For years, educators and academics have focused research on figuring out the best ways to leverage the internet and accessibility to bring education to places that lack the infrastructure of an organized society, and to extend the opportunity of learning beyond a classroom setting.
In the United States, online learning has made a positive impact in increasing accessibility, and also the affordability of education on all levels. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than two of every three colleges and universities offer online credit courses with over 12 million students participating in distance learning (77 percent in online courses; 12 percent in hybrid courses; 10 percent in other forms of distance education). The courses receive scrutiny for not having that in-person experience, but receive accolades for ways they’ve creativity integrated interpersonal communication, and the success of some of the programs.
These online education communities provide flexibility with materials and lessons to the millions of students, learning at individual levels and speeds, and scalability for the institutions using this system – and they have cloud computing to thank for the technology. This type of cloud-based education technology is rapidly evolving and allowing education to venture beyond traditional teaching methods and into new ways of learning.
Recently, Newcastle University professor, Sugata Mitra, won a $1 million 2013 TED prize for his innovative thinking in research and education in technical literacy in underdeveloped areas. His TED Talk, Build a School in the Cloud, expresses his ideas and foundations for his thoughts. Mitra is working to develop an education system that can benefit, what he calls, Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), that learn through personal and group exploration coupled with curiosity and without structured curation.
This type of education Mitra is looking to deploy in underdeveloped and remote areas would be a cloud-based system providing moderators, but relying heavily on the exploration of a group of students working together and navigating through computer programs. The moderators would use Skype technology to have conversations with the students and play more of a passive, listening role rather than a directive teaching role.
Although Mitra and many educators alike do not think that cloud-based education collaboration could really replace traditional education, they do agree that these methods can have an instant impact on society by providing levels of education to those that may not have access to traditional methods. These methods can serve as supplementation for groups and individuals and hopefully, bring what comes with education – opportunity.