How Cloud Computing Is Impacting Education (2023)?

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Last Updated on March 25, 2023 by Ashish

Introduction

Education is a massive part of human development and civilization. As time moves on, the education system constantly changes and improves. With the advancement in technology, the education system is changing more rapidly than ever before.

One technology that contributes largely to the changing education environment is cloud computing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some educational institutions adopted some form of cloud-based systems to improve education management and delivery.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to quarantine at home where education paused for a while. Then, online learning became the main mode of education. For our daily usage, educational institutes of today’s day and age must use a reliable education system to ensure a smooth online education process. Hence, educational institutions depended heavily on cloud service solutions to facilitate online learning. Ever since the pandemic, the educational system has seen a drastic change.

Conventional Educational Environment

Traditional classroom

Generations that come before the millennial generation were more accustomed to learning in a room in a building with blackboards or chalkboards, books, and stationery. Students acquired knowledge from educators and teachers in a physical setting in an enclosed space. Students also physically attend classes daily and sit for exams in physical venues. After school, students complete their schoolwork or assignments and then submit them physically to their teachers or lecturers. Teachers had no method to monitor their students outside school hours and must wait for the next school day to provide assistance. 

The traditional education system is beneficial in the way that it promotes interpersonal relationships since students can interact face-to-face with one another, it provides a well-structured schedule, and there are many extra-curricular activities that promote student growth. However, there are some disadvantages of the traditional education system and it is more apparent in today’s global digital era.

Drawbacks Of Traditional Education System

University students in a physical class

Although the traditional education system is highly established, it still faces many drawbacks, especially when it is compared to the latest modern way of teaching and learning. Some of these drawbacks are:

  • Limited to no interaction between educator and student after hours:
  • Once a student leaves the physical learning environment, he/she has no means to interact with their teachers just in case they have any questions or are stuck on a school or university project. This problem delays the learning process and can demotivate students from learning more. Sometimes, educators and students might forget to resolve problems from previous classes but must proceed with the syllabus due to time constraints.
  • Generalized teaching and learning method – Teaching and learning are mostly one-way where the teacher teaches and the students listen. Each student’s effective learning method is different. So, conventional teaching methods might not be effective and sometimes difficult for some students to handle. Some students are auditory so listening is most effective while some might be visual learners and require more graphs, charts, and picture aids. 
  • Restricted by time – Students gain most of the learning process during a fixed period of time with a strict schedule. Once that period of time ends and the students are out of the physical learning environment, learning comes to a pause and resumes the next day. During that pause, some students might not study and forget what they have learned. Effective learning is a continuous process and should not stop after school hours. Hence, the traditional education system has the minimal capability of empowering students to study after school hours. 

Why Education Should Migrate to Cloud-Based Systems? 

Online class

Now, with the rise of many sophisticated cloud-computing systems, teaching and learning can further be enhanced by migrating traditional education systems onto the cloud. Below are the benefits of adopting cloud-based applications in education. 

  • Interaction between teacher and student is unrestricted by time and physical place – Sometimes the allocated time in the physical class is not enough for the teachers and lecturers to teach the students. With cloud-based education portals, educators can reach out to their students and provide extra learning materials, and answer students’ questions promptly. Cloud-based education systems can eliminate the disconnect between educators and students. 
  • Can be adapted to the different learning styles –  There are four main learning styles; visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading or writing. Traditional teaching environments mostly accommodate auditory and reading or writing styles. In the cloud, educators can provide different types of materials that can cater to all four learning styles. 
  • For visual learners, presentation slides with graphs, charts, and sketches are best suited for them. 
  • For auditory-type learners, educators can provide links to videos for each topic for them to listen to. 
  • For kinesthetic learners, educators can provide materials that explain concepts involving hands-on activities such as flashcards or creating simulation models. 
  • For reading or writing-type learners, educators can upload worksheets for them to fill in or provide written assignments.

They also benefit greatly from transcribed presentations for them to read along in an online class. 

