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How Can Cloud Technology Empower eLearning and Distance Learning?

Alexander Wise
by Atlantic.Net (3posts) under VPS Hosting
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Cloud technology is facilitating an educational revolution in delivering teaching services to students. The interoperability of the learning technology, in conjunction with the ability for almost anyone to consume education via a laptop and an internet connection, has helped online education to thrive globally.

The eLearning industry has flourished since the inception of cloud technology. Established Ivy League universities, schools, and specialist training houses have long been offering online education programs. In addition, many organizations offer a variety of online-only education services, and there has been a significant increase in free online learning programs.

What are eLearning and distance learning?

eLearning and distance learning are often thought of as interchangeable terms, but there are some meaningful differences between these two types of learning.

  • eLearning is when the technique of learning is the same; generally, a teacher is communicating directly to students. However, the medium is changed from the classroom to an online forum, typically video conferencing. eLearning is often used to complement classroom-based study, but as we have seen in recent weeks, eLearning has quickly become the new way to teach.
  • Distance learning is designed for foreign or rural students, commonly those attending University but are unable to travel to the University town to complete their studies. This might include a student based in the UK distance learning at an American University without ever having to move to the USA.

Why is online learning so popular?

Teaching faculties are often regarded as forward-thinking establishments, institutions that embrace new technology. As such, the revolution in information technology in the 20th and 21st centuries has been heavily intertwined with places of education. As such, students both young and old, from all professions and backgrounds, are embracing a new approach to online learning powered by the cloud. Programs like Florida Virtual School are taking off.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, online education services were already growing with significant popularity; some statistics gathered in 2019 suggest that the sector could become a $325 billion industry by 2025.

Since COVID-19, eLearning and distance learning have really shown their strengths, and cloud computing has powered the fallback option to in-person education. One of the few positive outcomes of the pandemic is the number of free education services being offered to parents.

However, as many as 1.2 billion children globally could be embarking on eLearning initiatives as of April 2020. While it is almost impossible to provide statistically accurate figures at present, there are a huge number of students who have been forced to adapt to online teaching in light of the Coronavirus crisis.

How does the cloud empower online learning?

There are several ways in which the cloud has simplified and empowered education-as-a-service. eLearning and distance learning material are easy to access via the Web, they rarely require the installation of any client-side software, online learning services are easily consumed using low cost, pay by subscription tariffs, and eLearning platforms for state schools typically offer free access for millions of students.

Cloud computing technology provides a number of core beneficial features needed to bring learning to the student. Two key beneficial features are scalability and accessibility. It is relatively easy to create an online learning application that can be used by students, that incorporates video streams provided by teachers, that includes downloadable learning materials and whiteboards, etc. However, creation of such a solution becomes more complex when introducing scale.

There are currently millions of American schools embarking on cloud teaching to their students, and Cloud Service Providers are supplying the infrastructure to make it happen.  The influx of network traffic and server load created by the multiple simultaneous connections from students’ devices to the learning material can put massive strain on the eLearning infrastructure.

Cloud technology handles this risk by introducing scalability, applications, and server workloads that can scale up and out as needed. Practically limitless cycles of CPU and memory can be made available, and the network layer, typically a cloud load balancer, can distribute heavy workloads to multiple endpoints.

What this means in real terms is that ten of thousands of students can live stream classroom content, contribute in-class discussion, and submit work in a seamless manner. Accessibility is key because every student is accessing the learning platform from a different internet endpoint. The connection needs to be stable, secure, and in many cases encrypted during transit. Only the massive scale of cloud infrastructure can absorb this level of intense workload on-demand.

The cloud resolves many other technical challenges introduced by eLearning and distance learning. One such challenge is the maintenance of the security, privacy, and confidentiality of the enrolled students and participating staff. Many cloud service providers are extensively audited and certified for data protection safeguards. Cloud hosting introduces high availability, fault tolerance, and the option for automatic recovery in the event the infrastructure is overloaded.

For the students of distance learning, cloud technology allows almost anyone to learn at the institution of their choice. Overseas learning has thrived since education providers have leveraged cloud resources to distribute learning, with some sources estimating that as many as 15% of enrolled students in the United States are doing distance learning.

Final Thoughts

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important online learning services are for professionals, students, and parents. Few predicted the turmoil that would result from closing schools and universities around the world. Cloud technology has made a significant difference to many students’ lives, offering an education platform that can be accessed by everyone, on-demand.

Atlantic.Net is already helping many learning partners who have reached out to see how we can help them with server usage spikes and how to create a more cost-effective solution. Our VPS hosting technology is cutting edge, available 24x7x365 with a 100% uptime guarantee, we offer a user-friendly cloud platform that can spin up what you need in seconds. We believe that eLearning powered by the cloud is the future of education services.

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