Cloud computing has taken academia by storm, as college and university Information Technology managers turn their application, platform and infrastructure management to remote servers, dispensing with costly local servers. That transition is a near seamless one, enabling institutions to enjoy more space while freeing up some of the administrative tasks associated with acquiring software licenses and setting up full work stations.
The term "cloud computing" isn’t always understood. Part of the reason is that it a nebulous one. Another reason is that cloud computing means different things to different people. For a term that seems so "soft" it can be easily misunderstood!
College students may have become familiar with cloud computer through Google Apps, a suite of tools such as email, calendars and documents that can be shared anywhere. Both Gmail and Google Docs are part of that cloud, a collection of free services that make collaborative study possible.
Google has also made it easier for educators to connect with students. Working with Pearson Education, the Internet giant has developed OpenClass, creating a learning environment that connects educators with students remotely. This platform is also free with no hosting, licensing or hardware costs involved. The idea here is to bring the classroom to the world, in hopes of reaching more students.
Connecting the World
Many people, including K-12 educators and students, have discovered the Desire2 Learn Learning Suite. This integrated core learning platform extends cloud-based learning solutions to millions of people around the globe. Its all about breaking down barriers by bringing high quality education to the masses.
From a college student’s standpoint, cloud computing makes much sense. No longer are you required to deal with wonky software or unreliable hardware. Simply power up your laptop, tablet or smartphone and you can get connected. Clearly, some devices are better suited to write reports, but that information is stored, retrieved and disseminated through the cloud.
Quite easily, you can start your report on a tablet, send it to a friend’s computer, pull it up on a college work station and submit it via your smartphone.
The Administrative Advantage
For college administrators, deploying I.T. systems through the cloud is a dream come true, removing the headaches and costs of maintaining such systems. There is, of course, always the risk that problems will be encountered, but the backup systems in place with cloud computing has largely mitigated those risks.
Some of the achievable goals of cloud computing for colleges include reducing capital I.T. costs and associating demand with funding. Cloud computing also full scales and standardizes IT services. The turn around time for implementing new standards is a fast one with most changes quietly and seamlessly handled behind the scenes. Moreover, cloud computing makes ’round the clock operation easier, with departmental professionals free up to handle other tasks.
Much work still needs to be done to clear up certain legal matters regarding cloud computing. Yes, the platform is a perfectly legal and sustainable one, but like any method of sharing documentation, it can be abused.
Edudemic has cited 10 areas where legal considerations weigh in: regulation, identify theft, privacy, patent, control, service legal agreements and more. There is some overlap in certain areas and state laws are sometimes stronger than federal. Moreover, when you cross international boundaries, local jurisdiction also is a factor.
Still, cloud computing will likely be embraced by more colleges and universities as its ease of use, scalability and reduced costs make this so very attractive. Like any new media or platform, cloud computing will mature, perhaps extending into our lives that we have yet to imagine it could.