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Cloud computing

in education:

Transformation

for K-12 schools

Author: Paul Gillin

Students around the world spent much of 2020 using cloud communications technologies to connect to their teachers and schoolmates. Videoconferences and digital whiteboards will never replace the classroom experience, but they can help fill gaps in education when supported by cloud services.

Cloud computing can make education more efficient and equitable for students and teachers, so long as networks are properly deployed and maintained. Cloud content delivery means students no longer have to lug around expensive books. Notes taken online are backed up safely to cloud servers, where they are always available. Remote video learning helps to prevent students who can't get into the classroom from missing lectures.

The importance of cloud computing in education

The public cloud is essentially a big, shared computing server that lives on the internet. Educators can connect to it and securely access software, as though they were using a server in a computing center down the hall. The public cloud is secure and readily available, and it can meet any capacity need.

Using the public cloud, educators can provide and access software resources from a browser or smartphone. School administrators do not need to make large upfront investments, and IT organizations do not have to spend weeks installing and configuring networks. Thanks to cloud communications, everything just works. And because public cloud services are available worldwide, students and teachers can connect with their peers and other students, wherever they are.

Courseware and cloud communications

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivers software to a browser or mobile device from a public cloud. You can enjoy the functions of the software without the worries of installation and maintenance. Upgrades and improvements are applied transparently.

One of the largest SaaS categories is courseware, which delivers a structured educational experience that students can consume at their own pace. For example, MIT makes nearly its entire curriculum available for free. The Khan Academy has thousands of free courses covering everything from kindergarten education to postgraduate mathematics. The cloud makes all this possible.

Cloud communications services can serve multiple student populations simultaneously, enabling the large-scale collaboration that defines many aspects of distance learning. Services such as Google's G Suite for Education provide free or inexpensive software solutions that students can use to create documents, spreadsheets and slideshows that can be accessed from any computer or mobile device without installing software. Students can share their work with each other, and educators can create assignments and workflows that facilitate structured learning.

Blackboard is another cloud communication software solution designed specifically for the classroom. Educators can post assignments and background materials, track student progress, grade assignments and connect with students individually and as a group over video or text messages.

New technology frontiers

There are countless examples of how the cloud is opening new frontiers in K-12 education.

  • Tools like Yup are connecting students with expert tutors for specialized learning.
  • Parents and elementary school teachers are teaching English using visual stories, interactive games and artificial intelligence-powered voice response through tools like Lingumi.
  • Students are connecting to design their own courses using resources like Tract.
  • Knowledge Matters is creating rich, immersive simulations that help students learn specialized skills in hospitality, sports management and marketing by solving real-world problems.

The value of cloud computing in education is enhanced by—and sometimes depends on—a high-speed network.

Video, for instance, adds depth to online relationships and enhances teacher-student interactions—but it could benefit from the speed and bandwidth of a 5G network for maximum efficacy. Augmented and virtual reality technologies are the next frontiers in cloud computing in education—but because they deliver 360-degree video content and respond in real time to gestures and movements, they require greater bandwidth than other cloud applications. By some estimates, immersive virtual reality will require at least 1 Gbps of bandwidth and 10-millisecond latency. A next-generation network like 5G can help deliver those capabilities.

The time is now for educators to think about how they want to deliver the next generation of K-12 education and prepare their network infrastructure to provide it.

Learn how cloud computing in education can help you bolster school security.