13 Feb 2015

Learning via the Cloud

What if you could learn from anywhere, at any time? Cloud-based learning systems grant greater accessibility and empower students and educators to explore new modes of learning and instruction.
The future of education is in the cloud. With the Blackboard Learning System in place at local polytechnics and the implementation of similar virtual learning environments at many of the world’s universities, the future where the full potential of cloud-based learning is realised is nearer than we think.
The emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCS) from providers such as eDx, Coursera and Udemy is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the myriad possibilities of cloud-based learning. What then can you, the student, look forward to learning via the cloud, and why should you be excited?
Expanded Accessibility
Cloud-based learning systems would allow learners to access course material, assignments and webcasts from anywhere that has an internet connection. You will have all of your learning materials and data at your fingertips – a huge step up in convenience and accessibility from traditional classroom and teaching models.
This facilitates the learning process as students will then be able to revise their material and review classes at their own pace. Given that learning styles and speeds vary from student to student, greater autonomy is definitely welcome. As learning resources move into the cloud, students will be empowered to be more exploratory and independent learners.
Move to Mobile
The cloud also dovetails with the rising prevalence of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets over laptops or desktop computers. Several colleges and universities have developed mobile applications that allow students to access the cloud on-the-go, paving the way for the integration of cloud-based learning systems into the everyday lives of students and faculty.
Education should not be confined to the walls of the physical classroom, and being able to access the cloud on-the-go via mobile devices is a first step towards a more expansive learning experience.
Greater Collaboration
Virtual learning environments such as Blackboard and Moodle also create opportunities and spaces for you to collaborate with your fellow learners. For instance, the National University of Singapore’s Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) allows students and lecturers to interact at any time via online forums. As they learn, students can post their queries, which are in turn answered or taken up for discussion by their peers or lecturer.
The current slew of cloud-based learning systems complement classroom learning, enabling students to carry on discussions after lessons have concluded. They also serve as a platform on which students and their lecturers can congregate after class – the learning never stops and students are given the tools with which to take their learning in new directions.
Ease of Use
Finally, cloud-based learning systems offer students greater convenience. Assignments can be viewed, downloaded and submitted via the cloud. This facilitates the submission of assignments during mid-term breaks or on days when students have no classes. Similarly, lesson plans, notes and grading schemes can be viewed at the click of the mouse, allowing students quicker access to the relevant resources.
Ultimately, the cloud lowers the barriers to learning and education as we know it. By providing greater convenience to students and making it possible for almost anyone with an internet connection – assuming you signed up for the class – to access it, the cloud shifts some of the burden of instruction from the classroom to itself. Learning thus becomes more open and efficient, and students can look forward to even better learning outcomes.