  • More flexibility – With a cloud-based learning environment, students acquire the freedom to learn, access study materials, and complete assignments at any time and place as desired. Educators can access and monitor student performance and submissions as well as upload additional materials on the spot. In the case of emergencies, educators can arrange quizzes or examinations online and students can complete them in the comfort of their own space and time. 
  • Increased collaboration between educators – Since the cloud is a borderless environment, educators from different parts of the world can now conduct meetings virtually. This increases collaboration and efforts to continually improve the education system. Different countries have different education methodologies and philosophies. With a cloud-based education system, educators from different parts of the globe can share their methods with each other and adopt new teaching methods to further improve education delivery.
  • Centralized management and sharing – In a cloud system, educators have one-stop access to all student data, homework and assignment submissions, student examination marks, and more. This makes it easier for educators to manage files and keep track of student records. Centralized sharing allows educators to share presentation slides, textbooks, reading materials, and assignments with all students neatly in one place. This means all students gain equal access to quality education and nobody is left behind. 

How Covid-19 Accelerated The Migration To Cloud-Based Systems?

E-learning

The traditional education system was heavily affected by COVID-19. For a period of time, all students were not allowed to attend school and learning halted. As time passed and thanks to the Internet, teaching, and learning steadily resumed to online learning. However, managing student information, attendance, and assignments, and arranging quizzes and examinations online was not easy.

During the beginning of COVID-19, many educators and students were unfamiliar with navigating teaching and learning completely over the Internet. Without a proper and centralized virtual environment to teach in, arranging classes was a tedious feat that causes confusion to students that are attending the online classes.

Advantages of Cloud Computing In Education

The main advantage of cloud computing in education is that it enables virtual collaborative learning, enhances cooperative learning, and provides safe and reliable e-learning platforms and many other monitoring capabilities. Below are applications of cloud computing in education.

  • Gamification – Students can learn more when they enjoy themselves while learning new topics. Cloud-based applications can be created to have a game-like environment. This enhances the student’s interest in learning and can improve their problem-solving skills. Before the cloud became popular, there are educational gaming websites such as mathplayground.com. Now, with the cloud, developers can create a platform for teaching and learning as well as incorporate games into their platform. 
  • Collaborative online learning – Cloud computing applications provide tools for collaborative learning tasks such as editing, sharing, discussion, and communication. In one study, it was found that Google Apps improved the collaborative learning process, and provided facilitation in coordinating between groups such as sharing ideas, documents, and presentations. Overall, cloud-based e-learning platforms have made online learning flexible, shareable, scalable, and user-friendly.
  • Mobile cloud computing, learn at your fingertips – Almost everybody owns a mobile device and sometimes other multiple devices at once. Combining cloud-based applications with mobile devices allows students and teachers to access online education platforms at their fingertips. Educators can adopt cloud-based learning applications that can be configured to cater to each student’s individual needs. Students can also study at any time and place using the cloud-based platform. 

Changes In Education And Teaching Brought By Cloud

Seamless Online Teaching And Learning

Teacher and student during online class

Wong(2015) said that seamless learning is when students are able to continuously learn across a combination of location, time, technology, or social settings. With cloud-based education applications and systems, students are able to achieve seamless learning since they can learn on any device at any time and place without interruptions. Students can search and recap previous learning contents and become more proactive, creative, and collaborative with a cloud-based learning system.

Centralized Student Work

Store data in the cloud

When students and educators use the same online learning cloud application, information shared between the users is centralized in one virtual place. Students can easily access documents in multiple classes with ease. Teachers and lecturers can upload documents to students from different classes as well as access work submitted by their students.

Students and teachers do not need to worry about losing their work as they are stored safely and securely in the cloud. Prior to cloud technology, teachers and students must keep and refer to hundreds of paperwork. With the cloud, they can access more information online with minimal need for paper. 

No More Geographical Restrictions

Students studying in a cafe

Cloud-based educational platforms can be used on multiple electronic devices such as laptops, iPad, and smartphones. Nowadays, these devices are lightweight and can be carried around easily. Additionally, many public places provide secure Wi-Fi connections that students and teachers can use to access cloud applications and perform educational tasks at any place.

