Having your head in the clouds now holds a whole new meaning with the development of cloud-based technology. The recent evolution of the internet has seen it move from a place to visit web pages to an environment allowing users to run software applications. For that reason, cloud computing is a rapid growth area of the IT sector, with Web 3.0 supporting a new wave of applications able to run on a variety of hardware devices, while data storage remains inside the cloud. In relation to eLearning, several big names are already offering support for educational systems, including, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Amazon.
So is cloud-based technology a positive or negative for the eLearning industry? At PulseLearning we have our own opinion, but here we take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.
A major advantage of cloud-based technology for the eLearning industry is the reduction in operating costs. Many hardware and software resources are generally needed to deploy eLearning, which comes at a cost that some companies and educational providers cannot afford. Cloud technology offers a solution through allowing clients to rent required processing capacity from data centers. For others, it’s simply that they don’t have access to the required infrastructure to run high quality eLearning. In response, key players Blackboard and Moodle now have cloud-based versions of their applications.
Advantages of cloud-based technology:
- Allows users the same experience on any internet connected device with minimal software requirements.
- Removes the requirement to download and install specific software requirements to use cloud-based technology.
- Transfers costs for licensing and upgrading software and hardware to the cloud data center rather that at the local level.
- Reduces the need for crash recovery since data is stored in the cloud – however the trust is shifted to the cloud service provider.
- Provides opportunity for eLearning to keep pace with technology trends.
As you have just read, there are some great positives that cloud-based technology brings to the table, however there are some considerations that need highlighting. Factors determining the success of cloud based technology for eLearning include the quality of service offered by providers and security issues. With data and software located on remote servers, a major concern is that the system could crash or become inaccessable without warning and control to rectify the situation.
Disadvantages of cloud-based technology:
- Internet connection speed becomes critical in the overall performance of eLearning products. This could create access issues for learners living remotely in areas with unstable intenet connections.
- Cost is at the mercy of data center subscriptions, which could rise, and overtime, become more expensive than buying the hardware and software.
- Data secruity becomes a potential risk as well as the need to house backups locally.
It seems cloud-based technology is likely to play a major role in the way many companies choose to approach eLearning development and deployment. For now, the advantages and disadvantages need to be weighed and considered when making your choice. As with any emerging technology, for long-term true indicators of success, we will have to watch this space.