Cloud Computing in Education
Поздеева Г. П. Cloud Computing in Education // Молодой ученый. 2015. №11. С. 1450-1452.
Today's IT professionals in educational institutions need to respond quickly to increasing demands from students and faculty, while coping with fixed or declining budgets and staff. In this challenging environment, cloud-based computing has become an increasingly attractive option for delivering education services more securely, reliably, and economically. 
National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University (NR TPU) as well as many other research universities continues to lead the way in networking adopting cloud computing for delivering educational services to maintain their expertise in hosting computing resources for research and teaching purposes. One of the uses of cloud computing which is the application of institutional learning management system (LMS) in the cloud.
«The Cloud» is a metaphor for the Internet while «in the Cloud» is popularized to refer to software, platforms and infrastructure that are sold «as a service», i.e. remotely through the Internet . In other words, cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
The major models of Cloud computing service are known as software as a service, platform as a service, and infrastructure as a service.
There are two basic types of cloud infrastructures: internal and external. In an internal cloud, servers, software resources, and IT expertise are used inside the school system to build a scalable infrastructure that meets cloud computing requirements. In an external cloud, service providers sell on-demand, shared services to a school. IT support, services, and expertise are included in the package; the school needs to run only the provided applications and services. 
Leading cloud providers have recognized the importance of adjusting their computing services specifically to the needs of educational institutions. These include customized software packages at low prices that more institutions can afford. Some of the most widely used educational platforms are listed below:
- Microsoft Office 365 Education, a cloud-based communication and collaboration tool is currently used by 110 million students, faculty and staff (March, 2014);
- 72 of the top 100 U. S. Universities used Google Apps for Education in 2012, while Chroomebooks entered 2000 schools in 2013;
- The global community of AWS education services has reached the number of 2,400 schools in 2013.
Cloud Learning Environments (CLEs) are gradually gaining ground over traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) by facilitating the lone or collaborative study of user-chosen blends of content and courses from heterogeneous sources, including Open Educational Resources (OER).
Web 2.0 offers new opportunities for e-learning, through the provision of open and reusable tools and services. Learners are enabled to assemble their Personal Learning Environment (PLE) by aggregating Web 2.0 resources in order to reach their learning goals. In addition, the cloud offers an abundant amount of services for building adaptive and customizable Cloud Learning Environments (CLEs).
The Cloud Learning Environment (CLE) extends the PLE by considering the cloud as a large autonomous system not owned by any educational organisation. In this system, the users of cloud-based services are academics or learners, who share the same privileges, including control, choice, and sharing of content on these services. This approach has the potential to enable and facilitate both formal and informal learning for the learner. It also promotes the openness, sharing and reusability of learning resources on the web. 
The role of cloud computing at university education cannot be underestimated. The university can make important gains by making reasonable use of the following advantages of cloud computing systems:
- Accessibility: any data stored in the cloud can easily be accessed from almost any device including mobile devices such as phones or tablets. Lesson plans, labs, grades, notes, PowerPoint slides — just about anything digital that you use in teaching is easily uploaded and accessed anytime;
- Assignments: the cloud allows teachers to post assignments online. Students are able to access these assignments, complete them, and save them in a folder to be reviewed later;
- Back-Up: an important function of the cloud is that it automatically saves content, making it impossible to lose or delete any valuable material. This means that even if a computer crashes, all documents and content will remain safe, saved, and accessible in the cloud. Moreover, your data, content, information, images — anything you store in the cloud usually requires authentication (ID and password, for example) — so it is not easily accessible by anyone;
- Collaboration: as the cloud allows multiple users to work on and edit documents at the same time, it enables effortless sharing and transmission of ideas. With this feature, group projects and collaborative lesson plans can be optimized for both teachers and students;
- Storage: the cloud allows its users to store almost all types of content and data including music, documents, eBooks, applications, photos, and much more;
- Resource and Time Conscious: with the availability of content online, it is no longer necessary for teachers to spend time and resources printing or copying lengthy documents or lesson plans. Now, students are able to access homework assignments, lesson notes, and other materials online;
- Shareability: the ability to share some or all of your files that you have stored in the cloud while working on an instructional assignment with other teachers that eliminates the necessity to carry flash drives. All you need is just to send a link to the file(s) destination;
- Trackability: the ability to change back a lesson as cloud computing will save multiple revisions and versions of a document so that you can chronologically trace back the evolution of an item;
- Streamlined workflow: workflow can be tracked using various analytical tools to see how often files are accessed, busiest times of the day and days of the week, etc;
- Short learning curve: it does not take long — a few hours (if that) — to learn how to manage digital documents in the cloud;
- Cost savings in terms of buying, leasing, and maintaining photocopiers and printers, ink cartridges, and paper;
- Return-on-investment by not needing to invest in purchasing, housing, and maintaining servers, software, and related IT items, such as flash drives, etc. 
Among the potential drawbacks of cloud computing experts name:
- Lack of teachers’ and students’ confidence in using new technologies for educational needs;
- Low speed or lack of the Internet can affect the work in a cloud;
- Not all application run in cloud;
- Risks related to data protection and security;
- Standards adherence;
- Not all educational platforms are free.
Except the potential subjective drawbacks mentioned above, the issue of data security can become a major concern in cloud computing. Institutions may consider that their data is more secure if it is hosted within the institution. Transferring data to a third party for hosting in a remote data centre, not under the control of the institution and the location of which may not be known presents a risk. Strict data protection laws in the European Union restrict the storage of personal data to certain countries with which agreements have been signed. Some cloud providers now provide guarantees in their contracts that personal data will only be stored in particular countries. The primary risk here is that there will be a breach of confidentially which involves a student (or member of staff) suing the institution, leading to high costs and adverse publicity. Besides, while high service availability is one of the main benefits of cloud computing there is a possibility that particularly high profile providers are at greater risk of threats such as denial of service attacks than individual institutions. It has been suggested that the provision of cloud services through a single provider is a single point of failure and that it would be better to contract more than one cloud provider in order to minimize risk. Unsolicited advertising is another risk when cloud providers attack target users with unsolicited email or advertising. This is illegal in areas such as the European Union, and institutions must take steps to ensure this does not happen as there are high penalties for breaches. In addition the accumulation of usage data by the providers may be of value for onward selling to third parties, though it may be anonymised. The inclusion of appropriate clauses in the contract may minimize the risk of abuse.
Companies such as Google and Microsoft allow institutions to cobrand their cloud products. There may be a risk in associating an institution too closely with these companies whose popularity is variable with users. Probably of greater risk however is that an institution will become “locked-in” to the products of a particular provider. There are significant costs in migrating from any widely used system. While some providers make claims about the interoperability of their products it is rarely easy to transfer content from one system to another. Institutions which start to integrate business or educational processes with the cloud systems will find it even more difficult to migrate. If a better rival product emerges or the cloud provider decides to impose or increase charges on institutions it may be too late to change.
Although still quite a vague term for some, cloud computing is definitely one of the major innovations that entered worldwide classrooms in recent years. With the ability to cut IT costs and at the same time create a modern collaborative environment, educational institutions can see some important benefits from moving to the cloud. Modernizing learning processes and introducing the latest technologies in classrooms encourage students to develop skills and knowledge necessary for achieving their academic and professional goals. From this perspective, it is obvious how valuable a resource the cloud is in the education sector. Together with other forms of technology implementation, the cloud can substantially increase learning opportunities for students all over the world, and eventually contribute to equipping future generations with skills and competences necessary for international career advancements. 
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