In contrast, the traditional education system restricts the students and teachers to education in a classroom. With the cloud, teachers and students can now communicate, collaborate and perform educational tasks from any location. 

Improve Education Work Management

Analyzing overall performance

Cloud-based education also improves the method of managing the education system. For example, teachers can use analytical tools in the cloud-based education system to gain insight and keep track of each student’s competency level. This information that is stored in the cloud can be conveyed to parents and students and improve communication and student performance. In terms of document management, teachers and students can collaboratively share documents and information systematically.

Finally, educators can spend time and resources more efficiently as they no longer need to spend time and resources printing documents for the students. Educators can simply upload the materials digitally and manage them with a few clicks of a button.

Cloud Computing Solutions From Major Service Providers In The Education Sector 

G Suite for Education

Internet search engine

Google for Education aims to enhance education with simple, flexible, and secure tools that make collaboration easier and streamline instruction. There are four editions of Google Workspace for Education that you can choose from.

  • Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals (formerly known as G Suite for Education) – Educational tools and features are:
    • Google Classroom, Documents, Sheets, Slides, Forms and more
    • Google Meet, Gmail, Chat
    • Data loss prevention for Gmail and Drive
  • Google Workspace for Education Standard – Covers everything in Education Fundamentals and:
    • A security center
    • Advanced device and app management 
    • Export Gmail logs and Classroom logs for insights and analysis in BigQuery
  • Teaching and Learning Upgrade – Covers everything in Education Fundamentals and::
    • Meetings with up to 250 participants and live streaming with up to 10,000 viewers using Google Meet
    • Premium engagement features in Google Meet
    • Classroom add-on to integrate your favorite tools and content
    • Unlimited originality reports 
  • Google Workspace for Education Plus – Covers everything in Education Standard and Teaching and Learning Upgrade and:
    • Meetings with up to 500 participants and live streaming with up to 100,000 viewers using Google Meet
    • Sync registers directly to Classroom from any Student Information System
    • Customized Cloud Search for your domain
    • Build custom apps with AppSheet
    • Faster response time from the product expert support team

Microsoft Office 365 Education

Online learning

Office 365 is the cloud-based platform provided by Microsoft to students, educators, and institutions. Microsoft Office 365 provides familiar applications, and always-accessible files updated in real-time for seamless curriculum and easy adoption on Android, Ios, and Windows devices.

They provide one place for organizations using OneNote t easily organize materials and collaboration. Their platform can be accessed anytime, anywhere and from any device without boundaries in addition to simplifying class management processes. The set of tools available are

  • Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Teams, Publisher, and Access
  • Cloud services such as Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Sway, Stream, Flow, School Data Sync, PowerApps, Bookings, and Power BI

AWS for Education

Online learning

AWS aims to accelerate the digital transformation of education by providing flexible, affordable technology solutions. It can help personalize the student-learning experience, gain access to applications from anywhere, improve learning outcomes with secure access to applications from any device and share data seamlessly to gauge student performance.

AWS cloud also allows for customized infrastructure to enhance learning with powerful tools. One of the many AWS services for education is Amazon AppStream 2.0. Amazon AppStream 2.0 provides accessibility, agility, availability, and scalability at a lower cost. 

Success Stories Of Cloud-Based Education Systems

G Suite for Education

Internet search engine

North Carolina State University is one of the many clients that adopted Google’s cloud services for education to improve performance. Previously, Nc State used an old email system that failed to meet their needs and provided a small storage quota. Additionally, the teaching staff faced scheduling problems because they all used different calendar programs. Administrators faced difficulty taking and sharing notes efficiently durian meetings. After testing various different tools from different providers, NC State chose Google and was able to overcome its previous difficulties.

