As institutions adopt cloud solutions for their IT and operational benefits, administrators may be overlooking the academic payoffs of cloud-enabled tools in the hands of students and faculty.
Research from Cisco notes that while 48 percent of higher education IT leaders say that cloud models can improve research, and 33 percent point to campus improvements, only 19 percent say the cloud could highly impact teaching.
Cloud Tools Give Students Access to Hands-On Experience
At California State University, San Bernardino, students are using Google’s cloud API to study virtual network infrastructure and cybersecurity. That type of experience is especially valuable given the projected need for workers with data science skills.
Students studying information systems and technology used Google’s cloud platform to create a guide that would help users create and manage an electronic commerce site using the cloud. After the project, 76.7 percent of students reported that the hands-on experience was an effective way to learn and that they had been more actively engaged in class when using the tools.
A CSUSB researcher who analyzed the project noted that IST instructors often have a hard time engaging students when courses are conducted solely in a lecture format. By contrast, the researcher wrote, “One of the best ways to teach students about the IST concepts/applications is to let them touch and use the information technologies.”
Cloud Solutions Support New Collaborative Environments
According to an IBM white paper, instructors can use cloud solutions to create virtual labs where they can run simulations.
“Using a virtual laboratory, a cloud infrastructure can offer the resources for processing, calculating and simulating that are needed to create a compound, on demand,” the white paper notes. “Pupils or students are able to carry out all of the virtual simulations or experiments that they want in it, from the simplest to the most complex.”
Along with virtual labs, professors can use virtual lecture halls to create a collaborative environment that expands the scope of learning.
For example, an economics professor could put classroom materials in the cloud to share them with lecturers at other institutions. That means learners in multiple disciplines could study the same materials and share insights from a variety of perspectives.
Professors can also marry the cloud with state-of-the-art classroom hardware. Interactive whiteboards like the Cisco WebEx board, for example, are cloud-enabled to make it possible for users to share content to the board from any connected device, and vice versa. That means students can access class materials on any device and from any location through the associated app.
Institutions are already reaping the benefits of the cloud in IT and in administrative applications. Now that instructors are embracing cloud applications in the classroom, they can bring those advantages into even more areas of campus.
This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.