.
As a result, the market for digital textbooks has grown significantly. Many universities have partnered with online services such as Perlego to provide their students with access to digital textbooks. Rather than trek to the library or seek out illegal versions, students can now access over 500,000 academic, professional and non-fiction eBooks in one place.
2. It provides students with additional support
There has been a real drive for technology that supports students and staff; a common example being chatbots which are integrated into existing learning management systems (LMS) to assist students and free up teachers’ time. The capacity of this cloud technology allows universities to store information about student preferences and provide customisable solutions to their problems, delivering a bespoke learning experience for each individual. However, we are still at the very early stages of this technology, and there is so much more that can be done for the benefit of learning communities.
3. It saves universities thousands of pounds
Thanks to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing, organisations are no longer having to buy and maintain their own IT infrastructure. Everything can be hosted within the cloud, making it cost efficient, on-demand, secure, fast, reliable and scalable. This is why most organisations, including educational institutions, have been slowly migrating their on-premise infrastructure to the cloud in recent years. There is a large cost implication with buying and maintaining physical infrastructures, and due to the pandemic, many universities unfortunately experienced massive budget cuts, accelerating their move towards cloud-based technology.
4. It allows people to work at their own pace
With the removal of in-person teaching, many students have suddenly been left to create their own work schedule as they can no longer go to campus for lectures. Cloud computing makes it possible for students to access the most up-to-date version of assignments and receive updates when changes have been made. Students are able to continue to access the best material they need to complete their studies and learn at their own pace.
5. It’s here to stay
The pandemic has pushed educational institutions online earlier than planned, but many of the technologies will remain in place when the pandemic subsides. As students become accustomed to the newly adopted way of learning, educational institutions will want to keep them in place – especially if they are found to be useful and contribute to a better student experience. While students will eventually return to campus and resume in-person teaching, many universities may take the opportunity to offer more online courses and expand their remote student base. Geography will no longer be as big of a barrier to international students seeking higher education from institutions in different countries.
6. It enables collaboration
Cloud technology is enabling students to collaborate with each other more easily online. From video conferencing tools to document sharing, note sharing and collaborative revision tools, these sorts of technologies are being adopted by universities and, in many cases, directly by students themselves. It has been important for universities to be proactive about this shift towards the digital in order to help their students succeed in the best way possible online. Many of these tools are going to completely change the way in which students learn and collaborate with each other for good.
Navigating this new landscape of possible cloud technologies that can facilitate learning to meet the short-term needs brought on by the pandemic, as well as putting in place solutions that will work for the long-term, is a challenge that all universities face – but one that’s worth pursuing.
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