Cloud computing is the new platform everybody seems to gravitate towards. And why shouldn’t they? Storing data, software, applications in a server other than the users have its positive and significant impact on the over-all computing concept. Various industries have taken notice to the practical applications that can benefit from the technology and so they applied it on their own systems through portals or websites. One sector of society that could definitely use it is education. Companies are already using clouds for training of channel partners or employees. Cloud computing could have advantageous results in the field of electronic learning, specifically, elearning online.
Pros of using clouds:
1. Multiple computers can access the online materials at the same time either from work, home or library. In corporate application, different offices or branches around the world could have a live synchronous elearning session simultaneously.
2. For the classrooms, it can be added to the curriculum to supplement or complement traditional classroom discussions.
3. There are free cloud applications available in the Internet that educators can use to customize their lessons. A great example is Moodle, the open source elearning platform that recently leverage Amazon’s Web Services platform. This improved their video streaming capabilities essential to effective delivery of lessons.
4. Diversified learning experience for the students and employees. Having a collaborative learning environment will definitely enrich education and learning for students as they work with other students online just like a group experience in the physical world.
5. Learning institutions and companies will be able to minimize costs. Aside from open source elearning clouds, paid clouds also known as SaaS or Software as a Service would charge a minimal amount especially when compared to traditional software applications that needs to be installed.
6. Users can easily create new content using a browser. Since clouds run on browsers, there is no need for additional programs to create content. A wiki site, for example, uses a simple WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editing form that a user can edit.
Although the cloud computing platform may offer a lot of advantages, the other side of the coin has to be considered as well.
Cons of using clouds:
1. The cloud has limitations. The technology can handle basic video streaming, interactive Flash animations, audio, and basic text content but in terms of handling training, AutoCAD, for example, the cloud is limited in terms of simulation unlike a specifically programmed training system.
2. There are security concerns when dealing with cloud based applications. Since the user has no control over the server that houses their data, sensitive information of students might fall on the wrong hands.
3. There is ambiguity with regards to copyright protection that protects your content from plagiarisms.
4. Reliability in filtering content is a concern with cloud-based apps because it is basically connected to the internet.
5. Since there is almost no real control of the server where the data or content resides, when a user deletes a user account, there is no guarantee that the content associated with that account was also deleted.
Since the way forward in terms of technology for elearning online is clouds, educators should consider the risks and benefits that will be gained from transitioning to this technology.