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Education in the cloud

This article was originally published in SUCRE CloudSource Magazine.
The SUCRE project, which is partially funded under the European Commission's FP7 scheme, seeks to facilitate the consolidation of the European cloud computing and open-source communities by creating a critical mass of stakeholders who will work together on promoting the use of open source in cloud computing.
You can read the full second issue of SUCRE CloudSource Magazine online, here. Also, find out how you can contribute to the next issue of SUCRE magazine in this announcement.

EuroCloud's Przemyslaw Fuks gives his view on the power of cloud computing to improve education, both within and outside the classroom.

In an environment where online learning (e-learning) is increasingly popular, the application of cloud computing to education creates some remarkable opportunities. Our younger generation especially is increasingly using the internet in their search for knowledge, and pupils of any age can benefit from this 'here and now' model of knowledge, using net browsers, exchanging ideas on social networks, and pursuing their education in a dynamic, immediate, and personalised manner.

By raising awareness of cloud technologies as a new way of providing services, we can give schools and universities the chance to create their own low-cost e-learning systems.

Thanks to cloud technologies, the cost of expensive hardware necessary to create IT infrastructure, and the cost of software licenses for school laboratories, is no longer a barrier.

The required computational power is now being served by IT providers and the owners of integrated learning environments, allowing the users of learning management systems to create new educational content with only the aid of special applications for online content editing.

Such solutions allow teachers and lecturers to make lessons more attractive, using the huge repositories of multimedia resources available in the cloud, without requiring the installation of additional software on local workstations. All teachers need is a web browser.

A policy of resource management allows teachers to share their educational content, leading to more attractive lessons as content is systematically enhanced with new, unique educational resources.

Pupils can access educational resources - including lessons, courses, revision aids, and so on - without the pressures of time or barriers of geography. They can use simple devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, in their own preferred way, learning at their own pace and in their own style. Some may prefer e-books or multimedia presentations, while others prefer videos, and so on.

Foremost of the advantages for schools or universities is the much lower cost of infrastructure maintenance when using cloud resources. Also, money spent is proportional to platform utilisation, and costs could thus be significantly reduced during holidays as compared to during the school year or end-of-term examinations.

An excellent example of the use of cloud solutions in education is the Educational Platform of Lodz, which has more than 150,000 users. By leveraging cloud technologies on municipal servers, the city of Lodz has deployed this broad-scale educational platform, on which users dynamically manage their educational content, without the need to buy expensive software or costly hardware. A+ for Lodz.

- Przemyslaw Fuks, EFICOM S.A. European and Financial Consulting, EuroCloud, Poland

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