There is no doubt about a great future of education in India. Yet, the way to reach out to a great future still has to be thought about. Cloud is emerging as the medium to make quality education accessible to all. Cloud-based solutions are now widely accepted for two main reasons : Minimised costeverywhere of ownership and operations, and anywhere, anytime learning potential. But still it is not understood, and used the way it can be used for its real benefits especially in education. The first thing is to understand what Cloud means, and what it can do for the education segment. Unlike its synonym Cloud, it is simply a metaphor for various data networks generally located remotely and accessed via the internet, and has nothing to do with the stratosphere. Various apps like Google Drive, Facebook, Gmail, Drop Box, Web conferencing, ERP as a service, etc are the most common examples of Cloud, where the entire data is saved and processed in some remote data centre. Simplifying the Cloud, Lokesh Mehra, Director-Education Advocacy, Microsoft defines, “Cloud in simple terms is a network of shared resources that can be located anywhere. The main advantage that comes with cloud is: it’s cheaper, scalable, and maintenance free for the end user. Cloud computing can be viewed typically as a large ecosystem, which is not owned by any educational organisation. Within this ecosystem, learners and educators act as the users and producers of cloud-based learning services, with complete control over the choice, use and sharing – providing learners anywhere, anytime learning. Faster, Cheaper, Reliable and on Demand – the cloud truly has a green lining.”
| Benefits of Cloud For Institutions|
Cloud computing has a tremendous opportunity to provide greater cost efficiency, flexibility in schools while improving the learning outcomes. One of the most interesting reasons to adopt cloud is that schools’ need not invest in the implementation, maintenance issues, and buying new software everyday. Data volumes are going high; it helps in keeping away from server and storage worries.
Implementation cost saves from buying new hardware or software updating cost. Schools have to pay just monthly subscription fees to get all that done in a hassle-free manner and helps them to focus more on operations and on enhancing learning delivery.
Nilaya Varma, Managing Director, Health & Public Service, Accenture India, shares the benefits of Cloud computing, “The power of Cloud computing in education can be used best in the areas of data and content management, document and records management, online learning resources, web-delivery of classroom trainings, and knowledge management. Education in India in the next few years will move away from public universities to private universities, Cloud will help these universities with optimising resources for physical infrastructure by using technology infrastructure, on a per-use basis. Content across these universities will be more standardised, which shall enable students to transfer across universities. Content management will be a service that these institutions will be interested to leverage.”
Cloud’s power to offer anywhere,anytime learning will penetrate educationto far flung areas, where there isscarcity of institutions, teachers, andunavailability of courses with the benefitsof collaborative and peer-learning.Highlighting the potential of Cloud,G Raghavan, Chief Executive, CareerBuilding Solutions, NIIT Ltd says, “Thebreakthrough Cloud technology hasthe potential to transform the educationindustry in India. Through Cloudhigh quality educational programmescan reach to the remotest corners of thecountry, thus addressing the dilemmaof scalability and quality in educationthat our country is currently facing.Backed by powerful technologies, suchas NIIT Cloud Campus, the collaborativeplatform puts the power to learnin the hands of the students by makinglearning with buddies, and learning anytime and anywhere possible.”
Students are demanding more technology services from their schools, and the schools in turn are keeping pace by adopting newer and better technologies.
Cloud brings a range of solutions that are not offered by the traditional IT. Cloud computing is available in many ways from software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and now emerging in the education is Content as a Service.
Lokesh Mehra further shares the details of three important set of offerings from Cloud:
SaaS: Software as a Service (SaaS) provides schools with different applications that can accessed from anywhere, such as emails or different educational applications. It gives the benefit of collaboration among students. Microsoft Office 365 for Education provides free email, websites, online document editing and storage, IM and video conferencing helping students easily connect with faculty, experts, and one another to inspire, research, and form new ideas. PaaS: Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides users with tools that allow them to create and host the applications. The tools available are cheap, and can be used by students to learn and create loads of applications. It allows you to dynamically scale, as demands fluctuate. IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas) gives the freedom of storing your data on the Cloud, and then accessing it from anywhere. This option is normally used in educational institutions for uploading the assignments and other documents that can be used by students from anywhere. During admission or result cycles the load increases, and instead of investing in CAPEX, an institute can leverage the Cloud.
Important for skills development
“The benefit of Cloud lies in its ability to service, to assess people, and to automatically integrate them to build and discuss in communities”
Cloud will play an important role in thedevelopment of skills. People can upgradetheir skills by anywhere, anytimelearning. Ashutosh Chadha, Director-Corporate Affairs Group, Intel SouthAsia says, “We need to understand howeducation will mature over the next 5-15years. Cloud will take a bigger manifestation.We are going to a situation wherepersonalised, anywhere, anytime learningis extremely important. So the Cloudshould not be looked as only a repositoryof content. We should look at Cloud asan interactive learning medium basedon what we want to learn and then beable to assess, and immediately curate it.If I am taking Xth grade examination onlineand it finds that I am weak in algebraor differentiation or integration, etc.Next time I go to learning it should talkabout those modules, which are relevantto me. This is personalised learning, becausethis is how we see education movingover the next 15 years. It is going tobe here and now education. People aregoing to move from one skill to anotheras per need, and they may not have timeto go through the entire course, butwant those specific things. The benefitof Cloud lies in its ability to service, toassess people, and to automatically integratethem to build and discuss in communities.Community learning is goingto be very important.
On the flip side
Cloud does offer some challenges in terms of security issues, or accessibility problems due to slower Internet speeds in India. The control over the content available in the Cloud may be limited forthe users. Also a shift from the existingtraditional infrastructure to the Cloud may prove to be a tricky and difficult task for the educational institutions, as data sovereignty may be a question for government institutes. But these challenges are being addressed by the industry. Offerings with greater security and more reliable networks are being rolled out.
In India, there are various challenges when it comes to the delivery of quality education, and reaching out to the peripheries. To address these issue Cloud has a huge potential. Commentingon the challenges of cloud, Nilaya Verma adds: “There are a few challenges that we foresee for Cloud in education to become a reality. The biggest of them would be the regulatory environment
Software as aService(Saa)
Platform as a Service(PaaS)
Infrastrucutre as aService (IaaS)
Content as aService (CaaS)
be accessed from
Provide tools to create
and host applications
Store data and access it from anywhere
Easy to manage
Allows to dynamically
Scale as demand
Upload and share
Assignment and projects
Helps in managing
Helps in addressing the
demand during Admission
Keep the curricula
in a changing political landscape. Stringent copyright and plagiarism laws, data integrity, data security and data privacy are the need of the hour. Some of the challenges can be addressed by having a well-defined, documented data governance framework that has tight oversight and controls. Also, proper risk mitigation steps need to put in place to address data security issues. The firms in India can leverage of the successes and failures of vernance challenges.”