Online classes in the cloud

With the growth of cloud-based computing, many schools are keeping to choose hosting their online and hybrid-format course content on their own servers.

To me, it seems that cloud-hosting for online and hybrid courses fit in well with the current trend of “outsourcing” content from other schools via telepresence, cooperation between sister schools, and even offering credit for MOOC courses.

I will give you a good example of an education in a cloud.

Cloud edu is founded in 1965, with 4 Associate degrees ,16 Career programs of study, 48 Transfer programs, student to faculty ratio of 15:1, general education classes capped at 30 students, NJCAA Division I and member of the Jayhawk Community

The well established Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) is a university for level higher education institution, in Cork, Ireland. The Institute offers courses at various levels – up to and including PhD, as well as a range of disciplines including Art & Design, Business, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Nautical Studies and Science & Technology.

The 15,000 plus CIT students enjoy excellent social and sporting facilities including the purpose built student center, sports stadium, gymnasium and adjacent swimming pool. It has a number of vibrant and successful research, innovation, knowledge transfer and enterprise support centers. Among these are the Rubicon business incubation center, the Genesis enterprise support program, and the NIMBUS research center.

CIT has made a significant investment in a private cloud infrastructure which enables the MSc in Cloud computing program to be offered online to students in Russia, UK, Netherlands, Spain, Ireland and many other countries.

In this way, students gain remote access to cloud environments for lab and research activities in areas such as virtualization, storage, data center networking, application development, testing, security and other disciplines. At this moment there are 60 students enrolled in the MSc in Cloud Computing program and other cloud programs have been added to boost the number of student to 150.

All students use cloud technologies (VDI etc.) daily and learn about the key skills necessary to support the rapid changes currently taking place in the IT industry.

Class in the traditional classroom vs. class in the cloud

Being aware of the fact that University of California Online Education has committed to increasing the number of online courses offered across the University of California systems we have to be aware that, while increasing the number of online courses has undeniable benefits, there are also some important points we must remember about traditional education before switching to an online medium.

Increasing the number of online classes is beneficial in a number of ways.

First, we can increase classes’ registration without overcrowding the already fully packed lecture halls.

Second, an increased online presence will allow students from every part of the world to participate in classes that they normally would never be able to take.

Thirdly, having classes offered online will allow students who need to miss class for family or health reasons, to not rely on friends for notes, and not miss important information discussed during lecture.

These benefits are hefty, but we must be cautious of moving too far into the realm of online education.

Having the majority of enrolled students taking a class on campus will increase the number of required TAs to manage the increase in papers and tests that need to be graded. Having students take exams outside of a classroom, will drastically increase the likelihood of academic misconduct, … as much as we don’t want to admit that and in spite of the precautions taken.

In our days when we have information on the cloud readily available, we must not forget the importance of attending lecture, hearing the professor speak, engaging in class discussions, etc. Online lectures offer this benefit, cloud material are a supplement, and in our days of living they are still not a total replacement, for the traditional lectures.

The online courses should remain focused on existing students, making courses more accessible, making course material available at all times. Providing a means to learn the course material should arise where a student is prevented from attending.

How Cloud Computing Will Impact Education in 2012

The latest annual NMC Horizon Report, is a research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies that likely have an impact on higher education, where the evolution of cloud computing will have significant impacts on the classroom experience as well as accessibility to education.

But how will that look like?

Thanks to the technology and cloud computing the teaching community can flip the traditional approach to education, taking the lecture content online (this is where the term “flipped classroom” comes from) and freeing up classroom time for activities, collaboration and one-on-one interaction between students and instructors.

Just as a reminder, the flipped classroom concept was first made popular by Salman Khan, of Khan Academy, and is now gaining more attention as more tools become available to facilitate this approach. Faced with some debate about its effectiveness, most participants are embracing the concept.

The concept of moving content online expands the reach of the traditional classroom, opening the possibilities for innovative approaches to online learning. The Horizon Report emphasizes that people now expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.

Forms of online learning have been around for a while, whereas a recent trend is showing established, top-tier schools making their course content available online and for free.

Two breakout startups via Stanford are leading the process:

Coursera first put at the online classes an extension of experiments in online learning from Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koler. The platform hosts a number of integrated features, with video, mastery-based learning and community support, to provide a comprehensive online learning experience.

This winter, launched the Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun’s artificial-intelligence course. Classes are focused on computer science and also include interactive elements, such as behind-the-scenes video clips of the research labs. Current and upcoming courses are on Building a search engine, Programming a robotic car and Web application engineering.

The Massachusetts Institute for Technology with its online education platform MITx, offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free.

These companies and initiatives are just the beginning, since what cloud-based innovations can do for education will continue to expand as the technology continues to evolve and more people and institutions embrace the new approaches.

How do you think cloud-computing will impact higher education in 2012?


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