The recent events related to the coronavirus pandemic have forced the world to go remote. For the education sector, it was one of the hardest transitions, as most of the countries found themselves not ready for this change.
In the U.S., the government has shut all 12-K schools in 33 states, and many universities were forced to ask students to leave the dorms and stop all the classes. Government officials fear that the current situation will worsen the existing shortage of teachers in the U.S., as the education sector is completely unprepared for distance education.
Desperate to find a solution, schools, colleges, and universities turned to technology for help. And one of the existing technologies that has been of the most help, allowing teachers and professors to hold classes online, is cloud computing.
The Current Situation with Cloud-Based Technologies in Education
Some schools started preparing for the transition to cloud-based education a long time ago, while others still are not in a position to do it.
As CNBC reports, many school districts from the 33 states that had to shut down have only 20% to 30% of the capacity necessary to incorporate cloud computing. Apart from that, according to the source, only 61% of children aged 3-18 have internet access at home.
As of now, with the support from teachers and parents who took the initiative to help students continue education regardless of the current situation, more and more schools incorporate cloud computing to share files, hold classes, and do homework online.
As the demand of the education sector in cloud-based technologies grows, we see companies like Microsoft and Google that host cloud-based services experience a considerable spike in revenue.
Microsoft alone has reported $36.9 billion net income, and Microsoft Azure revenue increased by 62% for the second fiscal quarter of 2020.
Of course, Microsoft has become one of the companies giving back to educators and supporting the transition of education to cloud computing by opening access to guided remote learning with Office 365, Minecraft Education Edition, Microsoft Education Center, and other helpful services.
In its turn, Google opened access to advanced features in Google Meet to G Suite for Education customers globally. The company also made Google Meet available on additional markets, such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, etc.
Thus, we already see the big changes that cloud computing could potentially bring in the upcoming future happening right now. Forced by the current pandemic, the education sector rapidly transitions to cloud-based technologies, contributing to making education more accessible in the future.
What should we expect in the future?
Let’s dive in.
1. Changing the Classroom Environment
With the development of technology, education started rapidly shifting towards visualization. Classrooms across the nation were equipped with digital boards, computers, and other tools that improve the perception of information through visualization.
Now, as we are transitioning to distance education, cloud-based technologies have made it possible to move visualization tools to online mode.
All this already became possible with virtual classrooms.
Google, for instance, is one of the resources where teachers can already create virtual classrooms, with a service called Google Classroom.
This is a cloud-based service that combines Google Drive for creating and sharing assignments with Google Meet or Google Hangouts for video communication, Gmail for communication via email, and Google Calendar for scheduling.
As of now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Google Classroom downloads have surpassed 50 million across the globe, and the demand is expected to continue growing.
What are the prospects for virtual classrooms, and how will they change the future of education?
So far, the effect of virtual classrooms on students has been positive.
The research posted in the Journal of Educational Technology surveyed 63 students and found that:
Students who participated in virtual classroom lectures had higher academic performance than those who didn’t.
Surveyed students reported higher motivation to study because they could access virtual classroom access at any convenient time.
The researchers also reported higher engagement rates in students who participated in virtual classroom lectures.
For now, the lack of pedagogical methodology for the virtual classroom is the main issue. However, further development of cloud-based technologies and their incorporation in education is expected to prompt schools around the world to develop this methodology and make virtual classrooms bring results equal to the real classroom setting.
2. Making the Work of School Administrators More Efficient
Cloud-based technologies are not only benefiting instructors and students. School administrators also see the advantage of implementing cloud computing in their work.
Currently, as EdTech has recently reported, 90% of K-12 schools in the U.S. have confirmed using cloud storage for administrative operations.
The source also reports that cloud-based technologies help school administrators accomplish more. Cloud-based solutions help them streamline their workflow, as it makes it possible to access work from several different platforms simultaneously.
What does the future of cloud-based technologies hold for school administrators?
As this technology improves, it will provide the resources for school districts to launch more initiatives connected to the development of distance education.
EdTech reports that in the current situation with the pandemic, many school districts are already planning to launch new extracurricular online activities, such as content creation and writers services, programming classes, etc.
As of now, the use of cloud-based technologies for administrative processes is limited to video conferencing and online classes, but as we move more towards distance education, school districts are planning to expand the scope of the application of cloud-based technologies in education.
3. Improving Cost Efficiency and Decreasing Hardware Expenses
The biggest challenge for many school districts in the U.S. is the lack of funding. This is the main reason for the gap between the initiative to make schools more technologically advanced and the reality of outdated classroom resources that schools are forced to use.
The rapid shift towards distance education could be a real threat in this situation, as some school districts wouldn’t be able to handle the purchase of resources necessary to support online education.
Luckily, the implementation of cloud-based technologies doesn’t cost schools too much.
Cloud-based technology, of course, has hidden costs in it, such as increasing the storage capacity and opening access to premium features. However, they wouldn’t cost nearly as much as purchasing new hardware could cost school districts.
For instance, 6TB cloud storage can cost a school only about $360 a month, while full premium cloud computing service, together with customer support, costs around $5,000 a month. 6TB is enough storage to provide online learning to all pre-school classes and elementary school classes.
Cloud-based technology services can be purchased in a pay-as-you-go plan or in a monthly or yearly subscription. Schools can also save money with cloud-based technologies by pulling the plug on traditional communication methods, which also constitute a big chunk of a school district’s budget.
As the technology develops, and cloud-based technologies will be able to provide users with more storage space and more features, virtual classrooms will become more versatile, and teachers will get additional resources to improve distance education.
Apart from the above-mentioned changes — changing the classroom environment, improving administrative processes, and cutting the expenses on technology — cloud-based technologies also ensure the security of distance education.
As with any technology that operates online, there are still threats of malware, data breach, and hacker attacks. Yet, as we see the demand for cloud-based technologies in education grow every day, companies are working on improving the security of cloud-based technologies to ensure comfort and safety in virtual classrooms.