Case Study: Bloomington Public Schools

There are 19 public schools in the city of Bloomington. The Bloomington Public Schools‘ mission is to develop the ability to thrive in a rapidly changing world through flexible and technological learning models. Bloomington Public Schools used Chromebooks and G Suite. Chromebooks are a range of fast and affordable devices that update automatically and are easily set for schools to use and manage. G Suite is a free suite of communication and collaboration tools. Bloomington Public Schools wanted to prepare students for future success as well as accelerate learning through differentiated instruction and a wider set of different learning tools. With the tools they used, students are collaborating more and teachers are able to offer students a richer learning experience with increased hands-on activities, flexible approaches, and empowering students with tools for learning and collaboration.

Microsoft Office 365 Education

Online learning

Case Study: MCKL

The Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) adopted a digital learning management system to prepare for IR 4.0 and ultimately opted for Office 365. Their aim was to develop innovative teaching and engagement methods. The tools they deployed were Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and OneNote. With the adoption of Office 365, teachers became more creative in delivering subject matters and increasing student interest. One teacher created an FAQ channel in Microsoft Teams for the students. The channel has evolved and become a problem-solving community for the students.

In the Philippines, Saint Paul University Quezon city aimed to adopt future-ready learning environments and used Microsoft 365 A1 Plus and Microsoft Teams services to reach their objectives. Since the pandemic, the university had to rapidly transition to a Hybrid Learning Environment and needed solutions to sustain student engagement, apply effective assessment tools to evaluate the learning experience, and implement cost-effective facilities to support teachers and students.

Microsoft 365 A1 Plus provided them the ability to create collaborate in classrooms across school levels and connect the teachers wherever they are. Microsoft Teams was chosen as the platform for hybrid learning. It connected the academic community of the university in one preferred learning space to seamlessly and effectively deliver education.

AWS For Education

Online learning

The Faculty of English at Vietnam National University conducts English language classes for up to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students annually. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted face-to-face teaching and learning. With the AWS Cloud, they were able to meet students’ learning needs through the pandemic.

To minimize processing times and equip the learning management system with multiple functions, they migrated to AWS Cloud in 2018 and run its system on Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. Additionally, with Amazon Simple Storage Service they were able to provide scalable, secure, and high-performance data storage that allows students and teachers to upload large files. ()

Case Study: Knowt

An educational technology startup, Knowt, developed an application to change the way students study and the way teachers create assessments. With artificial intelligence, the application automatically converts notes from students and teachers into quizzes and flash cards. Instead of only creating notes, quizzes, and flashcards, Knowt also wanted to be a one-stop shop and focus on sharing content.

Hence, Knowt opted to use the AWS EdStart team to help them build the product they wanted to build. Other AWS solutions were also used by Knowt to realize their objectives which were AWS Amplify and AWS AppSync. These services streamlined the whole development process and made building the cloud simpler.

Steps To Migrate From Conventional To Cloud-Based Education

Steps

Pardeshi (2014) outlined the main steps necessary when adopting cloud computing in higher education institutes as well as recommendations for effective adaptation. There are a total of five phases for the adoption and each phase has multiple steps in the adoption process.

  • Phase 1: Preparation phase
    • Step 1: Understand the cloud by developing knowledge of cloud technology. Participating in seminars, and conferences and having discussions with experts and vendors is one way to increase knowledge. 
    • Step 2: Understand the user requirements such as the needs of the faculty, staff, student, administrators, IT and network department, and other departments within the institute.
    • Step 3: Understand the technical feasibility and economic factors of the adoption before deploying
    • Step 4: Perform SWOT analysis
    • Step 5: Return on investment analysis
  • Phase 2: Analysis phase
    • Step 1: Analyze hardware and software requirements
    • Step 2: Evaluate the structure from IT requirements and point of view.
    • Step 3: Identify the benchmarks for security and legal compliance by comparing the internal practices of the institute. 
    • Step 4: Prepare for roll-out and adoption plan
  • Phase 3: Migrating phase
    • Step 1: Select a service provider based on the planned benchmarks
    • Step 2: Integrate the new cloud system application with the existing non-cloud system 
    • Step 3: Develop a contract for the vendor to sign to ensure the vendor meets all requirements. 
  • Phase 4: Concluding phase
    • Step 1: Continually enhance the project to meet user requirements
    • Step 2: Roll out the system for real usage
    • Step 3: Migrate data and applications to the cloud
    • Step 4: Provide support and adequate training to all users after completing the migration
    • Step 5: Monitor and control the project to ensure a successful migration
    • Step 6: Implement the cloud 
  • Phase 5: Ongoing maintenance phase
    • Plan vendor management, maintenance, and user support
    • Assign the responsibilities for the new cloud system’s upkeep

