Introduction

The education and training sector has always
embraced new teaching methods and tools. Since the arrival of the
computer and the internet in classrooms, administration departments
and our daily lives, schools have been in a race to keep up with society’s
requirements. Cloud computing brings with it a range of benefits with new
horizons for higher educational institution to enhance the educational process.

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Africa has also not been left behind with South
Africa, south western parts of Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya slowly embracing and successfully
implementing cloud computing services in higher institutions of learning amidst
a number of various challenges which we will address in this paper.

This document presents the main principles and potentials
of the cloud that make it appealing to the world of education. It also seeks to
highlight cloud benefits in the education sector and discuss limitations of
main cloud services as well as highlight challenges that institutions face when
utilizing cloud technologies.

Implementation

Cloud computing denotes the practice of enabling convenient,
on demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.
These resources could be networks, servers, storage applications and services. This
ensures that learning institutions focus strictly on research and learning
rather than implementing complex IT infrastructure.

Cloud architecture will be distinct according to the
purpose and infrastructure it is being designed for. Universities have to adhere
to rules and regulations put in place since many countries are concerned and
are strict about over border information transfer. Once a University meets all
necessary requirements they sign a Service Level agreement with the cloud
service provider. The following are some of the ways cloud computing is
implemented in the education sector:

·        
Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

This is a scenario where cloud computing is used to
host learning management systems. Most institutions outsource due to the
exorbitant costs in installation and maintenance of such a system. An example
of these LMSs include Moodle and Blackboard

·        
Email system

One way cloud computing is implemented in education
is really basic, whereby an external provider extends an email system to
students in an institution. The most common is Microsoft [email protected] which is
browser-based and provides access to email and office packages. Google App
Education (GAE) is its counterpart. Both of these softwares enhance online
student collaboration.

·        
M-learning

 Cloud
computing also acknowledges utilization of mobile devices as a way of enhancing
online collaboration due to the presence of a shared pool of knowledge and
resources.

·        
Resource library

A teaching library that is implemented through cloud
computing will be characterized by fast speed, stability, clear specifications
for data storage, safety or security and a user friendly resource platform.

·        
E-learning

There are two main entities that make up the
e-learning platform; students who want access exams, courses and a way to relay
their assignments online then there are trainers/instructors who would like to
manage courses and assess homework online with both parties being able to
communicate with one another.

·        
Distance education

Cloud computing has introduced the
emergence of online academies and open education platforms like MOOCs (Massive
Online Open Courses). Students now have the opportunity to access courses
through distance education and earn their diploma online. It has also enabled
students to enroll for specific courses that are not available at their local
institutions

Advantages

Outsourcing of technical skill: The software-as-an-Service (SaaS)
model allows the client to outsource infrastructure requirements to external
service providers.. Currently, a number of cloud product projects are available
either free or on an easy membership premise. A subscription to one of these
services is all that is required.

Environmentally friendly: Education cloud will
significantly reduce the carbon impression by having paperless storage and back
up and reducing heat produced by machines by sharing architectural resources
through the cloud.

Diminished Costs: Cloud-based administrations can help institutes
decrease costs because only the necessary computing and storage facilities that
are used are purchased. A reduction in cost has also been seen because it is
easy to upgrade to newer technologies since in most part it will not be the
organization purchasing. It is also good to note that minimal training will be
required on personnel since fewer skilled people are required in cloud-based computing
applications. This makes it even cheaper

Ease of access: Literally anything computerized that is used in
training is effectively transferred.

 Sharing and collaboration: Cloud
computing pools resources hence bringing multiple users together and they can
work together if they so wish

Disdvantages

The following are the disadvantages of the adoption
of cloud computing:

Lack of internet : This is a great challenge since
some institutions of learning have little or no access to the internet whereas
cloud computing requires internet for its real benefits such as storage and
access everywhere to kick in. Adoption of cloud computing will require institutions
of learning to first incur the cost of internet installation.

Security: Some institutions would still prefer to
store their information in their own repositories than to store sensitive data
to a remote cloud where it is at risk of a denial of service threat. The cloud
providers have to convince clients that they have a grip on privacy by meeting
certain guidelines and qualifications.

Incompatibility: Some applications do not run on cloud
hence cannot take advantage of the benefits that cloud computing has to offer.

Limited portability: Since cloud computing is yet to
become an established industry with regulations governing its transactions, it
is easy for cloud service providers to have a vendor lock in. If an institution
is dependent on a cloud provider they have no choice but to stick with them
even despite poor service.

Benefits

To students:

Students can perform remote lab tasks and practical
and be graded instantly, an example of this is in Cisco labs.

Cloud computing allows real time collaboration
among students and between students and their instructor. This would be
particularly advantageous to final year projects.

Ebooks eliminate the need for students to be
weighed down with textbooks or incur cost when content is upgraded. This will
even enhance content being taught in school to be more up to date.

To faculty

The faculty can hold remote seminars and bring
together part time lecturers full time lecturers so that even when a lecturer
is physically remote, they can still be accessed.

The faculty can get feedback from students on
learning material, modules and practicals