Pardeshi (2014) also provided some recommendations to ensure a smooth transition from the traditional system to the cloud-based education system.

  • The institute must create a proper outsourcing strategy before adopting the cloud system.
  • The cloud system must be maintained by a trained professional. Otherwise, institutions will be stuck with an outdated version of the cloud and performance will deteriorate. It is suggested to appoint an active vendor to manage the cloud.
  • Develop a team to ensure excellent integration and flexible cloud infrastructure
  • Identify the best cloud computing type for your institution’s needs and usage.
  • Identify the benefits of migrating from traditional to cloud-based systems.
  • Identify the risks and challenges of adopting and upkeep cloud systems. Then, prepare a strategy to reduce those risks and challenges.
  • Evaluate the costs, benefits, and risks of cloud-based systems and the migration process
  • Identify if the institute possesses the necessary IT skills needed to manage the cloud. If not, the institute must opt to outsource.

Challenges Of Adopting The Cloud In the Education Sector

Solving problems together

Cloud-based systems enable universities to concentrate on teaching and research rather than building and maintaining complex IT infrastructures. The many tools provided by cloud providers are beneficial for students to exploit anywhere and anytime. Lectures have more opportunities to share extra resources to enhance student knowledge by sharing through the cloud. Education administrators can improve data management, storage, and other managerial duties.

Although there are many benefits of cloud-based education systems, there are still challenges in adopting them. Below is a list of challenges of adopting a cloud system in higher education.

  • Security – Cloud systems hold a vast amount of information which are very confidential. Cloud providers must maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Some security measures are identification and authentication for all users. Control or access permissions, resource ownership, and authorization are other methods to ensure security. Encryption techniques must be applied to protect sensitive institution data such as examination results and block any attempts to tamper with data. 
  • Lock-in – Vendor lock-in is when the institution using the cloud services finds its data and applications are locked-in to the products of a specific provider. When locked in there is risk and significant costs to migrate to another vendor or revert back to the traditional education system.
  • Reliability/Availability issue – If the cloud service experiences an outage, the cloud system is not reliable or unavailable to use. This outage can disrupt the student learning process and the educator’s teaching process.
  • Reliance on Internet bandwidth – the Cloud is dependent on the Internet. Hence, the quality of the cloud system is heavily reliant on the Internet connection speed and bandwidth. If the existing Internet bandwidth is insufficient, the institute must invest some capital to improve it before adopting cloud-based systems.
  • Different management style –  Traditional education management is very different from cloud-based education management. Hence, adopting cloud-based systems poses management challenges. 
  • Acceptance  – It is a challenge to convince decision-makers in institutes to shift from a traditional system to a highly modern cloud system. Cloud computing is very advanced and also possess risks so convincing top management to take the leap will not be easy. 

Conclusion

Since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, the education sector faced rapid changes in how education is delivered and learned. Cloud computing technology played a vital role in transitioning from traditional modes of education to the now well-used mode of online learning. With cloud-based applications used in education, students and teachers can stay connected at any time and place. Educators and students have many varying programs to use that promote innovative teaching and learning methods. 

It must be noted that transitioning to cloud-based education and maintaining that system is not an easy feat. Educational institutions must have “all hands on deck” in maintaining a secure, reliable, and safe online education system. Institutions must always be prepared to regularly update their cloud-based education systems since cloud computing technology improves rapidly over time. Nonetheless, in this digital age, a cloud-based system is a platform too attractive to miss out on. 

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